In 2019, the Art Fund published a report on the importance of participating in creative activities. They emphasised that 'people need places where they can relax, learn, contemplate and wander.' Data shows that making art positively impacts emotional wellbeing, the nervous system, and can raise serotonin levels.

Our philosophy that art has the power to make you feel good means that we try to reach as many people as we can. While we are closed to the public due to government advice, artist and volunteer Marianne Frost has kindly offered to share some tips on how to improve your drawing skills.

This time, Marianne will be focusing on proportion. Practise your skills using these tips and tricks and tag us in your drawings. We'd love to see what you come up with! Over to Marianne:

Proportion is a part, share or number considered in comparative relation to a whole. For example, an eye covers a specific proportion of the face, and in order to create a realistic portrait, the proportion of that eye needs to be drawn accurately. That being said, no one has to copy what is in front of them. Many creative processes differ, and all are free to express their art however they choose.

This blog will identify ways to measure proportions of the face and provide tips and tricks on how to draw them, using artist John Davies' sculpture Head of a Man from The Ingram Collection, which is displayed at The Lightbox. When The Lightbox reopens, pop in and see it for free in the Sculpture Gallery.

John Davies, Head of a Man, c.1985-88, resin, fibreglass, stone dust and acrylic paint

Let's get started. If you are drawing direct from the screen make sure your device is upright.

1. First of all, always take time to study what you're drawing - in this case, the head. Is it oval or round? is the jaw square or pointed? Look at other features in detail: the eyes, mouth, nose. You might be surprised that eyes are not always symmetrical, the same size or on the same level.

2. Next, lightly draw an outline to roughly position the head and neck on your paper. Then draw a light horizontal and vertical line through the centre of the drawing.

3. Find the corresponding horizontal line on the image of the sculpture, or the subject you are drawing. Typically, when drawing human portraits, the eyes will fall directly in the middle of this horizontal line. You'll find that in this instance, unusually, the eyes are positioned above this line. This is why it's always important to check.

4. When measuring proportions, use a pencil. This method of measuring using your pencil is used by artists globally for any subject they are working on. Hold the pencil horizontal and at arm’s length. Line the top of your pencil up with the corner of the left eye, including the fold of the eyelid, and move your thumb to the inner corner. Hold this position and move across the nose to the other eye. Check also the space on either side of the eyes. You'll find that these measurements are often surprisingly similar.

5. You can now divide the horizontal line on your drawing into five equal parts to position the eyes. Look closely at the shape of eyes, eyelid and eyebrows before drawing them in. Again with this measurement of the eye width, see if there are any other areas where the same measurement can be used. For example, the width of the mouth might be double the width of the eye. Remember to keep your pencil at arm's length for each measurement.

6. To measure vertical lines, hold your pencil by the tip so it is absolutely vertical and line up at arm's length. You can use the same measuring technique with the pencil to measure angles, such as the length of the jawline in comparison to the rest of the face.

In the sculpture by John Davies, the width of the eye forms a good basis of most other measurements, but you can also use the length of the nose or the ear, depending on what side of the face you're drawing. For a full figure, you might use the head. There are no wrong answers - whatever works for you. Just experiment. It's fun discovering how symmetrical human beings - and even animals - can be.


How did you get on? Whether you’re a seasoned creative or a complete beginner, why not give it a go? Grab some art supplies and have a go at portrait drawing. You could draw this sculpture, a self-portrait or a member of your family. We’d love to see what you come up with, so please share your work with us via social media.

Diagrams © Marianne Frost