Learn to Draw > Figure drawing

In portraying the nude figure, the principal requirement is a sound grasp of the plastic aspects of the anatomy and proportions of the human body. In teaching these proportions, a simple system of diagrams has been evolved, and these can be of practical assistance in drawing. Their use is largely restricted to the portrayal of the upright, motionless nude figure. Nonetheless, some adaptation to the needs of movement is possible.

Generally speaking, nude and figure drawing become much more interesting when the body is portrayed in some position other than merely upright. The first task must be to establish whether the figure is at rest or in motion. Not only is this important to you, the artist; the spectator, too, will want to know whether your drawing relates to a completed movement or not. The use of a perpendicular line will clear up this point for you.

Let us suppose that the subject is standing on one leg. In this case, the perpendicular will start just inside the leg which takes the body weight. If you find that the volume is evenly distributed on either side of the perpendicular, you will know that the body is at rest. If, on the other hand, it is unevenly
the perpendicular line used for figure drawingdistributed, the body is moving in the direction where the volume is greater. Draw in or visualize this perpendicular, and you will soon ascertain whether your drawing is accurate, or whether the figure you have drawn in motion is in fact in repose; or if the subject you have shown at rest is in fact in motion.

Whichever it is, at rest or in motion, you will always find directional lines which will plainly show where a movement begins, which way it points, where most weight is placed, its balance, counterbalance and rhythm. External outlines and variations due to the plasticity of the subject are indicated by means of directional lines touching each other.

An example of this is to be seen in the variety of trunk postures which may arise from movements of the spine and shoulder. Two figures of great assistance in this respect have already been shown. The first is the pelvic triangle, which never alters; the second is the shoulder triangle, which may vary.

a standing nudeIn practice, yet another set of tangential lines will be found of help where the subject has his or her back to the artist. This is the triangle formed by the buttocks. Although the proportions of this triangle will vary among individuals, it is unaffected by movement, owing to pelvic support. This triangle can be expanded to form a square, should the exigencies of the perspective plane so require.

The safest way to determine the positioning of this triangle or square is to follow the cleft between the two buttocks, as this invariably divides both types of figure in half. This is a line reaching from the edge of the iliac blade at the top, right down to the larger upper thigh muscle when stretched.

If, as is often the case, one side is relaxed, then the tensed side should be used as the guiding line. Both sides can be relaxed only when the body is hanging or lying. The sides of the rectangle come where the buttock muscles are attached.

action figure drawing The rectangle, or square, reveals two facts about the body, one relating to the bending and turning of the pelvis in against the middle trunk, the other about its constitution; one a matter of perspective in the picture, the other of its actual shape. Basically it is a rectangle lying on its side.

In slender bodies this rectangle may become a square, and only in very thin ones an upright rectangle. Female bodies always have a wider rectangle because the pelvis is broader in women than men and there is a greater amount of fat tissue.

A correct structure of all the guiding lines and figures provides a sure scaffold as a preliminary to drawing all poses, and the various strategic points and lines of proportion can afterwards be added to it without difficulty. Even a crouching pose which does not allow the height of the body to be gauged can be helped by a division into eighths.

Foreshortening in figure drawing

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