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Figure Drawing: Getting Things Placed Correctly

June 18, 2011

The classic art instruction series by Famous Artists School is a fantastic source of information, but there’s an example given in their figure drawing booklet (Lesson Four, Drawing the Human Form) that has always bugged me. An artist attempts to recreate the posed figures in a painting by Al Parker, and unfortunately gets the figures wrong.

I’m showing here in blue tracings that I’ve made on top of the Parker painting that I’ve then placed over the artist’s line drawing of manikin figures. In the figure on the right her bent left arm is too short, and at a glance you can see how the bottom of the elbow should line up with the crook of her arm on the opposite side. In the center figure the the twist of the hip is not exaggerated enough and the placement of the feet are way off. The errors in the seated figure are the most glaring. I can immediately see in the painting how the top of the shoe lines up nicely with the right hand as it rest on the arm of the chair, but in the drawing it’s nowhere near correct. Also, just looking at the drawing his torso seemed too long.

I hate to pick on this artist/instructor, but it’s a good example of going too far too soon. Before one gets to even this stage of working out the forms of the figure, it’s best to first make sure everything’s in the proper place. I do this with a sort of quick stick-figure drawing for the head, torso, and joints of the arms and legs. At that point, if working with a live model, I would carefully double check my measurements, or if working from a photo I could more accurately fix the errors by scanning the drawing and overlapping it on the photo digitally, as I’ve done here.

I see it often written in instruction books that an experienced artist can just eye-ball the measurements correctly without worry. Well, I would say from my experience that it’s still best to double-check your work as early as possible. The more lines you draw that are wrong, the more you’ll have to remove later.

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