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Figure Drawing

Human Form - Artwork by Thomas Love
Artwork used with permission
by artist Thomas Love

The human form is one of the most interesting and rewarding subjects and artist can paint, and also one of the most difficult. Human form offers the opportunity not found in any other subject for the possibilities of expression, and the chance to portray a variety of feelings through expression.

Often, the human form, or portrait focuses on realism, creating a likeness to the subject that will be recognizable. This is not always necessary; one can also do wonderful human forms in the most abstract of paintings.

Figure drawing takes some time to master. The artist must be willing to really study the form, to practice a general approach to the subject without wanting the finished product to be perfect and detailed. Worrying about facial details, clothing details and the surrounding settings are going to interfere with the artist's ability to have a solid form that is in proportion.

The human form is a three-dimensional object with weight and bulk, the figure has depth and thickness. The artist must first understand and examine the human form before attempting to recreate it on paper or canvas or by way of sculpture. By exploring the basic construction of the human form, the proportions, the movement ability, the connections, the artist will be more able to reproduce the human form in their artwork.

The best way to create a feeling of depth in a form is to 'draw through" the solid forms of the body. This means, draw the line of the subject whether you can see it or not. Simply drawing a flat outline of the human form is going to give you just that, a flat looking figure with no dimension.

Remove all distracting detail, one can begin to construct the basic figure using modified cylinder, sphere, cubic and cone shapes. If you are able to view the human form in these simple, basis shapes, you will be on your way to creating proportioned, three dimensional figures, and will have little trouble filling in the details after you have mastered this.

The artist uses the human head for the basic unit of measurement for the entire body. The height of the head from the chin to the top of the head will become the ruler by which the rest of the vertical lines in the form are measured. The width of the head will be used to measure the horizontal lines in the form. For instance, the shoulders could be three head widths across.

People's body proportions are completely different from one another, although, generally, similar proportions exist. In children, because they are continuously developing, their proportions may seem rather odd at different ages, evening out as they grow into adulthood.

There are many books available for studying and drawing the human form. It is a subject that is so in-depth it would be impossible to cover all the techniques and lessons in this short introduction.

Tips to remember when drawing the basic human form:

  • Visualize the parts of the form in their basic simple forms of cylinder, cube, cone and sphere.
  • Think of the head as an egg-shaped sphere.
  • Think of the head measurement from the chin to the top of the head, as a vertical measurement for all other vertical lines.
  • Think of the head width when making horizontal measurements.
  • Remember the law of balance and equilibrium.
  • Always draw forms 'through' to the other side even if you can't see them.

 

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