Sunday, 1 September 2013

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 3

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3F
60 Minutes
26 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 32cm (11" x 12.5")

Chapter 3 of Keys to Drawing is about estimating and drawing accurate proportions.

This chapter is the main reason why I am rereading Keys to Drawing. It fills, what for me is, an important gap in the Natural Way to Draw.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3A
35 Minutes
6 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21.5cm x 33cm (8.5" x 13")

Bert Dodson introduces a number of techniques that use the pencil as a sighting tool to take accurate measurements from the subject:
  • Find the midpoint - use the pencil to find the horizontal and vertical midpoints on the subject
  • Plumb and level – use the pencil to find parts of the subject that align either horizontally or vertically
  • Comparative measurements – use the pencil to measure some part of the subject (e.g. the head) and then measure the relative size of other parts of the subject
In each of the techniques, you hold the pencil out in front of you and close one eye to take accurate measurements - the classic artists pose.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3B
40 Minutes
8 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
39cm x 23cm (15.5" x 9")

The chapter contains six exercises:
3A - a standing figure
3B - a reclining figure
3C - a foreshortened reclining figure
3D - a front view portrait
3E - a three-quarter view portrait
3F - a foreshortened portrait
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3C
40 Minutes
12 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
25.5cm x 29cm (10" x 11.5")

Dodson’s instructions for the exercises are virtually the same as the instructions for the Extended Gesture Study (see Section 13) from The Natural Way to Draw:
Start with a gesture drawing and then use the sighting strategies to check and correct the proportions before (and while) adding details to the drawing.
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3D
60 Minutes
14 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
26.5cm x 33cm (10.5" x 13")

Dodson’s sighting strategies are some of the “methods” that Kimon Nicolaides glosses over in his instructions:
“You may use any and all methods at your command to arrive at the correct proportions and the posture, even to the extent of measuring how much higher one point is than another and the angles and distances that are created from point to point.”
Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3E
60 Minutes
19 August 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 35.5cm (11" x 14")

I am not suggesting that Keys to Drawing is a better book than The Natural Way to Draw.

Nicolaides may not offer much advice about drawing accurate proportions, but this is because it is not central to what he is teaching.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3B 2009
14 September 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
27cm x 12.5cm (20.5" x 9")

I've included a couple of drawings from when I first read Keys to Drawing in 2009. The new drawings are more detailed and they look more realistic - the gesture is more accurately observed and they seem three-dimensional. This is what I learnt from The Natural Way to Draw and what I wouldn't have worked out for myself in two and a half years of unstructured drawing practice.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 3E 2009
4 October 2009
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21cm x 25.5cm (8.25" x 10")


  1. Pretty cool!
    I did do a few more of the Keys to Drawing chapter 2 exercises, which I never posted, but I did not yet progress to chapter 3.

    1. Thanks Moish. I appreciate your comment.