Since we did the portrait series, I have received
a good deal of e-mail asking if I might assist in the area of measurements
of the human form. Seems that a good many folks are having problems keeping
the body in proportion. Guess what; that is ALWAYS the problem. At any
rate, here are a few tips on measurements and perspective I think may help
some of you to get the proportions more accurate.
Methods of Taking Measurements
The arm is
held directly out in front with the elbow kept rigid.
or the imaginary line of the "claw" between thumb and index finger is kept
parallel (in the same place as) your face, which is in turn parallel with
you are looking at a model you can quickly take the distance between the
top of the head and the bottom of the chin, and then either with pencil
or claw, move down in the same parallel line to see how many "heads" are
in that pose. There happen to be slightly over seven in the pose above.
If the perspective were different there would be more or fewer "heads".
Tick the line to which the feet will come. The big toe is about seven heads.
Put a light perpendicular line down the page as shown. Taking the head
measurement again go across from the perpendicular to see how many heads
the toe is from it, and tick there. It is about three and a half on the
above figure. The knee point (patella) is about three heads across and
three heads down. With only a few basic measurements which have relation
to the head and the pertinent ticks on the page the figure can be roughed
in and developed in proportion.
Above shows how the head measurement with the body in this position, can
be used to take relative measurements, to keep the figure in proportion.
Three Cannons Of The Human Figure
Thanks to our
predecessors, and all they did and said on the subject, we arrive at the
three canons for determining the proportions of the human figure:
(a) A canon
of seven and a half heads for the ordinary figure (fig.1).
(b) A canon
of eight heads for the ideal figure (fig.2).
(c) A canon
of eight and a half heads for the heroic figure (fig.3).
normally used by artists is the eight head canon, which corresponds to
the proportions of the ideal figure (fig.2).
Let us now
consider the practical application of these conclusions:
The seven and
a half canon may be used for drawing ordinary figures taken from everyday
life. It is the anonymous figure that represents the neighbor across the
street or the man in the corner store - the man in the street. The shortish
figure, about 5'6" or 5'8" tall, on the stout side, has a rather large
head in proportion to the size of the body, the thighs, and the legs. (fig.1)
The eight and
a half canon may be used for exceptional cases, for idealized and exaggerated
legendary figures (fig.3). This is the figure normally used by comic strip
illustrators; it has a small head in relation to its body and long legs.
This is the heroic figure who goes by the name of Superman or Batman. It
can also be used for the biblical Moses or the legendary El Cid in religious
and historical paintings.
Let us now
study the ideal figure of eight heads (fig.3), using it as the basis for
our knowledge of the proportions and dimensions of the human body. Pay
great attention to the next page since, along with our knowledge of human
anatomy, it represents an extremely important step toward a perfect grasp
of the technique of figure drawing.