I wanted the painting to be slightly smaller than life size. To achieve this, I measured the horizontal distance of my set-up and subtracted a bit. Since the view-finder I used to compose the painting was in a ratio of (2-to-3), I could then calculate the height. I drew a rectangle of that size on my drawing paper. I sub-divided the rectangle into halves, quarters, and thirds to correspond to the tic-marks on my view-finder. Using a thin knitting needle and the view-finder, I quickly sketched in the bottle, so that I could judge if it was the correct size. I found it to be a bit larger than life. I reduced the size of my rectangle, and tried again. Now, when I sketched the bottle, it measured a bit smaller than life-perfect!

Now I proceeded with the drawing. Using the view-finder and knitting needle again, I located major points (where objects begin and end) on my paper. I find this much more effective than just guessing where all of the lines should be. I tend to draw things sight-sized- that is, the actual size they appear to my eyes. If I did this, the objects in the drawing would be way too small. Having some guidance helps me to draw larger, and get everything placed properly within my picture frame. For more on measuring techniques, see Getting Ready to Draw and Drawing Again.

Once I have determined where objects begin and end using my measuring method, I begin to draw simply by observation. I’ve discovered that if I stay in measuring mode for too long, errors are likely to creep in, because of the natural shaking of my hand while holding the view-finder. My measuring will tell me that one thing is correct, but when I stand back and observe, I can see that it’s not right. It seems like a conflict, but I know by now that my eye doesn’t lie! No measuring can replace the quick observing and comparing I do when sketching.

Above, I’ve put in some more detail on the driftwood, geode, and crystal.

After leaving the drawing for a day, I can return to it and see it with fresh eyes. I like to take advantage of these first few moments of fresh observation to spot errors. They really jump out! I’ve learned that time needs to pass for this to work. The longer I look at my drawing and work on it, the more I accept whatever is there as correct. It’s amazing what errors you accept by the end of the drawing session! Now I noticed that some of the shapes in the driftwood were off, and that the geode was placed too high. Also, the far right edge of the sandstone was drawn incorrectly.

I’ll postpone perfecting the ellipses and perspective until I’ve done my value study. I don’t want to spend time drawing these details now, in case I decide to change things around as a result of my study.