Technique: Tim McGuire: Sight-Size Demonstration

View a step-by-step demonstration of the sight-size method discussed in "Ryan S. Brown: Training Clarifies the Truth of One's Perceptions" in the winter 2006 issue of Workshop magazine.

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Step 1
An assortment of drawing supplies, including vine charcoal, sanding board, stumps, kneaded eraser, and white charcoal.
Step 2
Tim McGuire holding a plumb line horizontally while standing a measured distance from the plaster cast and the drawing surface.

Step 3
McGuire preparing his drawing surface with three horizontal lines and one vertical line that will help him in drawing the plaster cast exactly the same size as it appears from a measured distance.

Step 4
After dropping a plumb line, McGuire uses a rule to draw a clean vertical line.

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Step 5
With a plumb line dropped in front of McGuire’s view of the plaster cast he is able to draw the “potato shape” of the cast’s outline.

Step 6
Once the artist is confident in his outline of the cast, he identifies the outline of the shadow shapes.
Step 7
Continuing to make all measurements from a distance, the artist uses a line held horizontally to check the alignment of the drawing and the plaster cast.
Step 8
This photograph shows the artist’s view of his drawing and the plaster cast from the measured distance away from the easel. Note how McGuire has indicated the dark cast shadows first.

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Step 9
Because objects need to be drawn and painted within an environment, McGuire used charcoal to tone the areas of the paper surrounding his rendering of the plaster cast.
Step 10
McGuire begins to indicate the highlights on the plaster cast using white charcoal.
Step 11
A comparison of the finished charcoal drawing and the actual plaster cast.
THE COMPLETED WORK:
Cast Study, Venus
2005, charcoal and white chalk, 19 x 13. Collection the artist.

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11 thoughts on “Technique: Tim McGuire: Sight-Size Demonstration

  1. This is a good explanation of the Sight-Size method, but I would like to see this on video with the artist explaining what he’s doing as he does it. Also why can’t all the measurements be taken right next to the model?

  2. The result, acceptable.
    I’d like to know if you use the same technique to portrait, and if you have the best quality using this way.
    le escribo desde mexico, es un placer conocerle.

  3. To fully understand the sight size method get the book published by ACR “Drawing Course” Charles Barque the 19th Century French Artist. Jean Leon Gerome collaborated with him on this basic work for beginning artists which was used and practiced by some 19th century artists. Gerald M.Ackerman reintroduced this book for the 21 century artists who desire to work in this style of academic/ classical casts/figure drawing and painting that was practiced by some but not all 19th century artists. However every artist during that period did not use this method…look at paintings, drawings, etchings and photographs of artists in their studios and other studios of artist apprentices who used other methods and faired just as well or better without the sight size method. This method is somewhat mechanical and do not let one express the freedom of originality. If art came with a formula we all would be great artists. Look to nature is what most of the 19th century manuals on drawing and painting say and do not slavishly copy her but interpret her, take what you can and learn from her. Art is an impression/idea that inspire us as a muse,we can include or leave out what we want or do not want to tell others in our work called technique. Great artists learn from the past and go beyond their masters and even beyond nature but they remain humble and true.

  4. Not that I want to speak for Tim McGuire, but, if you are making your measurements right next to the model your perspective would be askew. There is the possibility of measurements being even slightly off which defeats the object of the excercise.

  5. Unless you have used the sight size method, you should not criticize it. I learned how to sight size in Florence and it changed my life!
    And it is why I also teach it in my atelier in Los Angeles. I can tell if a portrait is sight sized or not. I used to think my figures and portraits were accurate until I learned to sight size. Measurements are exact and it is fantastic when you see what you can do. The problem is, most artists are either lazy or too impatient to go through the tedious measurements and instead claim that they are stifling their creativity … but there is nothing worse than bad anatomy in a painting that is just okay but could have been great.

  6. hello

    your tip was very helpfull, thanx you very much for share your knowledge with the people
    i remember when i was studyng with a master long time ago, we only use our thumb or the pencil, you know to measure the model.
    i would like to start studyng again working with your method seems to be more exactly for work

  7. As a student of Tim McGuire, I’d like to respond to the above question by Giles Prodwit…Because standing too close to the model gives you a skewed perpective and it makes it incredibly difficult to draw, and every time you take your eyes off the drawing, to look at the model, it changes your perpective. Standing far away minimizes your eye movement so that your measurement remains most accurate. If you notice, his position and distance are taped on the floor, so that everytime you come back to the pose, you stand exactly where you were. Take note of your posture, as the hight of your head will also affect your perspective.

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