It Might Give You Nightmares

Foreshortening! For me, it is truly the stuff of nightlights and pulling the covers over my head. I’ve struggled really hard to learn how to draw foreshortened objects and figures, because my mind constantly overrules my eye, saying, “That can’t be what you are seeing, so let’s add in that area there, or stretch this out here.” And then I crumple up the drawing paper and throw it across the room and start again.

Nude Male by Paul Cadmus, drawing, 1995.
Nude Male by Paul Cadmus, drawing, 1995.

When I feel the frustration mounting, I try to bring it back to a few basic perspective-drawing techniques. First, I acknowledge that foreshortening is not as far away or abstract a drawing concept as I think it is. Any time you learn to draw anything, you are likely dealing with slightly foreshortened objects—a nose or tree branch or coffee mug handle—no matter the subject.

Then I reassess my angle to my model or object. If I am having a hard time, it might be that the position I am in is the problem and is making it difficult to figure out how to draw a foreshortened forearm behind a gigantic-looking hand. Instead of miring myself in a situation that isn’t working, I might try the drawing from a three-quarter angle to give myself a more expansive view.

Then I just jump back in and turn my mind off. Learning to draw this way is tough for me, as I’ve said, so I’ll often just sing loudly to myself—almost shutting out the voice in my head—so that I am just observing with my eye. Finally, I’ll test proportions by eyeballing them one against the other so that I don’t lose sight of what I’m doing. I ask myself, for example, how big is the thigh I’m drawing in comparison to the foot it is attached to.

Even writing out my game plan this way makes me feel more in control of learning to draw foreshortened objects. If you want to learn strategies from artists and art instructors on tackling the tough tasks that face artists, including foreshortening, but also much more, consider all the art instruction available in the North Light Shop Art Magazine Collection. There are so many great choices that you’ll likely want a whole year’s worth of issues–and right now magazines are as low as $1.99, so you can enjoy them at a great price!  Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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