Method Behind a Madness!

Henry is about to draw a portrait of his friend, Harvey. Harvey looks worried when Henry suddenly holds up a freshly sharpened pencil.


But, Harvey has nothing to fear! Henry is an accomplished artist who simply knows how to measure distances by using a pencil. The step-by-step process for using this technique is as follows:

Step 1: Step back from your subject – far enough away to see the whole subject, but close enough to see the details clearly.

Step 2: Hold your pencil in a closed fist with the pointy end pointed up.

Step 3: Place your thumb on the pencil so your thumbnail is facing you.

Step 4: Extend your arm toward your subject.

Step 5: Find some part of your subject to measure (such as the vertical length of Harvey’s nose).

Step 6: Position the tip of the pencil so it appears to be on the uppermost section of the part you want to measure (such as the upper section of Harvey’s nose in between his eyes).

Step 7: Without moving the pencil, slide your thumb up and down along the pencil until the top edge of your thumb is level with the lowest part of what you want to measure (such as the bottom of Harvey’s nose). The distance between the tip of the pencil and the tip of your thumb is the same as the part of your subject you want to measure (such as the length of Harvey’s nose).

Step 8: Stay where you are and keep your thumb in the same place on the pencil. Move only your outstretched arm (without moving your body) to various places on the subject until you find another distance that is the same as the first. You now have a clue for drawing your subject accurately: two parts of your subject are the same length.

And, Henry now has his first clue for drawing Harvey correctly. The vertical distance from the top of Harvey’s head to the uppermost section of his eyes is the same as the length of his nose.


You can find more clues by repeating this process. When you can’t find any more vertical distances, rotate your arm (without moving your thumb from the pencil) to find horizontal and diagonal distances that are the same.

The Contemporary Master of Drawing

In addition to being my very favorite pencil artist, Mike Sibley is internationally respected as a professional artist, art educator, author, and the master of graphite pencil drawing techniques. Most of all, I love discovering meticulously-created visual clues that tell me stories about the subjects of his drawings.


Mike enthusiastically shares his wealth of knowledge with aspiring artists all over the world. In his own words:

When I first began my art career, I was often astonished to find more experienced artists treating every technique as a “trade secret” and divulging little. I determined at that time not to emulate them but to be free with encouragement and advice.

Why should I expect less-experienced artists to have to learn those lessons the hard way, when I can provide short-cuts from my own experience? I can’t think of a single reason. And little gives me more pleasure than to see a novice artist take a giant step forward.  


My aim in my work is to emphasize character, tell a story, and display the intricacies of the subject’s creation by suggesting a sense of reality, while maintaining the feel of a hand-drawn work of art.


Realism in drawing brings out the Sherlock Holmes in you. No longer can you walk down a country lane without observing the variety of leaves and the insect life that lives upon them. You notice the way ivy clings to tree bark and the upturned wingtips of the crows that fly overhead.

Even in your own home, you can’t help studying the myriad patterns of reflected light that appear on your shiny kettle or toaster. I feel compelled to display even the smallest detail to viewers of my work, as if to say, “Do you see this? Do you really see this? Isn’t it beautiful, this marvel of Nature?” And, if I feel that just one person has finally been encouraged to “see” instead of look, I have done my job.


Mike teaches online classes for students of all levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Check back often to find out when new classes are accepting registrations.

You can view more of Mike’s work at:

What is Art Therapy?

Today, a dear friend of mine, Judith Campanaro, has generously provided a free download of an illustrated 10-page article she recently published with Drawspace. Following is a short excerpt from this publication:

Art therapy is a unique experience based on using the medium of art as an instrument of change. Rather than learning conventional techniques and modalities, art therapy approaches the medium in a natural experiential way. This process automatically creates a safe and non-threatening place thereby allowing you to shift your inner awareness and discover new emotions and presentation of yourself.

When you are doing art, you are in charge. You get to pick the tools, the colors, the concepts. You can scribble, draw stick people, draw sunshine and rainbows or rain clouds and storms. It doesn’t matter. No talent required. Through the process of creating, you will discover an age old healing balm that soothes and restores the soul. You will find your own internal voice and learn the way in which you interact with the world around you.


The brain wave testing on artists shows that when they are looking at art or doing art they run beta and delta waves. So an artist naturally accesses the very deep unconscious that is usually only tapped during deep sleep. When you are doing any form of art you experience the consciousness that you reach beyond the frontal cortex, beyond the thinking mind of the cerebral cortex.

Art therapy taps that place where you are awake but you are actually creating change and working with some of the deep recesses within your mind. By going within and creating art, the right side of the brain can speak through the drawings.


Creating art is a means of watching yourself closely for self-defeating ways you respond to the world around you. Your artwork will speak to you louder than words. Pay attention to the colors you use, the shapes, the symbols and you will find a brand new alphabet that brings clarity and understanding to your personal issues and growth.

~Judith Campanaro~

An art therapist by trade, Judith Campanaro holds a BA in Psychology, an MA in Professional Counseling, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Art Therapy. She lives in sunny California. As a Creative Arts Therapist, she facilitates empowerment through creative expression.

Drawspace is now a secure site so you may need to register (for free) to download this free lesson. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Storing an Image in Your Memory

During my 25-year career (1978-2003) as a forensic artist, I was often asked, “How do you draw from someone else’s memory?” Simple answer: “It’s not much different than drawing from your own memory.”

Visualization techniques facilitate the gathering of credible information by attempting to bring all five senses into the memory enhancement process. Throughout this initial visualization stage of a cognitive interview, I would write meticulously detailed notes. Then, I continuously referred to these notes while the victim or eyewitness helped me create a composite drawing.

Seeing is the most important stage of creating a memory. Several people can view the exact same subject under identical conditions, and yet each person may remember a completely different image.

I was once called to a bank that had been robbed by a male suspect without a mask. I created sketches with each of the three witnesses who had clearly seen him close-up.

When the detectives and I later met up, we compared the three drawings. The three men looked very different from one another – they didn’t even look like cousins. Yet, each witness had clearly remembered and described in great detail the brightly-colored, cartoon Band-Aid across his nose.

A perceived visual image of a subject may not be the same as how that subject looks in reality. For instance, if you believe that the branches of all trees are straight, then when you retrieve a memory of a specific tree, you may draw it with straight branches.

Even when you see a subject correctly, your brain may record images based on your current state of mind as well as memories of and experiences with similar subjects. Forensic artists often refer to these phenomenons of perception as memory pollution.

Images that you see can be remembered both verbally and visually. A strong visual image can be translated into a narrative and vice versa. For example, a verbal description of a suspect, based on an eyewitness’s visual memory, is provided to a forensic artist, who then translates that verbal description back into an image – a sketch of the suspect.

Tip: Try air drawing a potential drawing subject to remember visual information. Simply follow the contours of a subject with your eyes (or a finger) while mentally describing every detail with words. You then have both a visual and verbal memory.

Draw from Memory: Seeing to Remember

To draw from your memory, you need to access a visual image stored in your brain. Simple techniques (based on my 25-year career as a forensic artist) can help you store an image in your memory.

If you watch television or movies, you have probably seen a sketch artist’s drawing of a criminal suspect. A sketch artist (also called a forensic artist) translates the memories of eyewitnesses and victims into drawings. Memory enhancement techniques are integral to accessing the information required to create drawings based on someone else’s memory.

Surprisingly, these same techniques also help artists learn how to remember potential drawing subjects. Your five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting) feed sensory information to your memory. “Seeing” employs both vision and perception to trigger strong sensory memories. You need to accurately see a potential subject before you can attempt to draw it from memory. Factors such as time, viewpoint, distance, and clarity influence your memory of what you see.

Taking time to carefully observe your subject is integral to remembering visual information. If you’re texting a friend while running to catch the subway, you probably won’t remember much about a clown sitting on the steps of the art gallery.
However, if you’re walking and paying attention to your surroundings, you may see the clown and possibly store enough information in your memory to later draw her.

You can retain more information about anything you want to remember when you view it from all sides. Examine a frontal view of a suspect (oops – meant to say “subject”). Check out the same subject in profile. From this viewpoint, the shape of the head is somewhat unexpected. Try to imagine what this criminal mastermind looks like from behind.


When a subject is far away, you can’t see it very well. On the other hand, if you are too close, you may not be able to see its entire shape and form.

In the first image below, Wesley the Maltese is too far away to see much in the way of details. You’re more likely to see and remember enough information to sketch his face and body if he’s a little closer (the middle image). If Wesley jumped into your lap and began licking your nose, you may remember feeling the wispy hairs of his mustache on your face and seeing the shine in his eyes (the third image). However, if this was the only time you saw him, you may have no memory of his head or body.

Ideally, you need to examine a subject from both far away and close-up.


Lighting conditions, weather, and air pollutants affect how well or how poorly you see a potential subject. Early morning or late evening may not provide enough light to see an outdoor subject clearly (the first image below). In addition, if a strong light source such as a sunrise or sunset is behind a subject, you may see only its silhouette rather than details. Subjects may appear blurry on a foggy, snowy, or rainy day (the middle image). Under ideal lighting conditions, you may be able to remember enough information to create a sketch (the image on the right).

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