5. A measured view from a window in Brooklyn

Yesterday’s post talked about using your pencil to analyze your view. Your pencil or pen is great both for measuring the proportions of shapes as well as spotting the location of things you see.

Here is a quick sketch that I did last year from our hotel room window in Brooklyn, NY. I loved the wide view that went all the way from the old Brooklyn City Hall to a peekaboo view of the Brooklyn Bridge on the far right, and I wanted to capture it all in my sketch!

How to do that? I used my pencil to measure. The first thing I drew was my eye level line (aka horizon line–you can really see the consistent, flat horizon in the distance between the buildings), as that line functions as a sort of datum line throughout the sketch (plus, all the vanishing points for the buildings will be somewhere on that line!) The ELL is so important! I had to think carefully about how high it should be on the page, and decided if I wanted to get the tops and bottoms of most of the buildings, it would need to be slightly over halfway up the page.

Next I used my pencil to spot locate the edges of major buildings in my view. I figured out that I could divide the view into 4 fairly equal segments that aligned with the edges of some of the prominent buildings. Next I transferred that information to my paper by making tick marks along my eye level line, dividing it into four equal segments for where each of these building edges would appear. (I must have started over 10 times to make sure everything would fit on my page. It’s no big deal to erase these light lines at the beginning of a sketch.) Once the tick marks were in my sketch, I could start to draw in the shapes of the buildings.

Then the big shapes were broken into smaller shapes as I drew floor lines in perspective and refined the “stacked boxes” of the buildings. Detail was added at the end using dark pencil or paint. Note that I didn’t draw in every window, I only suggest the windows in places (near the tops of buildings or the ground), and let them fade out to suggest they continue.

And voilá, a wide angle sketch of my wide angle view!

6 thoughts on “5. A measured view from a window in Brooklyn

  1. Hi Stephanie, just wanted to say that this post and the last one are both extremely helpful for fitting a scene on a page. The measuring line idea is a good one. It’s helpful with proportions and placement on the page using the ELL. Makes sense to me!
    Thanks very much for your continuing posts on this, much appreciated! This is even helping me when I’m using photos – the only way to travel right now. Might as well practice my sketching and proportions and colour choices etc… I seem to have enough photos on my phone to choose from. 🙂 and time… Stay well!


  2. Important sentence, and I paraphrase: “I must have started ten times to make sure the buildings fit on the page.” To me, a very valuable piece of information. Be thoughtful, don’t hurry into the sketch, think about the placement of the ELL on the page. Good stuff, Stephanie!


  3. Ha, I love that you liked that sentence!! Yes, I hope it gives everyone permission to redo those lines as needed, especially at the beginning of a sketch! Thanks for your message, stay well!


  4. Hi Stephanie, I am finally getting around to reading your blogs.
    I also took notice of the line “I must have started over 10 times…” because that hit home with me. I sometimes get so frustrated that it takes so long for me to get the sketch to fit on the page. With your tips and a suggestion I saw Paul Heaston say on Bluprint about using a little cutout he called a viewfinder, I think I can speed up this part of the sketch.


    1. Hi Ray, yes, I sometimes do those first loose, light lines several times until I can make sure everything I want will fit on my page. A viewfinder can help with some of this, but it’s still tricky to get it on to your paper at the right size. It gets easier with practice, and if you are redrawing before you’ve invested too much time in the sketch, it’s easy to make changes…


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