Join Amy Wynne for an in-depth discussion in this video Drawing proportion: Front view, part of Foundations of Figure Drawing.
- We'll now explore the proportions of the standing figure from four views: front, three quarter front, side, and back. It's really important to view the figure in the round as it helps up with out 3D thinking and fascilitates a more dimensional rendering of the body. Having a system of proportion helps ensure that the figure's measurements are accurate. And that you can fit it on the page. You need a system. When you learn this proportional framework, you'll never have to worry about your standing figure having its legs too long, or torso too short.
Using the same system that you'll find in your handout and photo included in the exercise files, I'll demonstrate how to draw a conceptual figure with this proportional system. What I do in this demo will echo what you have in front of you. Try and follow along on top of your proportional structure worksheet. You can work directly on the sheet or overlay with trace paper. This frontal view is really the basis for the other views covered in the chapter.
So, when we look at this frontal view, the very first thing that I would think about is where the head hits the top of an imaginary line. And also placing a line at the very bottom of what will ultimately be a plumb line. So this is a line of symmetry that comes all the way down through the center of the body.
It's perpendicular to the ground plane and it helps us set up our figure from side-to-side. It comes through the face down through the center of the breastbone through the navel and all the way down to the ground. Once we've dropped this plumb line, we can start to make divisions and that will help up with our proportional system. So the first thing that I do is I take a measurement from this topline and I try to find the midpoint as we come all the way down to this bottom line.
That midpoint, let's just check it from here to here and there to there. That's just about right. So I'm going to make a little mark. And this is the midpoint of the body. The midpoint of the body. And from the front view, that midpoint tends to line up with the very top of the pubic hair in the pubic region. After we've created that midpoint, that midline we're going to drop a line just below it, just a hair below it. And that's going to help up estabish our head size, actually, because what we're going to do next is create a little mark double-check that from here - one head, two heads, three heads, four - that there are four head-distances between the topline and the line we dropped just below the midline.
So let's mark those. We have one head and two. Another one here. And another one here. Finding the head size is very important because finding the head size is going to be really what's going to offset all the other measurements. Typically, when we work with proportion, throughout history, actually, the head has been a classic unit of measurement. So let's call these something. So we have a head, two heads down is to the base of the breastbone.
Three heads down is to the navel or the bellybutton. Four heads down is at the very base of the pelvis, the base of the genitals there. We can also take this exact head size, go all the way down to this ground-plane line here, and say one, two, two heads up from the ground are the knees. So now suddenly you have this whole system where you can place these landmarks. But the landmarks aren't enough.
Let's try to start to develop a conceptual model where we can put some volumes on top of these landmarks and start to elaborate our figure. So, we have one head. Let's just make an oval for the head. Just start with a basic, two dimensional oval. From the front view, the head is almost a perfect egg shape. That's our first oval and we're going to just fit it in between these two points. The next shape we can make would be another egg shape.
This egg shape is the rib cage from the front. And it can come all the way through the shoulder area, all the way down through the front. We can start to see this nice volume developing. So we have an oval for the head and an oval for the rib cage. After that, we can make an oval for the pelvic area here, through the navel and down.
And these are the beginnings of our masses. And on top of these, let's try to connect them. So, how do we connect the head to the shoulders? Well, it's just a cylinder shape. This cylinder shape comes down from the head and it inserts into the circle of the first rib. Which is really just so you can imagine a sort of a circular shape on an angle at the top of the rib cage here. You can see how that has some dimension to it.
We can also see how, at this point, two heads down, right here, we can start to fashion the V of the bottom of the rib cage. Because it really starts here at the bottom of the breastbone and comes down to either side of that egg shape. The navel is sort of a center-point for another oval that we can overlay. The navel right here, the bellybutton. There's this wonderful, soft mass of the belly that can fit right up inside this V of the ribs here and comes all the way down towards the midpoint of the body.
And you can even drop a secondary oval that starts to include the very base of the pelvis here. So we can see how the belly starts to form. We can also take some ovals and, look at how I'm really just using a lot of egg shapes here. I'm going to make an oval for the right shoulder. I'm going to make an oval for the left shoulder. And the reason why I'm not making one big shape for this area is because the rib cage is one structural shape.
And the shoulders move across that shape, so we like to imagine them as somewhat separate. Like these eggs could move forward and back over the shape of the rib cage. We can also imply some flanking ovals for the side belly. Starts to fill out the form there. And we can extend down from the shoulders some basic oval shapes that talk about the upper and lower arm. And for now, the hands can really be sort of mitten shapes.
We don't have to get into a lot of detail when we start practicing this proportional system. Coming down a little further, we've already named where the knees are, which are two heads up from the bottom. So, knowing where that knee joint is is really important because we can create a nice oval for the top of the leg, which ends at that point. And then we can make a nice oval for the bottom of the leg, which also connects to that point.
And as we segue way down the legs, we ultimately get to the feet, which I like to simply into sort of sock-like shapes. Now notice that when we create this bottom line that we've used for our proportional system, the toes don't hit that line and the heel actually doesn't hit that line either. This line actually kind of goes right through the arch of the foot. And it's like the foot is sort of teetering over it.
If we made the toes hit that line, or the heel hit that line when we established the foot in space, the leg would either be too short or too long. So this baseline is very important because we can use it to place the feet solidly on the ground. And we're going to have the feet straddle that line. Coming up again, let's start to refine this a little bit, so that we can talk about some transitions of some of the fleshy landmarks. So, we've got an oval for the head.
We've inserted it into the oval of the rib cage. But we can also think about how some of these fleshy landmarks transition. So coming through the region of the breast and up, we can see how this whole area, this whole shoulder region, is sort of interconnected. And we can also make softer segue ways between the neck and the shoulder region. The arm sort of comes out from underneath this sort of armor shape here.
And this is going to help us kind of create this sense of the whole shoulder girdle. When we come down the side of the body, these ovals, rather than creating an outer contour, like a flat outer contour of the body, we've actually made shapes. These shapes push up against the inside of the skin to create these outer curves. These outer curves aren't arbitrary. So we want these shapes to have life, and air and breath in them, and that's ultimately what's going to create these beautiful curves.
So transitioning down the body, we can feel the curve along the ribs, another curve here, an outer curve here, an outer curve here. And we can really let these volumes help us create this sort of curvature in space, all the way down to the feet. Through the forms, too, when we look at the leg, there's a feeling of coming down through the thigh over to the knee. And this line is actually relating to musculature, but often in the light you'll see it.
And then there's also a curve that comes down the front of the shin because the shin has a curvature, which really helps the eye travel from high to low. And we want to find these segue ways. We want to find this fluidity that helps our drawings feel like there's movement and that our eye has a place to go. A few other things that are really helpful to know when we think about using the head as a unit of measurement as it relates to this vertical proportion system, would be something we could look at over here.
So the head, this figure. We can take this figure's head, again as an oval. And we can use that to help us understand how wide the shoulders are. Because if we take this head measurement, turn it on its side, one, two, that's the width of the shoulders. So from here to here, we take this measurement for the head, we turn it on its side. We can fit one head between these two points.
And one head between these two points. We drop those lines down and lo and behold, there are the shoulders, which is really useful because we don't want the shoulders to be too wide or too narrow. One other thing we can do with this same head size, is we can figure out what the length of the arm is. Which is important because most people make the arms too short. Look at how far down the fingers go in relationship to the thigh. So, when we take this same head measurement, we can take the head, turn it on its side, one, two, three heads.
From the joint of the shoulder right here to here past the elbow, just shy of the wrist and all the way out to the hand. So this is a really useful system using the head. So this head measurement is really useful for finding the length of the arm. And we can also use it to find some sort of truisms about other parts of the body. So when we take the same head measurement.
All of these parts of the body here are two heads long. So we can take this head measurement and move from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. We can take the head measurement and move from the joint of the knee all the way down to the ground We can take the same measurement and move from the hip point all the way to the knee. And lastly, we can take the two head measurement and go from the pit of the neck, to the bottom of the breastbone, all the way down just below the navel.
This frontal view that we've explored, is really the basis for all the views we're going to cover in this chapter. So relax, and try to practice this on the worksheets I prepared for you. Don't let this system intimidate you. Think of it as a playground. Once you learn the system, it will allow you great freedom.
- Tracing the history of figure drawings
- Using the right materials
- Sketching gestures, structure, and motion
- Recognizing symmetry and asymmetry
- Placing weight and balance
- Comparing male and female proportions
- Drawing standing figures
- Drawing 3D volumes
- Rendering shadows