Artist Mark Carder has a wonderful YouTube channel with great videos (these videos are listed in a more structured order on his website DrawMixPaint.com). Mark employs different tools with which he is able to achieve accuracy in his measurements – if it’s the measurement of lengths and distances or the measurement of color.
The first tool is a proportional divider with which he is able to draw bigger or smaller than the actual visual image that he sees depending on how he adjusts the proportional divider.
The second is a color checker where you can paint your mixed color on a little swatch, hold the color checker in front of the subject and compare the subjects color with the mixed color.
So why is this post’s title called “the not so academic approach in painting realistically” ?
With this method, you won’t really learn to draw through observation. If you always use a tool to measure – if it’s a grid system, projecting, a knitting needle or a proportional divider – you most propably won’t obtain the skill to see lenghts and distances. For the finished artwork it plays no role how it has been drawn but with relying on a crutch like any of those tools you won’t see the mistakes you are making.
For example when you project a printed photo onto the canvas with a projector and blindly trace the lines you’ll never see and realise that you most propably are tracing a distorted image. First the camera lens will definetly create a distortion on your photo to a more or less degree (see my post on how to compensate this with software like Photoshop or GIMP ). Secondly the projector itself does have a lens too which will cause additional distortion. So if you are tracing blindly your projected image you won’t see that the image is wrong. Learning to see is learning to recognize those sources of error and this skill only can be obtained through observational exercises like drawing from life.
Drawing from life is something that you are taught in a classical atelier and not with the method that Mark Carder employs. You can make stunning realistic pictures with this method but only if you are aware of the sources of error.
Use this template to make your own color checker: