Read an Excerpt
Figure Drawing Step by Step
By Wendon Blake
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1981 Donald Holden
All rights reserved.
PROPORTIONS: FRONT VIEW
Male Figure. Although no two models are exactly alike, it's helpful to memorize the proportions of an "ideal" figure and keep these proportions in mind as you draw. Most artists use the head as the unit of measurement. They generally visualize a figure that's eight heads tall. The torso is about three heads tall from the chin to the crotch, divided into thirds at the nipple line and navel. The upper leg is two heads tall, and so is the lower leg. At its widest point, the shoulders, the ideal male figure measures just over two head lengths.
Female Figure. The ideal female figure is also about eight heads tall, though you can see that she's just a bit shorter than the ideal male figure at your left. At its two widest points, the shoulders and hips, she measures about two head lengths. In both these figures, notice that the elbows are approximately three head lengths down from the top of the head and align with the narrowest point of the waist, while the wrists align with the crotch. Naturally, these alignments change when the model bends her arm.
PROPORTIONS: SIDE VIEW
Male Figure. The proportions are essentially the same when you see the figure from the side. Note that the lower edge of the chest muscle comes about halfway down the upper arm. The lower edge of the buttocks is slightly more than four heads down from the top of the figure—a bit farther down than the crotch. As the model bends his arms, the elbows no longer align with the waist but rise farther up. Seen from the side, the foot measures slightly more than one head length.
Female Figure. In profile, the female figure has the same proportions as the male figure, although she's slightly smaller. Once again, you can see that the breast comes about halfway down the upper arm, and the lower edge of the buttocks is just below the midpoint of the figure. From the shoulder to the wrist, the arm length is slightly under three heads, which means that the upper and lower arms should each measure roughly one and one- half heads. As in the male figure, the female foot is just over one head long. The outstretched hand is slightly less than one head long.
PROPORTIONS: THREE-QUARTER VIEW
Male Figure. When the male figure turns to a three-quarter view, the vertical proportions remain the same, but the horizontal proportions change. The shoulders are less than two heads wide, and the entire torso has narrowed slightly. Study the proportions of the bent arm: the upper and lower arms are each approximately one and one-half heads long, while the hand is just under one head long. As the arm bends, the elbow rises above the midpoint of the figure, and the wrist no longer aligns with the crotch. When one leg bends and the other remains straight, the knee of the bent leg tends to drop slightly.
Female Figure. Here you can see clearly how the knee drops slightly as the leg bends. In the three-quarter view, the shoulders and hips are no longer two heads wide, but have become narrower. (As the model keeps turning toward the side view, those widths become narrower still.) The lower edge of the breast comes about halfway down the upper arm. The elbows align more or less with the navel, although the female navel is usually slightly lower than that of the male. The lower edge of the knee is two heads up from the heel.
PROPORTIONS: BACK VIEW
Male Figure. Seen from behind, the figure displays the same proportions as in the front view—with some subtle differences. The lower edges of the buttocks fall slightly below the midpoint of the figure—unlike the crotch, which is usually just four heads down from the top of the head. The horizontal creases at the backs of the knees, dividing the upper and lower legs, are slightly more than two heads up from the heel—in contrast with the lower edges of the front of the knees, which are a bit farther down. Note that the lower edges of the shoulder blades are two heads down from the top of the figure, which means one head down from the neck. The shoulders measure a shade over two head lengths, while the hips measure about one and one-half.
Female Figure. In this view, you can see one of the major differences between the male and female figures. In the male figure at your left, the shoulders are distinctly wider than the hips, while the female figure is equally wide at both points—roughly two head lengths. Once again, you can see that the crease that divides the upper and lower legs in back is distinctly higher than the lower edge of the knee that you see in the front view. Obviously, not every model will have the ideal proportions you see in these drawings. But if you stay reasonably close to these measurements, making some adaptations to suit each model, your figure proportions will always be convincing.
DRAWING THE MALE TORSO: FRONT VIEW
Step 1. The artist draws an oblong box with a vertical center line. Horizontal guidelines locate the shoulders, nipples, navel, crotch, and abdominal muscles. He begins to suggest
Step 2. The artist draws the anatomical shapes with more realistic, curving lines. He rounds off square chest muscles and traces the curves of the rib cage, waist, and thighs,
Step 3. He blocks in the tonal areas with the side of the pencil lead. The light comes from the left and from slightly above, so the right sides of the forms are in shadow—and so are the undersides.
Step 4. He strengthens the tones and sharpens the contours. You now see four distinct tones: light; halftone (between the lights and shadows); shadow; and reflected light (paler tones within the shadows).
DRAWING THE FEMALE TORSO: FRONT VIEW
Step 1. The artist visualizes the female torso as a pair of blocky shapes that taper inward to the waist. A vertical center line and horizontal guidelines locate the shoulders, nipples, breasts, navel, and crotch.
Step 2. The artist constructs the curving contours of the figure over the geometric guidelines of Step 1. Within the shapes of the breasts, abdomen, and hips, he suggests the edge of the shadow area.
Step 3. He blocks in the shadows with parallel strokes. The light comes from the right, so the left sides of the forms are in shadow. On the lighted side of the body, the breast casts a circular shadow.
Step 4. The artist builds up the tones. The shadow is darkest where light and shadow areas meet—turning paler as it begins to pick up reflected light from a distant source. You can see this on the breast.
DRAWING THE MALE TORSO: THREE-QUARTER VIEW
Step 1. As the torso turns, the center line moves off center and the boxy shape of the figure becomes narrower than in the front view. The artist works with the usual guidelines to construct the basic "diagram."
Step 2. When the realistic contours are drawn over the guidelines, the alignments remain the same. The pit of the neck, the division between the chest and stomach muscles, the navel, and the crotch are all on the same vertical line.
Step 3. The light comes from the right and from slightly above, so the shadow planes are on the left sides and along the undersides of the forms. The artist blocks in the shadow shapes with clusters of parallel strokes, as usual.
Step 4. By now, you should be able to identify the four basic tones in the finished drawing. The light, halftone (or middle tone), shadow, and reflected light are apparent on the chest muscle and thigh.
DRAWING THE FEMALE TORSO: THREE-QUARTER VIEW
Step 1. As the torso turns to the left, so does the center line. The upper and lower halves taper toward the waist. The artist places the usual horizontal guidelines and visualizes the shoulder as an egg shape.
Step 2. The shape of the body changes as it turns, and the center line curves slightly, but the most important alignments remain the same in the realistic line drawing. For example, the shoulders still align with the hips.
Step 3. The light source is at the left, so the artist blocks in the big shadow zones on the right sides of the forms. He places a delicate halftone where the abdomen curves away from the light.
Step 4. As the artist builds up the tones, stroke over stroke, he plans the direction of the strokes to follow the forms and accentuate their roundness. He applies less pressure to the pencil in the halftone areas.
DRAWING THE MALE TORSO: SIDE VIEW
Step 1. The torso is a tapering box, with a slanted rectangle for the chest muscle and egg shapes for the shoulder and hip. The back curves out at the shoulder, in at the waist, and then out again at the buttocks.
Step 2. The blocky shapes of the "diagram" are rounded off in the realistic line drawing. The neck normally leans forward, the upper torso leans backward, and the lower torso leans slightly forward again to meet the upper torso.
Step 3. The light comes from the right, placing the left sides of the forms in shadow, which the artist blocks in with parallel strokes. Study the alignments: the point of the shoulder is directly above the center of the hip.
Step 4. When the artist builds up the tones—accentuating the contours with the pencil point—you can see the gradation of light, halftone, shadow, and reflected light most clearly on the chest muscle, shoulder, and hip.
DRAWING THE FEMALE TORSO: SIDE VIEW
Step 1. The female figure shows the same angular "movement" as that of the male. The neck tilts forward, the upper torso leans back, and the lower torso tilts forward to meet the upper torso at the waist.
Step 2. The pencil point defines the edges of the forms and the contours of the shadows within the forms. The female buttocks protrude more than those of the male, but the center of the shoulder still aligns with the center of the hip.
Step 3. The light source is at the left, illuminating the front of the figure and placing the back—as well as much of the side—in shadow. The artist follows the shadow guidelines of Step 2 as he blocks in the tones.
Step 4. The finished torso shows the gradation of light, halftone, shadow, and reflected light, plus the cast shadow beneath the breast. Within the lighted abdomen, halftones suggest anatomical detail.
DRAWING THE MALE HEAD
Step 1. The artist draws an egg shape with a vertical center line. Horizontal lines locate the features: the eyes are halfway down; the underside of the nose is midway between eyes and chin; the division between the lips is one-third down from nose to chin. Over these guidelines, he places the features, squares up the jaw, and indicates the hair.
Step 2. Study the proportions of the realistic head, drawn over the guidelines of Step 1. The height of the head, from chin to crown, is one and one-half times the width from cheek to cheek. At its midpoint, the head is "five eyes wide." The space between the eyes, and the underside of the nose, are both "one eye wide." The ears align with the eyes (or eyebrows) and mouth.
Step 3. The artist blocks in the shadows, following the guidelines you saw in Step 2. The light comes from the right, and so the shadow is on the left side of the head. The eye sockets and upper lip curve away from the light, and so they contain deep shadows. The corner of the nose casts a slanted shadow to the left; the chin casts a shadow across the neck in the same direction.
Step 4. The shadows on the left sides of the forms are darkened. So are the undersides of the forms that curve inward, away from the light: the eye sockets, bottom of the nose, upper lip, underside of the lower lip, and chin. The artist strengthens the halftones in the lighted areas, defines the details of the features, and reinforces the outer contours.
DRAWING THE FEMALE HEAD
Step 1. The head is turned slightly to the left in this three-quarter view. Again, the artist draws an egg shape with a vertical center line—which moves to the left as the head turns—plus horizontal lines to locate the features. Then the features go over these guidelines. The artist indicates the shape of the shadow that runs down the forehead, cheek, and jaw.
Step 2. Over the egg, the artist traces the curves of the forehead, cheek, jaw, and chin; defines the eyebrows and eyelids, adding the irises and pupils; indicates the tip of the nose and the nostril wing as separate, rounded shapes. He draws the wing shapes of the upper lip; the fuller, lower lip; and the internal detail of the ear.
Step 3. The light comes from the left, and so the artist blocks in the big shadow that runs down the right side of the head, including the ear. He places shadows in the corners of the eye sockets; on one side of the nose and beneath it; on the upper lip, which tilts away from the light; beneath the lower lip; and at the tip of the chin. Finally, he darkens the hair.
Step 4. The artist reinforces the shadow shapes, faithfully following the shadow edge that first appeared in Step l. With clusters of curving strokes, he darkens the big shadow shape on the side of the head and then intensifies the shadows on the features. The pencil point completes the hair, adds the details of the features, and reinforces the contours.
DRAWING THE MALE ARM AND HAND
Step 1. The artist visualizes the upper and lower arms as cylinders. He draws a center line through the upper arm to align the elbow and the center of the shoulder—which he defines as a sphere. The back of the hand is drawn as a square from which the thumb projects. Straight lines define the fingers. Parallel guidelines align the knuckles.
Step 2. When the artist draws the realistic contours, he retains the spherical form of the shoulder muscle and the tapering shape of the lower arm, adding the curves of the other muscles. As he draws the hand, he follows the curving guidelines of the knuckles. The thumb is only half the length of the hand; the tip of the thumb stops where the fingers begin.
Step 3. Blocking in the shadows, the artist follows the curves of the spherical shoulder muscle, the rounded back of the upper arm, and the tapered cylinder of the forearm. In this view, the back of the hand and the first joints of the fingers bend away from the light, so they're in shadow. The light strikes the protruding knuckles, plus the second and third joints.
Step 4. The artist renders the shadow as a continuous, flowing shape that follows the curves of the muscles down to the protruding knob of the wrist, which catches the light. He accentuates the shadows on the back of the hand and behind the knuckles. The pencil point reinforces the contours of the arm and hand, and then sharpens the details of the knuckles and fingernails.
DRAWING THE FEMALE ARM AND HAND
Step 1. The upper arm is drawn as two parallel guidelines with a curve for the shoulder. The lines of the forearm taper to the wrist. The palm is a boxlike shape; a curve defines the bulge of the muscle that connects to the thumb. Parallel lines locate the fingers. The palm and fingers are crossed by curving lines that locate the creases behind the knuckles.
Step 2. The shoulder and upper arm flow together in a single curving line. The shoulder muscle overlaps the upper arm and flows into the breast. The forearm isn't exactly straight, but bends slightly as it approaches the wrist. The curves of the fingers follow the guidelines of Step 1, as do the creases that cross the hand. The length of the thumb is roughly equivalent to the palm.
Step 3. A slender shadow runs along the underside of the arm, continuing along the edge of the hand. The shadowy edge of the chest muscle flows into the breast. A strong shadow emphasizes the roundness of the big muscle that connects to the thumb. The fingers begin to look cylindrical as the artist adds hints of shadow to their edges.
Step 4. The artist darkens the shadowy edges and then adds subtle halftones in the lighted areas to suggest additional detail such as the inner edges of the shoulder muscle and the slender cords of the wrist. The fingers become rounder as he intensifies the shadows. The pencil point reinforces the creases in the palm, the insides of the knuckles, and the fingernails.
DRAWING THE MALE LEG AND FOOT
Step 1. The preliminary line drawing visualizes the upper and lower legs as cylinders that taper toward the knees and ankles. In this pose, one knee is slightly lower than the other; the artist draws a sloping line between the knees to establish this relationship. As seen from the side, the foot is a triangle with a blocky heel and a circular knob for the protruding anklebone. The other foot, seen from the front, is a short, blocky wedge. Notice how the artist adds vertical center lines to both thighs and to one lower leg, just as he does when he draws the head or torso.
Excerpted from Figure Drawing Step by Step by Wendon Blake. Copyright © 1981 Donald Holden. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.