Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

You can send an email to [email protected] if you have questions about how to use this forum.

Proportional divider

I’ve had my proportional divider for a year now but I’ve never been any good at using it.  Today I was trying to transfer a simple drawing of a lamb I did onto the canvas 1 to 1. I had a tough time deciding where the lines actually crossed the guide lines and which points to plot. After a few points really I got frustrated and tried to freehand it and the result looked nothing like like my original drawing. Has anyone got any tips for me about plotting.
veronique mcmurray


  • Veronique

    Mark sets out the correct use of proportional dividers in this free video.

  • You need to make your "golden lines" on both your original Photo or source and your blank canvas. In part FOUR "Beginning to Pencil" of the free online DMP course scroll down almost half way down the page to "Drawing Two Golden Lines" where this is explained more fully.
  • I struggled with this tool also until I slowed down.  It eventually helped me to see details better once I accepted that if my drawing was off it was Ok, I just need to go to the point where I saw the first difference and use the divider to bring the drawing back to the original. Over time it got easier, as eye got better at actually seeing what was in front of me.

    Like many things it responded to practice and repetition.  Persistence and 'looking for the difference" as Mark preaches, worked wonders.
  • I think that’s where I go wrong too. I think it looks horrible and give up. I’ll try persisting with the drawing and see how I go.
  • What does everyone think of using a pantograph instead of a proportional divider.  I don’t have one but I was thinking of getting one.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited May 2018

    The benefit of sighting dimension and proportion from real life is training your mind to be an artist.
    A pantograph works by mechanically scaling up or down from a drawing or photograph. This is no better than tracing which will not improve your skills.

    If all that is needed is an end product then use any means available. I think a pantograph is wasting a good opportunity to learn and improve.

    Joy and satisfaction comes from frustration and struggle.


  • Yeah I think I’ll put off buying a pantograph at least for the duration of the course. I’m scaling up “lady with ermine” at the moment and I’m amazed how wrong I am about where I think pints should be to where they actually are. My guesstimates are way wider than my measurements.
  • @Veronique, proportional divider is best. If you are in a gerry to get your image in canvas, trace or use a pantograph, but only in the short time .
  • and you know you don't have to make it harder than it has to could start off with simpler objects to get your confidence up and trace the more complex..try your best and use what you need to do to alleviate the level of frustration so you won't give up...just sayin' eh

  • I to am frustrated with the proportional divider! Painting from a photo has always worked for me but I really want to learn how to use a PD in my shadow box my husband made for me.  I have brought myself to tears today.
     It has taken me a month to get my studio set up according to Mark's the letter,  then I sat down in front of my still life and became very very stuck. nothing I did worked out....
    I'm not a quitter and I will re-watch all Mark's videos over again for the millionth time!!
    Sorry Veronique I didn't have any advise for you,....I'm in the same boat! We will get past this! 
  • Take a look at these videos, starting with Bargue Lesson 4 - Notional Space .

    Although this is not using a proportional divider, in the long run it is similar enough and I think better in some ways from a mental exercise aspect.
  • @JeffAllen
    Thank you for the tip Jeff! I watched the video on Notional Space and it all makes sense to me. I can see myself trying this and hopefully no more tears! Thanks again! 
  • @Colleen,  what they are teaching in those videos is the sight size method which was taught in the french classical schools during the 1800's.  It teaches you how to break a subject down and look for landmarks.  In the long run I think it is better training than using a proportional divider even though it is very similar.

  • There's as much learning curve with the pantograph as the dividers. It's easy to get off track with them. 
  • Great invention that proportiondivider. A lot better than strugling with a pencil and holding it in front of you.
  • edited July 2018
    I love my proportional divider. You can use it as a sight sizer when painting from life or to get accurate proportions when using reference photos. I regard it as indispensible for  realist painting.  :)
  • you can stir your tea with it too.
  • Yeah, and as a swivle stick in martinis.  :)
  • I have found that when using from life or transferring from an image requires two different approaches. When using on a subject like a still life I can only use the divider for place marks and verification. It took about a year to get used to holding in my left hand a checking constantly but it will come to you.
Sign In or Register to comment.