Overview of Measuring:

Plumbs and Levels

Utilizing plumbs and levels provides an objective way to ensure proper vertical and horizontal placement of points (ultimately, plumbs and levels serve a similar function to a grid, but are more versatile). The formal method of using a plumb is to lightly draw a vertical line on the drawing, in the beginning, to represent an imaginary line down the subject. This imaginary line can be to the side of the subject or running down an area of much detail. This provides the artist a permanent line of reference to determine how aligned, or how far from being lined up, the points and features are. For example, when drawing a face in profile, it may be wise to imagine a plumb line that intersects the front-most position of the eye. Working down the face, the artist measures how far (left or right) from the plumb line (or the front of the eye) key points may be- the front of the nose, the back of the nose, the front of the mouth, the back of the mouth, the front of the chin, the front of the forehead, etc. The same idea is used for a level, except the level runs horizontal and the measurements are taken from above and below. Using the plumb and level, one can find, for example, the left/right and up/down position of any point. 

A less formal, though equally useful, method to apply a plumb is to hang a dowel, pencil, or brush completely vertical to any point on the reference and ensure you have drawn, or will draw, all points that intersect this vertical line on the drawing. To take a level, one would repeat this idea with the measuring device held horizontally. Ultimately, the artist should strive to develop his or her eye, so that upon a quick glance, points that fall plumb and level to other points can be easily spotted. 

Using plumbs and levels in conjunction with sight size provides the greatest aid. When working sight size, and when the drawing is placed directly to the side of the reference, one may “take a level” directly from the reference to the drawing. Hold the dowel extended completely level. The left side of the dowel should be viewed to cross the reference. If the dowel is long enough, it may extend to the side enough to cross the drawing. This will ensure that all points match up correctly on the reference and the drawing. If the dowel is not long enough to extend to the drawing, a pivot at the shoulder may be required to ensure points align. Work all the way down the reference, from top to bottom. All points should be directly to the side, verified with a level. If the drawing is placed directly under the reference, the same process is utilized with plumb lines, working from left to right. 

An Important Note about Measuring:

Throughout this program, students will utilize 4 distinct methods of measurement, and should become fluent in utilizing them all. It is important to note that while all of these methods are introduced with strict physical requirements for execution, it is imperative that the student develops the eye. This means that, while the student may not hold up the arm to precisely translate a particular angle, an observational capacity to recognize and translate that angle is cultivated. A more casual phrase often used is "eyeballing it". This can and should be applied to all measuring methods presented. 

Did You Know?

Using a plumb and level is one of the fastest ways to check accurate placement of a shape. “Drop a plumb” from the wing of the nostril down to the lips to see how far left or right the corners of the mouth are. Take a level from one eye to the other to observe if one is raised, creating a tilt of the head. A level from the bottom of the ear will indicate if the head is leaned forward or back: straight on, it is level with the nostril; head leaned forward, it is level with the eye; head leaned back, it is level with the mouth. Get in the habit of always checking plumbs and levels with your eye. 

Plumbs and Levels (box)

In the drawing above, two plumbs and two levels have been used to establish a correctly-proportioned box around the subject. These can now be used as a reference from which to make sight size, comparative, or triangulation measurements. Sight size and comparative are taken as distance measurements from the box, and areas of the subject that intersect the box can act as anchors that can be triangulated from. There will always be at least four of these anchors. 

Plumbs and Levels (point alignment)

In the drawing above, a level is taken from the left (where the cast first angles up and in), to compare to the opposite angle (answering shape) on the right. It is lower on the right, and must be placed as such on the drawing. A plumb has been taken from the top right corner to ensure the bottom right corner is an appropriate distance to the right. Because this is a sight size drawing, the level line is created by taking a literal level from the reference. The dowel was extended completely and held at level. The left side crossed the plaster cast, and simultaneously the right side of the dowel crossed the drawing. The path it took was noted, and the dotted line was drawn.