For the past two months I have been studying and practicing figurative art. One of my previous posts was about my study of the face. This one is about the body, focusing on information I learned and some of my practice drawings.
The average body is 7.5 heads high for an adult person. The younger the person, the larger the head compared to the rest of the body. A baby is 4 heads high; a child age 2 is 4.5 heads high; a child age 8 is 6.5 heads high; a child age 14 is 7 heads high. An adult body is 4 heads high from the feet to the top of the legs at the pelvis. The torso is 2 heads high. The body can be divided into golden ratio proportions: from the head to the navel is 3/8 of the body height; whereas the navel to the bottom of the feet is 5/8 of the body height. From the navel to the knees is 5/8 of the length from the navel to the feet. In the 10″ figure below, 3/8 equals 3.75″, and 5/8 equals 6.25″. 5/8 of the 6.25″ length from the navel to the feet is 3.9″ from the navel to the knees. The middle of the body is located at the crotch. The knees are halfway between the crotch and the bottom of the feet. The hands extend down to mid-thigh.
During my study of the human body, I read 10 books and watched 6 videos of 1 hour or more. (A review of these can be found at figure resources page .) All of them agreed on the major muscles that are necessary to learn. However, when drawing the body, there is less muscular form warranted when drawing female bodies, who look more appealing when the body is smoother. Each of my practice drawings focus on at least one muscle group. The first area of the body that I would like to discuss is the back, in particular the area of the shoulder blades down to the waist. The form of this area is created by the scapula and its spine, the latissimus dorsi, and the trapezius. In a non-muscular person, the drawing of the scapula and spine, and the line of the upper part of the latissimus dorsi is sufficient.
In a muscular person, the trapezius and a set of muscles between the trapezius and the upper part of the latissimus dorsi can be drawn.
Depending on how “comic book” one wants to get, the muscles can become many and distinct.
Another part of the back that I found relevant has to do with the gluteus, in that it is not just one round, or semi-round bottom. There are two parts: the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.
For drawing the front of the torso, I found that the area of the neck and clavicle (collar bone) was a place that I had overlooked as someplace not needing any accentuation. However, in many drawings and paintings, this area appears to be a very important part. An important muscle, the sternomastoid, travels from just under and behind the ear to the clavicle. It splits before reaching the clavicle and attaches in two places on either side of the center of the clavicle.
The remainder of the torso is emphasized by muscles below the center of the rib cage, the external obliques (love handles) on men, and sometimes interweaving muscles on the sides of the ribcage. (See sketch of muscled man below right.)
The lower arms were more difficult to figure out than the upper arms because the lower arms twist at the elbow, along with the ulna and radius bones. I referenced quite a few books to finally be able to draw the arms. These books are in the resource reference section. Below are a couple of sketches depicting the arms in different positions.
Finally, come the legs. I did not have too much trouble with these. Here are a couple of sketches, front and back:
Before showing a few sketches that I did while practicing, I want to mention one other thing that I tried to learn. I want to be able to draw a moving figure from my imagination. To do this, I learned to first create a simple skeletal figure in movement using information I had learned about weight shifting, points of balance, and flow of a figure. Below is a simple walking man that implements this type of drawing. I have quite a way to go, but it’s a start:
Below are some practice sketches of people that I did.
In a few months, I will post an update to this post to talk about my progress and points of information that I think may help others with figurative work. Prior to that – probably within another post or two, I will create a similar post to this one but focusing on hands and feet. See you there.