Drawing Basics: Measuring and Proportion in Life Figure Drawing

17 Sep 2014

Woman on a Treadmill by Kate Sikorski, figure drawing, 2009.
Woman on a Treadmill by Kate Sikorski,
figure drawing, 2009.
I am a firm believer in starting a life drawing with the envelope—the shape you first draw before anything else. I've come to think of it as one of my drawing basics. This envelope maps out the highest, lowest, most left, and most right extremities of the model in front of you. In my mind, it doesn't matter if you draw the most amazing eye or torso, if your figure drawing runs off the paper or the forms of the figure do not reside where they should according to the rest of the figure's forms, your drawing is going to come out a little funky—no good! 

Without worrying if my lines are perfect (these are just guides) I make marks on my paper describing the model's extreme landmarks, which I want to prevent from running off the page through this exercise.  When I drew Woman on a Treadmill, my first lines were a faint upside down fan-shaped envelope.

Self-Portrait Putting on a Wetsuit by Kate Sikorski, figure drawing, 2010.
Self-Portrait Putting on a Wetsuit
by Kate Sikorski, figure drawing, 2010.
When I drew my Self-Portrait Putting on a Wetsuit, I made sure my feet would not get cut off by the bottom of the page by first drawing a pentagram shaped envelope.  Once I have the envelope to loosely follow and keep me in bounds of the page, I can then start lightly subdividing the envelope into head, torso, and pelvis regions or cube-like forms.

Keep things simple--that is the best drawing advice I have. When drawing figures focus on comparing the shapes and sizes of the shapes and the negative spaces between them rather than on rendering light and shade, hair, eyes, or fingers until the absolute end of your drawing process if you want to make a drawing of accurate proportion.

--Kate

 


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