Project Two: Direct Spatial Analysis and Visual Translation, Sighting



Many of you may have found that it is much easier to draw from a photograph rather than from directly observing an object, why is this? When we draw from direct observation we are translating three-dimensional form and space into a two-dimensional visual language. When you are drawing from a photograph the camera has already translated the 3-D elements into a 2-D language, so when drawing from a photograph you are simply translating 2-D information (the photo) into another 2-D form (your drawing). One way that we can make this act of translation from 3-D space to 2-D plane easier and more accurate is to use the sighting technique.


Many of you are aware of the iconic image of the artist holding their paintbrush or pencil in one hand extended out towards the objects they are trying to represent. They are utilizing the sighting technique. We will be using an 8” thin dowel I provide in the place of your pencil because it is easier to see around the dowel rather than the thickness of your pencil. Once you are familiar with the process you are certainly welcome to use your pencil. I want you to keep in mind this technique is also completely adaptable to drawing from photos as well.



Step 1: We will begin with a half sheet of 18” x 24” sketchpad paper, H pencils, ruler, and erasers. I will demonstrate how to do all of this in class. I want you to look at the still-life and identify one object that will serve as your point of reference or unit of measure. This object should be one of the smaller elements in the still-life and be able to be seen in its entirety (from top to bottom and left to right).  Using your H pencil lightly sketch this object onto your paper, trying to be as proportionally accurate as possible. Be attentive to where you place this object in your composition because this will dictate where the rest of your items belong. For this example lets just say we chose an apple as our object or point of reference.


Step 2: Once your point of reference is on the paper I want you to take your sighting stick in one hand and fully extend your arm towards the object. You must always fully extend your arm, with your elbow locked to establish a constant scale. Now, taking your sighting stick I want you to find the top of your object with the top of the stick and then with the tip of your thumb (which should be resting on the stick) I want you to find the bottom of the object. The space between the top of the stick and the tip of your thumb has now become your point of reference or unit of measure. Now, taking this measurement I want you to look around the still life at other objects and relate this measurement to them. What do I mean by that? If we take the height of our apple and compare that to the height of the coffee pot we can easily see the coffee pot is just about 3 apples high. Knowing this we can then measure the height of the apple we drew on our paper and multiply that distance by three. Make a mark on our paper roughly where the bottom of the coffee pot starts and then mark where the top of the coffee pot is (3 apples high). Doing this we have then created a proportionally correct measurement for our drawing. Successfully translating 3-D elements into 2-D. You can also utilize this same exact technique to find the width of objects as well.


Step 3: I want a proportionally accurate contour line drawing of the still-life utilizing the sighting technique. Your unit of measurement marks must be left in the drawing so we can discuss how well you used this technique.  You have one week to complete this.




18” X 24” Sketchbook Paper, 2H and 4H Graphite Pencils, Kneaded and Gum (Plastic) Erasers, Steel Ruler

Sighting Stick (provided)

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View student examples by selecting an image above

© 2020 Dustin M. Price