Drawing the human form can be complicated if a basic understanding of proportions at different ages is missing. Also it is important to know that there are different standards when it comes to represent the human body for different purposes. Let’s examine together these two important aspects of figure drawing.
Drawing the human – Ages
When it comes to draw the human body it is very important to understand that the proportions of the various body parts change dramatically with age. I will use this beautiful diagram taken from the notorious book of Andrew Loomis, Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, to illustrate the concept.
In this image you can see a male figure represented at different ages, adulthood, 15 years, 7 years, 5 years, 3 years and 1 year. As usual we will use a head as a single unit of measure of the body length as explained in this tutorial figure drawing. Briefly, once you have determined the height of your character, you just subdivide it into a number of different equally spaced parts that have the length of a single head of the character. This allows you to get a firm grasp of the proportions of the body straight away.
There are two interesting things to notice when drawing the human form, the first, and most important, is the number of heads that are used to subdivide the body at different ages. Eight heads for the adults, seven heads for the seven years old, five heads for the three years old and so on. What changes here is the ratio between body length and head length.
As you can see in an adult character you need 8 heads to cover the full body length whilst only 4 heads for the little 1 year old baby. This means obviously that what really changes is the size of the head in relation to the body. The younger your figure the bigger the head.
The second thing to notice is that in humans the size of the head does change only slightly from the baby to the adult and certainly much less than, say the length of the arms, legs and chest! This is very important to keep in mind if you want to learn drawing the human form with correct proportions.
When drawing young characters there are two ways to get the proportion right. The first is to start drawing the line that represent the height of the body from head to toe and then subdivide it into the convenient number of heads according to age. The second, less accurate but quick, is to take the length of an adult head as a measure and jus multiply it for the number you need to obtain the age group you are trying to draw.
Drawing the human – Standards
The second part of this tutorial is going to be dedicated to the body proportion standards used in art to represent the human figure. In the diagram below, taken and liberally modified from the notorious book of Andrew Loomis, Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, you can see four male subject of different height representing the four typical categories used to draw the human body.
Height is not really important here, what’s important is the number of heads, or subdivisions, each subject is made from. Let’s look at each individually.
The first, normal, subject uses 7 and a half heads and 2 heads shoulder width. This result in a body form that is the shortest of all and a dumpy figure. This because, again, the heads is bigger and the shoulder less wide in relation to the rest of the body. This is the proportion you want to aim if you are looking for a realistic or hyperrealistic effect. People are short 🙂
From the second to the forth figure, we are looking at idealized proportions. You can easily see how the idealized man looks more athletic than the normal type and how the fashion and heroic look even more athletic and extreme than the idealized form. All this just by increasing the number of subdivisions, 8 heads for the idealized, 8 and a half heads for the fashion type and nine heads for the heroic type.
Finally I have marked in green the shoulder width. This measure, different in each standard must not be undervalued. Larger widths create an even more extreme sense of athleticism and imposing figure while smaller shoulder look dumpy even on a heroic standard figure.
So plan very carefully your figure drawing according to the effect you want to obtain.
I hope this tutorial was helpful to you. If you think so show us what you did, upload a drawing to the factory or leave a comment below!