Tall mountain, small house – proportions

When laymen talk about drawing, most of them think that “drawing” means tracing the proportions and outlines of an object. Even in art schools, every drawing is first defined as a proportion of lines, and only then light and shadow are added. So, we have to study proportions on their own. What is the proportion of the shapes? Are they small or large? What is the relationship between them? If we think through exactly what this exercise is about, we realize it needs close observation because contrast plays the biggest role. We need to study how the proportions work in relation to each other. We need to develop a sensitivity to this.

We have already practiced some parameters that are the basis for any drawing. That is, and I mention it again, the quality of the line. The quality of the line is not hesitantly holding a pencil and vaguely setting a line, so that the viewers get the feeling: “The person wasn’t quite sure how to do that, there’s a bit of uncertainty involved.” A good line conveys not only sensitiveness, but also a certain self-confidence. It’s a clearly formulated line.

And if it’s still so delicate, the pencil is sharpened, the line is clear, as well as when it transforms into a strong line. The relationship between light and dark within the line is already a question of proportion. But in this impulse, we will try the proportion of large and small, to think and feel this question even further. What I want to encourage you to do is to be precise with your lines. Always sharpen the pencil, always formulate the line clearly. Don’t hesitate, don’t be afraid. Maybe when you’re sketching and trying where the line goes. But after that, you always must define the line very precisely with the pencil.

The exercise is: a tall mountain and a small house. The point is to find a proportion that works in relation to each other and not to illustrate the banal reality. It’s not what we’re used to seeing: a high mountain in the back, which appears very small in the drawing, and a house in the front, where we can infer that the mountain is higher than the house. No, you can take it literally: on your sheet of paper, no matter how big it is, the mountain stands alone, and the house stands alone.

The mountain is tall, and the house is very small, it can be a small rectangular box. Pay attention to the folds in the mountain. They can be steep rock faces with fault lines, so that you can go wild in your drawing. And then there is just this rectangle which determines the proportions. This rectangle can be darkly defined with relatively short strokes.

If this exercise is too difficult for you at the beginning, you can try the following suggestion as an alternative exercise or as an initial exercise: With a ruler, define a section on your sheet of paper, as large as possible, with one line. Within this section, draw a line that runs in waves from left to right, a wavy line. Not a too detailed, small line, but in relatively large curves.

As your pencil goes down into the valley of the wavy line, the line gradually becomes more delicate. When, on the other hand, the wavy line rises, it gradually becomes darker until it is at its peak, then it descends again and slowly becomes more delicate. Thus, the line has in its quality a proportion of light and dark. The first line, up dark, down light, up dark again, down light again. Very flowing, very attentive, with a sharpened pencil. Then you let the next line follow this first wave, about two, maximum three millimeters below.
So very closely, the next line moves parallel to the first one and behaves in the same way. It becomes lighter and it becomes darker when the first one does. This is how you draw throughout the whole sheet, with only this one undulation of the line, which always gets lighter when it descends and darker when it rises. You can try it with soft wavy lines, you can make a second sheet and try it with steeper lines.

This way you have two exercises: a playful wavy exercise that will again sharpen your concentration on the pencil. Practice and memorize this exercise well so that your line doesn’t get lost in pale, hesitant lines. Rather there should be clear statements in your lines, sensitive, confident drawing statements. The other exercise is to practice the proportion of big and small with the small house and the tall mountain.

Before you sit down to these exercises, make sure you’re well and not in a hurry. Especially the wave exercise will bring you inner peace but at the same time it will require you to be calm. You cannot sit down wishing to be fast. No, slowly, gently, and consciously hold the pencil and consciously place the tip on your drawing sheet. Then, with the awareness of the line from the wave exercise, you start with the mountain-and-house-exercise. The most elegant, sensitive, confident lines should be visible in these mountains. A mountain is always a mountain as soon as the line goes up and down very steeply. That’s not the big challenge. But the lines you use should be of the highest quality. Because you already can do that, even though you might forget about it sometimes. So, this is a little reminder of that.

I wish you a very joyful, playful, fun wave exercise. The other exercise will be easy, once you know that you can’t forget about the quality of the line – big and small is a game! Good luck!