Drawing Basics: Drawing People Using Perspective Lines

I was browsing Burne Hogarth’s book Dynamic Anatomy the other day, and I came across a short section in his chapter on foreshortening that I found particularly helpful. It never occurred to me to treat the human body like I would a building, but Hogarth’s message was to relate the figure to the ground plane using linear perspective and perspective lines extending from various parts of the body. Doing so aligns the planes of the body and foreshortens them with great accuracy. Hogarth’s illustrations are rather complicated, with a three-dimensional grid encircling the figure, but I believe I will start with just a few lines here and there to help me along in drawing people accurately.

Dan Gheno wrote a wonderful piece on foreshortening, and one of the illustrations we reproduced in the magazine didn’t make it onto the site. I reproduce it below.

View From the Lounge at the National Academy School by Alex Zwarenstein, graphite pencil drawing
View From the Lounge at the National Academy School by Alex Zwarenstein, graphite pencil drawing, 30 x 35. Dan Gheno writes: Even in a situation with complex perspective, all objects, all figures, and all receding lines relate to the horizon line, here indicated near the center of Zwarenstein’s drawing.


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Bob Bahr

About Bob Bahr

Hi. I'm the managing editor of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Drawing magazine is primarily my responsibility so I spend a lot of time looking at drawings, talking with draftsmen, and drawing ... but I love to paint, too.

4 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: Drawing People Using Perspective Lines

  1. Thanks, I was taught to draw the part of the anatomy closest to you first then proceed with parts behind etc. that works pretty well, especially in a life drawing session where you don’t have too much time.

  2. I had Burne Hogarth as a teacher at Art Center in 1990. He showed us this method of figuring out perspective when only the figure is present. He had a great many ideas and ways of solving problems. he was one teacher I will never forget.

  3. I have several books on anatomy. My favorite ones are “Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth” by Andrew Loomis and Robert Beverly Hales’ “Drawing Lessons From The Great Masters”. Right now I am reading “The Practice & Science of Drawing” by Harold Speed. He states in his book that a student can’t go wrong by studying “Human Anatomy for Art Students” by Sir Alfred D. Fripp. I am fixing to look up this book right now.