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How to draw accurate proportions when figure drawing

How to draw accurate proportions when figure drawing

Question from Aileen

Hello,

I find it quite difficult to get my proportions right when figure drawing.

When I’m working on a portrait of just the face it’s fine but once I begin to work on the body everything gets a bit distorted.

How can I find a way to easily get the right proportions for the body?

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear Aileen,

Many thanks for your question.

Drawing is the foundation of all visual arts. And a man is the measure of all things. 

If you want to draw human figures and portraits from life and imagination, there is no other way but to learn constructive drawing principles, proportions and anatomy. 

You won’t get this from observation or intuitively. A proficient fine artist draws what he or she knows. The artist does not copy what he or she sees.

To test your knowledge, answer a few basic questions about proportions and anatomy for artists. For example:

  1. What three proportions and three alignments should you use when drawing a portrait in the three-quarters view to place an ear in the correct place?
  2. Name 12 dimensions of the human body that are equal in size to the length of a hand.
  3. What is the angle between the upper and lower leg bones in the frontal view?
  4. What shape is the lower tendon of the quadriceps?
  5. What is the difference between bone and muscle alignments in pronation and supination?

If you have any difficulties quickly answering these questions, you simply do not have what it takes to draw figures from life, memory or imagination. 

How to draw accurate proportions when figure drawing

I just listed five questions. With more than 200 bones and 400 muscles in a human body, there are many more proportions you must be aware of to draw realistic figures.

These are not difficult questions. You are an artist, not a doctor, so there are many things you don’t even have to bother about, like the Latin names of anatomy features. You need to know only the main bones and muscles that influence the shape and about 50 or so proportions.

A proficient artist uses such knowledge on autopilot, almost subconsciously. However, if you have gaps in your art education, obvious things will be hidden from your eyes. This is because an artist draws with the brain, not with the eyes.

Coming back to your comment, “I find it quite difficult to get my proportions right when figure drawing,” why do you expect it to be otherwise? If you don’t know what proportions to pay attention to and how to measure them, what are your hopes of making good figurative drawings with ease?



Your comment that “everything gets a bit distorted” suggests that you most likely have other things to worry about – missing the skills of constructive drawing.



Knowledge of anatomy is good only when you have sufficient skills in terms of using constructive drawing principles. These principles help you minimize distortions in drawing and draw from life and imagination realistically. If you don’t know what those principles are, there is no hope of applying them in drawing.

How to draw accurate proportions when figure drawing

Regarding your question, “How can I find a way to easily get the right proportions for the body?”, I think the answer is clearer now.

Your need two major things:



  1. Learn constructive drawing principles
  2. Learn the human body proportions and anatomy

The first part is covered in the Drawing Academy video course. The second is covered in the Anatomy Master Class.

Kind regards,

Vladimir London
Art tutor

To learn human anatomy fast, visit the Anatomy Master Class »

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