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How to Draw the Human Body

How to Draw the Human Figure

Find a human being who is perfectly symmetrical and you will probably find a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, too. The carnal body, as wondrous as it is mysterious, is by no means uniform shape. Thus, drawing the figure is largely based on careful observation of the subject, working on specific body parts in the context of the whole and astute illustration of proportion.

Use the following “thumb and pencil” method for identifying dimensions on your model.

1. Stand stoic in the same place, keeping your head as motionless as possible.
2. With your arm fully outstretched, hold your pencil in your fist, thumb pointed toward the ceiling.
3. Close your non-dominant eye and align the top of the pencil with the top of the model’s head.
4. Slide your thumb down the pencil until it aligns with the model’s chin.
5. Using this length, drop your hand with each increment to determine the full height of the model.
6. In the same manner, insert a second pencil in your fist, like criss-crossed chopsticks.
7. Determine the angle relations to the vertical lines using this pencil position, like bent knees or elbows.

No two bodies are alike, but certain proportion measurements are frequently implemented in figure drawing.

1. An average person’s height is eight heads tall.
2. The neck is a quarter of a head length.
3. The shoulder line is two head lengths wide.
4. The chin to shoulder line is half a head length.
5. The nipples to the belly button are one head length.
6. The belly button to the parting of the lengths is one head length.
7. The parting of the legs is one quarter head below the middle of the body.

Details follow the accurate outlining of the figure. The classic shape of the human head, too, has basic proportions applicable to most people. Traditionally, the face is divided into six equal squares, 2×3. The eyes sit on the horizontal center, the mouth on the center of the lower third. Follow these simple steps to draw the head:

1. Commence with a roughly shaped ball, a.k.a. the skull.
2. Draw a line from forehead to chin. Draw a line on either side of that centered line. This is the plane of the face.
3. Add the subject’s jaw line.
4. Draw the base of the nose, not the tip. The base is centered between the pupils and the bottom of the chin. Construct the subject’s nose from bottom to top.
5. Sketch the lips a third of the way between the base of the nose and the base of the chin.
6. Add the ears, brows, forehead and cheeks with appropriate shading.
7. Position the eyes to their proportionate place. These require more detail and will come later. Note that the distance from chin to eyes is equidistant from eyes to the top of the skull.

Before you begin to finalize the face with those windows to the soul, be aware of a few things. First, rarely is the eye a perfect sphere, nor are two eyes the same shape at the same time. Expression has a profound impact on altering their form, as do wrinkles, lines and other facial character. Your drawing will appear misshapen and inaccurate if all details are not included. Faultless observation is the key here. Sketching the peripheral characteristics, like the wrinkles and shadows, can provide landmark points for the actual shape of the eye itself. A heavy hand on the lower rim will appear a tad fictitious and unreal, so lightly highlight it to enhance its authenticity. Finally, apply all these generic tidbits of sketching tips to your specific task at hand.

All that’s left is the model.

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