When you are aiming for realism or an accurate rendering of your subject, there are many ways to check the proportions in your drawing. Here’s a list of the ones I know (and I am sure that I’ve left out a few):
- Stand back and compare the subject to your drawing. The greater distance will make many errors visible quickly.
- Take a picture with your phone for comparison. Seeing a miniature version of your work usually makes things stand out.
- Look at your work in a mirror. Using a mirror converts your subject to shapes instead of things and it is easier to spot discrepancies.
- Turn both your subject and the painting/drawing upside down. (This really only works if you are using a photograph or a picture as your subject.)
- For subjects that are mirror-images on both sides such as a vase or a bowl, you can use a mirror or a piece of glass to check and make sure that both sides match.
- For the above, trace the outline of your drawing and fold it in half. This will show you where the drawing is out of balance.
- Look back and forth quickly between your subject and drawing. This technique blends the two together and shows you what needs to be corrected.
- Check your angles and the length of your lines. Using easily recognized points, determine key angles and make certain that these angles are accurate in your drawing.
- Use sight-sizing.
- Try using a proportional divider to check your measurements
- Rulers work too.
- As do skewers. Measure, measure, measure.
- Measure twice, draw once!
- Did I mention measure?
- Step outside and look at your work through the window. Somehow this puts it at a remove as if it was someone else’s work.
- If all else fails, and you can’t figure out what is wrong, take a tracing of your subject and place it over your drawing. This will immediately show you where your drawing is off. If you are drawing from life, take a picture of your subject and print it out. Yes, it has to be the same size. Is your subject too big? Print out your problem area only. There’s no need to do the whole thing.
- Walk away and look at something else for a few minutes and you will be able to look at your work with fresh eyes. Do this at least every 15 minutes.
- Don’t forget to look at your subject. You can become too familiar with your own work and mistakes will begin to look correct.
Remember, all these suggestions are to improve the accuracy of the drawing. If you are doing quick studies or gesture drawings, that’s a completely different thing. Those are about loosening up and finding the rhythm of a pose.