Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Drawing Better (Part 4)

Projected drawing takes no less skill than drawing freehand,
only different skills...and less time.
I intended yesterday to finish this series with a list of do's and don'ts as to drawing with the aid of a digital projector, but got sidetracked to an equally important discourse as to an ideal course of study for a college art student in today's digital era. Lest that happen again (which it could very easily) let me today concentrate first on my DO list:

When shooting a series, especially a panorama, keep
these setting consistent. An ISO (DPI) of 200 or higher
works best for projection drawing.
1. Shoot your own photos (in a series) specifically mindful of using them as source material for a painting so as to have several similar images to choose from. They need not be perfect (you're not selling photos, after all), but they do need to be sharply focused and of relatively high resolution--200 dpi (dots per inch) is adequate, 600 dpi is ideal. Color values matter very little, or not at all, even at the painting stage. (At best they're merely a digital suggestion.) In scanning printed material, always dial the resolution up to 600 dpi (even if it brings to light a printed dot matrix.
The possibilities are endless. Allow your creativity to
flow through the software. Avoid free stuff--as
with most things, you get what you pay for.
2. Concentrate the bulk of your creative endeavor at the computer with whatever photo-editing software you are comfortable using. I can't emphasize that last point enough; you do NOT want a fight with the software when your creativity is at stake. Whether it be cleaning up, cropping, perhaps erasing parts of a single photo, or composing a single image using a dozen different photos, this is the "make or break" stage for your finished painting. Even the best painting skills will not disguise errors and deficiencies allowed to pass unnoticed here.
The back is more important than the front.
My projector is shown above.
3. Choose your digital projector carefully. It's awfully easy to way overpay for more projector power than you need, as well as to waste money buying a "pocket" projector so dim and "touchy" as to be simply unusable (I've done both). Regardless of brands, something in the four-to-six-hundred-dollar range is usually sufficient for most artists. Go for the high end if you plan to use the projector on a daily basis as a TV or computer monitor (as I do). Keep in mind, about half of the cost of a digital projector is for the bulb (their average lifespan usually being around 2000 hours).
Lens to distance ratio chart with projection size
being constant (2 meters).
4. If you work big, you'll need a big room with controlled lighting in which to draw (but not total darkness). Focal length is about fifteen feet for a 100-inch (measured diagonally) image projection. Using an easel upon which to mount your drawing surface allows minute adjustments at both ends (the projector and the easel.) Remember, your projector is merely an output device, you will need a laptop or desktop computer nearby as you draw. If you work with small images (less than 12 inches square), you may wish to rig up a means of mounting your projector above your drawing surface pointing downward much like the old darkroom photo enlarger. Whatever the case, both should be as solid as possible once drawing begins. A smooth wall will suffice in the absence of a good easel, but is somewhat more awkward and tiring to access (there's no place for the knees).
5. Take your time in drawing. Once you begin, maintaining perfect alignment is critical and adjustments are often quite frustrating if something gets jarred even slightly. Watch your feet and legs, being careful not to accidentally move your easel. For best results, do the entire drawing in one sitting (no bathroom breaks). Keep others out of the room to avoid distractions. This stage demands extreme care and concentration. However, in addition to improving accuracy, it eliminates about two-thirds to three-fourths of the traditional drawing time unless you get involved with alignment problems.
6. "Proofread" your drawn image. That is, once you think you're finished drawing, bring up the room lights slightly so that both the drawing and the projection are easily discernible. Then move your body back and forth in front of the projector to check and correct any missing details or errors. If you're drawing includes a lot of straight lines or perspective, by all means use a straight edge to draw those lines, but check at this stage to see if you've used it correctly. Save any shading for later. Projected drawing is great for the main structural details, but for subtleties...not so much.

Add the finishing touches to the drawing, then simply apply paint.
7. When finished, break down your drawing setup and get your studio back to normal. Then, with your source material in one hand, a relative hard pencil in the other, add any details to the drawing which you feel you'll need in the painting process. Use a smudge sheet under your fist at this stage and when finished, give your canvas (but not watercolor paper) a light coat of spray fixative to hold everything in place.

How do you get to the Met? Practice; practice.
8. As with all methods of drawing, "practice makes perfect." Start small and simple. If you come up with a usable drawing the first time--GREAT! If not, remember, one of the major motives for drawing (including project drawing) is to learn. Like freehand drawing, trial and error applies to projected drawing as well, though usually not as much of either.

Tomorrow: We get into what NOT to do when drawing from projections.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Truth in advertising.



  1. You are the ultimate wellspring of all things art, artists and skill sets to fulfill a vision. I'm getting cloyingly repetitive, but thank you for sharing your vast mind-full of knowledge. Great info on projection procedures.

  2. Thanks Mr. Max--

    The item on projection drawing is an old pet peeve of mine insofar as upper level art instruction is concerned. It's been kept "under cover" for far too long, so I took it upon myself to do something about it. I was dismayed to discover how very little information and photos on the subject are available on the internet. As Hilary once said, I think it's a vast, right-wing conspiracy.