The figures above (12 13 14) show the male figure standing at attention,
seen from the front, the side, and the back, proportioned according to
the eight-head canon.
First note the overall proportions, comparing the height with the width,
in fig.12 as seen from the front. You will see that it is; eight heads
high by two heads wide.
By drawing a rectangle that measures eight units long by two units wide,
we will have a "box" that will enclose an ideally proportioned human figure.
Now carefully study the following basic points, which are automatically
determined by the dividing lines or modules of the canon. Notice that I
have numbered the modules respectively, from 1 to 8, in order to identify
more rapidly the following dimensions and positions:
The level of
the shoulders coincides with subdivision "A", which is situated a third
of the way down module 2.
coincide exactly with the dividing line of module 2.
The navel is
just below dividing line 3.
are situated almost level with the waist, just above the navel.
The pubis is
in the exact center of the body, coinciding with the dividing line of module
are level with the pubis.
hand is the same length as the face.
The total length
of the arm from the top of the shoulder to the fingertips is equal to three
and a half modules.
The most prominent
part of the knee, the kneecap (see fig.13, the figure in profile), is just
above module 6.
the following relationships, which are equally important for correctly
representing and proportioning the male figure:
The space between
the nipples is equal to one module (one head length).
points "B" and "C", we obtain:
of the nipples.
of the ends of the collar bone, or the most prominent part of the shoulder.
the male figure standing at attention in profile (fig.13). In that position,
the calves project beyond the vertical line drawn from the shoulder blades
to below the buttocks (points D, E, and F).
above are of the utmost importance. Study them closely and assimilate them,
since they provide information that will be indispensable when you come
to do your own figure drawings.
Perspective Of The Human Figure
Until now, we have taken for granted your knowledge of perspective,
Horizon Line, and Vanishing Point, and although you may understand
what they are it would be helpful to review the basic facts again very
The fundamental elements of perspective are the horizon line, which is
situated at eye level when you are looking forward, and the viewpoint (VW)
and the vanishing points (VP), at which the perpendicular and oblique lines
converge (fig. A).
There are two basic types of perspective: parallel perspective, with only
one vanishing point, and oblique perspective, with two vanishing points.
Note that the rectangular solid is the ideal basic form with which to construct
any body (fig.A).
Forget all you've heard about cylinders and cans, and imagine the figure
encased within a parallelepipe, that is, a long, thin, rectangular block
constructed to the proportions of the canon: eight modules high, two nodules
wide, and almost one and a half modules deep. Put this block in perspective,
and, of course, the dividing lines A, B, and C, and so on will converge
at the vanishing point. Similarly, by putting the human figure in this
box, we see that the lines or levels formed by the shoulders, nipples,
elbows, hips, and so on down to the feet are seen in perspective (fig.B).
To Place Several Figures In Perspective
The artist often has to draw several figures in relation to a given horizon
in a single picture. When this need arises, the problem of perspective
may be solved in the following manner:
When we draw a single figure, we've already seen that the perspective is
resolved by means of the forms in the human figure, along with the application
of the canon model as a guide to the lines and forms that converge on the
horizon. But what happens when we include two or more figures?
When a painting or illustration has two or more figures in it, there
is always a relationship of sizes based on proportions and perspective.
But let me go further in explaining this interesting problem of perspective.
FIGURE 4. We
are going to show, step by step, the problem of positioning various figures
in different places in the same picture, all the time maintaining relationships
of proportion and perspective that we have discussed. We start by
sketching the horizon line. Afterwards, we must situate and proportion
one of the figures (A) with our eye. The we determine the place where we
will put another of the figures (B).
FIGURE 5. To
find the height and proportions of the second figure, we have to sketch
an oblique line from "A" to the vanishing point (VP 1) going through "B".
Then, we draw another oblique line from the head of the first figure to
"VP 1". Lastly, we draw the vertical line "D" between the two oblique lines
FIGURE 6. The
vertical line "D" gives us the height of the second figure, "B". The proportions
of "B" come from the oblique lines E, F, and G, starting from the neck,
breasts, waist and knees of the first figure.
FIGURE 7. Supposing
you need to place another figure "H" in the drawing. In order to find "H"
at the same level as "B", all you have to do is draw the horizontals "I"
and "J" to determine the height and proportions of the third figure.
FIGURE 8. We
now want to locate another figure in the picture. What height and proportions
should it have with respect to the others? Start by sketching an oblique
line from "E" on figure "A" to any point along the horizon, in this
case VP 2.
FIGURE 9. This
line "K", allows us to obtain point "L". From there we draw vertical line
"M", and obtain a new point, "N". (points "L" and "N" came from the oblique
lines drawn from the first figure. see fig. 5).
Now, by joining VP 2 to "N" and continuing it to "O", we obtain the desired
height "P". In order to determine the proportions of the fourth figure,
all we need to do is project those drawn in the initial figure "A".
This is the solution. We can see the same formula works when applied to
a picture with a low horizon or to a picture with a high horizon.
So there you have it. I hope that this will help those of you who often
get the proportions and perspectives incorrect in your drawings. Often
I have had students who rebel about the multiple person exercise. They
contend that they have painted many, many paintings, none of which had
multiple figures, and deem the whole thing a waste of time. Nothing could
be further from the truth! The day will surely come when it will be necessary
to do this and if you do not possess the knowledge, you will be lost. The
ability of an artist is in direct relationship to the amount of knowledge