What angle do you draw at? That was the question posed on Twitter, and since my answer depends on many factors and is far too long for a tweet I thought I’d answer in a blog post.
Firstly, what is meant by drawing? Is it as a preliminary before adding colour or will it stay as a drawing in it’s own right? Is it a large or a small work, undertaken indoors or out, or is the artist working in a classroom situation? How long will does the artist have to complete the drawing? What medium will be used? Will the artist be standing or sitting? (You see why 140 characters wasn’t enough?)
All of those have a bearing on the angle of the support, whether it’s a sketchbook, board, paper or canvas.
When I’m drawing wildlife in the field I tend to be sitting down with the sketchpad on my lap, though if it’s a big drawing I may kneel with the drawing on the ground in front of me. (I blame my future arthritis on this.) It depends on the terrain, but the surface will usually be horizontal +/-10 degrees.
In the studio I usually work at a drawing board, again almost horizontal but a slight tilt upwards. The original questioner said he doesn’t draw flat as it can distort the image a little, but as I tend to work at the drawing board standing up any distortion is minimised.
Sometimes I find myself drawing in a museum or gallery. In this instance I’ll probably be standing up with a sketchpad held at 30-40 degrees, trying not to be jostled or get in the way of other visitors.
In a life class I prefer to stand at an easel so the surface is perpendicular, especially important if I’m using using pastels or charcoal. In an upright position the excess pastel falls away form the surface of the work. Warning: arm muscles may protest the following day if you’re unused to drawing at an easel.
I used to go to a drawing class where we tended to rest the drawing board against the back of a chair in front of us. The angle would have been about 45 degrees.
As I said, there’s no simple answer to What angle do you draw at? The reality is though, we should draw at whatever angle feels comfortable. We can’t produce good work if we are more aware of how we’re working than what is being produced.