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Step-by-Step Drawing Example : Davis House Dot Plot

July 23, 2014


The other day I showed you a quick example of what I’m calling ‘Dot Plots’. I really need a better name for this. Maybe somebody who isn’t such an autodidact can tell me what it’s called? I came up with this on my own, but there is probably an official name for this trick.

Anyway –  I was out sketching the other day, and got another good example. Here’s the step-by-step shots:


This is the first pass of the Dot Plot.

What I have here are a set of small dots and dashes that describe for me the roof line of my subject, and where the ground line falls. The two major perspective angles I need to know in order to fill in the ‘face’ of the building.

It’s just a matter of putting in a small mark wherever there is a corner or intersection. The peak of each cupola, the width of each column of windows. You can stop whenever you have enough measurements to see the silhouette. Once you’ve got the ‘box’, you can just pile the details inside.



Ta da! See how the building appears, simply by connecting the dots? This is what they mean when they say ‘work larger to smaller’.

It might be easier for beginners to do this in pencil. You can poke in a few of these tiny markers, and if a quick sight measuring check says they’re wrong you only have to erase a few dots, not a whole drawing. When I’m doing it like this in ink, if I mis-place one, I just ignore it, and put another in the right place. At the end of the drawing, you don’t notice any stray marks.

I talk a fair bit about sight measuring in my upcoming book on sketching. (Sorry, sorry, relentless promotion. Baby needs a new pair of shoes). But, even while doing so, I try to give you the techniques to escape measuring as quickly as possible.

My philosophy is, learn to make measuring instinctive. It really should not become labor. That sucks all the fun out it. I don’t think anyone enjoys the measuring part of sketch. We’re in it for the excitement of the rapid scribble! The lightning fast impression. The measuring is only so we’re not disappointed later, coming home with an out of proportion sketch, or a drawing that’s crammed into the corner of our page.


Personally, I’m aiming for the best of both worlds. A way to get just enough accuracy to keep my left brain happy, but to go fast enough to keep my right brain engaged.



14June01_On Location

By the way, this is Davis House. It’s in is in a great location on De La Montaigne where you can sketch five small buildings surrounding a cute little park. A real oasis for sketchers. If you’re ever in Montreal, and find yourself near McGill, you might like this spot. (MAP).

20 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2014 8:28 AM

    Wow, very complicated but efficient drawing, Marc! Thanks for sharing this, very helpful ideas, and well done!

  2. July 23, 2014 8:42 AM

    Great tutorial, Marc. When I work directly with pen I prefer these short line marks rather than actual dots. I find that they contain much more information. I can’t agree that the measurement stage isn’t enjoyable, though. For me, this is when I really come to know the subject. Maybe that’ s the scientist in me. Clearly, the fact that so many skip over this step does support your claim.

    Cheers — Larry

  3. Linda permalink
    July 23, 2014 9:30 AM

    Very informative and inspiring! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. BTW, I like the term “dot plots”

  4. Coco permalink
    July 23, 2014 11:01 AM

    Really superb instructions, thanks to you!

  5. tmikeporter permalink
    July 23, 2014 12:15 PM

    Can’t wait for your book!

  6. Lindy permalink
    July 23, 2014 8:40 PM

    Great! Thanks for all your inspiring information/drawings.

  7. Vânia permalink
    July 29, 2014 9:04 PM

    Gostei muito, certamente vai me auxiliar na estrutura do trabalho. Sou iniciante na aquarela e apaixonada pelo desenho. Aguardo ansiosamente pelo novo livro. Meu cordial abraço.

  8. John of Michigan permalink
    February 20, 2015 12:01 PM

    Thank you so much for this suggestion. Your finished piece looks wonderful, btw.

  9. January 13, 2016 1:05 AM

    This is a wonderful tutorial, and well done. Have not heard of this method before, but will start using it right away. Thanks so much

  10. tk8888 permalink
    January 13, 2016 1:07 AM

    Great tutorial, enjoyed this very much, and great painting. Will for sure use this method of plotting in the future. Thanks so much

  11. Mercedes permalink
    June 22, 2016 1:50 AM



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