• Measuring Size Scaling


    Description: Students will explore size scaling

    Purpose: To show that artists use size scaling to show depth and distance

    Length of Activity: 15 minutes


    • Rulers
    • 2 pieces of paper, per student
    • Pencils, crayons, markers


    1. Have students make two drawings on one piece of paper at exactly the same height. One should be a house. The other picture should be a stick figure. Have them use the ruler to make sure the pictures are the same height - 4 inches tall is a good length.

    2. Students should cut out their pictures, so they have one house and one stick figure to use.

    3. Tell students to take their second piece of paper and orient it vertically to themselves. They should then draw a horizontal line halfway up. The line will represent the horizon - the line between the sky and the earth.

    4. Have students place the figure on the line they just drew and the house in the bottom left corner of the sheet of paper. Have them describe how the scene looks. Does it seem right? Now have them switch it so that the figure is in the bottom left corner and the house is on the line. What happened? Which arrangement looks right and why?


    What’s Going On?

    Your brain uses size scaling to tell how far away something is, or its depth. Your brain knows that people are usually smaller than houses, so when you see the stick figure in front of the house, your brain thinks the person is close and the house is far away. This makes sense. But when you see the house in front of the stick figure, it looks strange. Your brain knows that the person should be smaller and can't make sense of what it is seeing. Artists use this phenomenon when they paint or draw to make the viewer feel like their seeing depth or 3-D.