Drawing the Human Figure

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When drawing the human figure, consult a diagram as reference, understand the proportions of the human body and begin drawing with a central axis line that runs down the center of the body. Sketch out the human figure with a demonstration from an experienced artist and art supply store employee in this free video on drawing.

Part of the Video Series: Drawing Lessons
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Laura Pace. I'm here at Asel Art Supply. Today, I'm going to talk to you about how to draw a human figure. I went to a good figure drawing anatomy book that I had and I found a diagram that shows the proportions of the human figure. Leonardo Da Vinci very famously came up with this formula. He said that a human figure is always going to be about eight head lengths high and that's really true even though there's a lot of diversity in the human form. Most, most adults are going to be about eight head lengths high. So in this side, we have a male figure and we've shown part of his skeleton and part of his muscles here. But you can see, he's divided up into eight segments here from the base of his feet to the top of his skull. Next to him is a female figure and there's a little bit of difference between these two figures. One is that, the female figures shoulders are generally going to be a little bit narrower than the male figure. His shoulders are generally about two head widths. Hers are going to be a little bit narrower and have a more slope shape typically. Also, the male nipple is going to occur at about mark six or two head lengths below the top of the skull. Her nipples are going to be a little bit lower. Her navel is also going to be a bit lower and the most noticeable difference between the two genders and their figures is the pelvis is going to be a little bit bigger, wider and more ball shaped than the male figure is. Now here's another interesting thing about drawing figures. Since we human beings have learned to walk upright on two feet, we have to support our heavy brain and skulls. So when you're drawing the figure, you're going to notice that the center of the head is going to have to be above the arch of the foot. On this stationary figure where he's just standing there, not moving, you can see that this line that goes from his head is centered over the arch in his foot. When he starts to walk, when he's moving, the centerline is about evenly spaced between his two feet there to support his heavy head. And that's generally true whether a person is standing still, sitting, walking, running; that head always has to be supported above the center of gravity. Here's a simple way I like to draw figures. I made a diagram that shows the main skeletal parts of the figure. I draw in n oval head; I have a centerline that goes down the center of the head and the torso. I did pick the torso in two parts. The chest is kind of a truncated cylinder with an arch at the front; that's the rib cage. The shoulders are fairly straight line from which the arms hang down. You can see that the ends of the fingers are about the middle of the thigh there. This figure is standing contra-posto which is an Italian term, that means that the weight is more exaggerated on one side of the body than the other. But you can see that weight is on this foot right here. The slope of the hips and the slope of the shoulders are going together where they're eventually going to meet. These are some diagrams of the figure in motion. This jumping figure has his feet and legs bent, his arms bent for balance. This is a figure that's crouching on all force, like he's getting ready to take off for a foot race. You can see his head, his heavy head is centered over this base between his arms; his arms are supporting his head and his weight is up on his toes in the back. Here's a reclining figure where the head is supported above the buttocks and supported on the hands and the legs are out in front and they're really not supporting much weight. Practice drawing some diagrams of your own like that. It's a good idea to make some tracings of photographs of figures in action until you get a feel for the idea of the proportions and the action of the human figure. Practice makes perfect.

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