Bringing Atelier Practices to your Sketchbook

For the past few years I’ve been practicing the site size method to improve my drawing skills. If you aren’t familiar, its the methods used by master artists for centuries. It allows an artist to improve their abilities to accurately see what they are drawing or painting.

The easiest way to explain it is that objects are lined up to equal in size regardless if it is an image right next to your drawing or the model or object in front of you. You use this line of sight to mark the top as well as the bottom of the object for the height. You also begin to build a relationship of distance and space to identify the angle and location of each element.


In modern ateliers, this method is often taught using Bargue plates which was a set of lithographs used to teach students in the 19th century. The plate is placed beside the students drawing and the goal is to copy the image and all the values reproducing it as accurately as possible. Plaster casts are also used as the student graduated to drawing and painting figures.

In our modern times though, finding a master artist or even atelier near you can be daunting. So, I’ve taken my practice along with me in my sketchbook. It may take some tweaking, but it’s doable. If you want to use bargue plates there are many that can be found on the web for free to copy and paste in your sketchook. Another application that I use is to find common objects, like leaves. A flat leaf is easy to find and is easy to carry in a sketchbook. You can also use other common objects found around you in your home, objects in nature or on your desk at work like scissors. For a society on the run, this is a great way to supplement your practice at work, on vacation or just at your favorite coffee shop.

In my next post I’ll show some of my tools and setups that I use. Grab your sketchbook!leaves