|The thigh - the form from hip to knee - is all one bone,
the femur. The femur is the longest and strongest bone in the body. The
femur is attached by a necklike form to the pelvis in a ball and socket
formation. This allows the leg to move freely forward, backward, sideways,
and up and down.
As the thigh descends to the knee, it centers itself under the central weight of the torso. The knee is in a direct line with the hip joint.
|The leg in profile presents an elongated "S" curve. The
kneecap (the patella) is held in place by extremely strong ligaments attached
to the fibula below the shinbone. The leg resembles two cylinders of equal
length, one from the upper thigh to the kneecap, and one from the kneecap
to the inner ankle bone.
When a figure is seated with the legs bent at hip and knee, drawing the thighs is much easier by
seeing them as cylinders in perspective and proceeding as suggested in these drawings.
|The foot is a wedge shape that flattens out at the toes.
When a subject is standing, the outside of the foot, from the little toe
to the heel, is usually flat on the ground. The main arch of the foot is
on the inside, normally raised from the ground. This gives spring to the
foot as it steps.
Notice that the big toe is often separated from the other four toes, rather like the thumb is
separated from the other fingers.
When drawing the foot, try blocking it in with straight lines for strength and support. And block in the toes as small cylindrical forms. Learning to draw the toenails properly will help put the foot in perspective. This is important since all views from the front present the foot in perspective.
|Though you may seldom be called upon to include legs
in an adult's portrait, if you paint children you will have many opportunities
to depict their little legs.
The construction of a child's leg and foot is the same as the adult's, but there is less definition of muscle and the forms are more rounded.
An infant's foot is round, not flat, on the sole, as he has not worn shoes or walked enough to
flatten the soles. The feet are fatter than those of an adult and the toes can be very tiny. Again, the small toenails help to establish the angle of the foot.
Many times you will prefer to paint a small child barefoot, even in fairly dressy clothing. The bare feet take away the over-formal look and remind us that the child is more free and natural than adults.
|To get the proportions right, it makes sense to draw the large forms first, and then begin constructing the masses by means of light and shade and defining the larger planes. As you continue to work, the portrait will gradually get more and more refined, until eventually you arrive at the likeness and individuality of your subject. I know an experienced portrait painter who can begin with one eye and build the whole head and body around it, but don't make it this difficult for yourself yet. As a student, always draw the figure as a whole before you put in the details of the head, hand, foot, or face.|
|The following construction lines are particularly helpful:
the shoulder line passes from one shoulder to the other through the neck
and is paired with a second line under the rib cage which ALWAYS parallels
it. The line at the hip is paired with a second line through the tops of
the iliac crests of the pelvis; these two also ALWAYS parallel each other.
(see lines A and AA, B and BB)
Only when the body is seen standing perfectly erect with the weight distributed equally on both feet, are all the shoulder and hip construction lines parallel to each other.
|When the weight is shifted to one foot, say the left,
as shown in this female figure, both the shoulder line and the hipline
bend toward each other. The right nonbearing leg appears to be longer than
the left supporting leg. The nonbearing leg can be bent, or extended to
front, back, or side - it doesn't matter, for it isn't being used to hold
the body upright, but just to balance its weight. Just watching for this
shoulder - hip relationship will help your figure drawing look more natural.
Looking in a mirror, try it yourself. Stand with your weight on your right leg and raise your right shoulder. Uncomfortable!! As you lower your right shoulder and raise the left, your body stands
|If the figure is half-seated on the edge of a low desk,
left shoulder lowered, left hip raised, the
plumb line doesn't apply because the body weight rests on the pelvis, not the feet.