It Might Give You Nightmares

13 Dec 2012

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. In the Drawing 2011 Collection CD you'll find plenty of strategies from artists and art instructors on tackling the tough tasks that face artists, including foreshortening, but also much more. It's enough to want a whole year's worth of Drawing, which is what the Drawing 2011 Collection CD gives you. Enjoy!

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slwaldon wrote
on 14 Dec 2012 7:38 AM

Thanks, Courtney, for you encouragement. Your article is inspiring, informative, and most of all calls us to action!

karenmkirk wrote
on 24 Jul 2014 2:25 PM

hahhaha! you're so cute.... singing loudly to shut out your logical mind... hahaha! ingenious and funny :)