Proportions and muscles
By Bastiaan Zapf (B.Zapf@t-online.de)
As you may have remarked already, proportions is an important aspect in drawing. Without knowing proportions, drawing a real-looking figure is nearly impossible. I will first show the proportions of the average human, and then explain how the skeletal muscles work so that you may draw realistic figures.
Some browsers display my scans with a slightly rosé touch. This is not intentionally nor explainable. My image manipulation program says the backgrounds are real, pure, plain white.
When you start drawing, start with a skeleton-like structure. This is the best way to a naturally-looking figure. I always draw the spine first, then the head, then the arms and legs. After this I mark the ribcage form. Then the figure is ready for the rest.
|Look at this drawing. Here I finished only the left side, the right side (and the head) is still raw. This is how I draw all my figures, just that I usually don't finish the "skeleton".
We will start with general proportions.
As you may note, I measured the figure's size in head lengths. That's the best way for doing it, since the head/body ratio is almost the same in all adult humans. Plus, most artists start with the head. The head/body ration of an adult is about 1:8, that means the whole body is eight times as long as the head. If you have a look at old comic books (everything of Jack Kirby and all the Superman comics come to mind), you will notice that there the body is bigger in comparison to the head, there the ratio is about 1:9. This makes a body look somewhat impressive and heroic, but that's not what we are looking for. Some books state also ratios of 1:7 or even 1:7.5 (then the neck is usually measured as 0.5). I always found 1:8 works best, but you have to work out what's best for you.
Young humans have larger heads than adults. With babys, the ratio is about 1:3, it grows to 1:4 in small children, 1:5 in early teens and then rises to 1:7 with the growth of adolescence.
You can see the most important proportions of the skeleton in the drawing. I will now give you some aids that help the actual drawing. Also note gender-specific differences that are especially important when drawing women.
- start with head and spine
- the shoulders are about twice as wide as the head
- the pelvis is a bit less wide than the shoulders
- then draw the arms and legs. Measure their lengths (for example with your thumb at the pencil), either in head lengths or by the aids I give below. Do not approximate the lengths. Watch perspective correction, but I will deal with this later.
- the upper arm reaches the upper edge of the pelvis
- the finger tips almost reach the kneecap
- the length of the thigh is a bit shorter than the length pelvis-shoulder.
- the lower leg is about as long as the thigh.
Some important anotomic details:
- the navel is at the "three head lengths" mark
- the lower edge of the sternum is at 2.5, the lower edge of the ribcage at 3
- the upper edge of the pelvis is at 3.5, the hip joints are a bit above 4
- the knee joints are a bit above 6
This table shows gender differences in the skeleton.
||edgy, heavy, broad
||broad (> 2x head width)
||slim ( ~ 1.5x head width)
||small, slim, triangle-shaped
||small (~0.6x male size)
||small (~0.8x male size)
In general, a man's body looks like out of balance, with the strong ribcage and shoulders, while a woman's is more balanced, with the main weight in the middle of the body.
Another important set of differences is specified by the body form. There are three body forms: Pycnic, leptosome and athlete. Pycnics are that what mainstream slang calls "fat", leptosomes are "skinny" and athletes... well, they are athletic. These are just the extremes, there are also mixed forms or unspecific bodys. Let me give some examples.
pycnic: former german chancellor Kohl, O.J. Simpson's judge Ito (Itoh?)
leptosomes: Juliette Lewis, Kate Moss (obviously current female beauty ideal)
athletic: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Florence Griffith-Joyner, watch the olympic games (male beauty ideal)
The differences I note in this table are the differences towards the average body form.
||fat ("bull's neck")
||big, long, thin
||broad and strong
||tends to O-Form
||tends to X-Form
Muscles are an important part of the human body since they define its outline. The most important muscles (for drawing) are:
- All large arm and leg muscles
- shoulder, neck and breast muscles
- belly muscles
Skeletal muscles (and that are the ones we are talking of) are, as their name suggests, connected to the skeleton. Some muscles are directly connected to bones (like the biceps), others to sinews (like your finger muscles - If you don't know: your finger muscles are located in the forearm). The places where they are connected stays the same, even if the muscles change their position.
The best way to draw the limbs is to think of them as bones with attached muscles. This sounds simple, but try to overcome the tendence to draw them as "pipes". Sketch the bones, then sketch ellipses for the muscles, connect them to the bones at the right places and then sketch the skin as an outline. Then erase the bones and ellipses and you have a realistic outline.
Note this method also works for perspective-distorted limbs.
I will now give some drawing aids for arm muscles.
- The biceps starts at the inner side of the upper arm (almost in the shoulder joint) and ends at the front side of the forearm. If you move your forearm and feel your elbow joint, you will note that the elbow joint only has one grade of freedom - the lower arm can only go up and down. Inward and outward turns are acheived by shoulder movements, turns of your hand by shearing ulna and radius. (By the way, radius is the one connected to the thumb side of your hand)
- Study the way the structures "flow" in your arms. Take a look at this drawing and watch how the muscles get volume by the way I hatched them. This is especially important for ink drawings.
- Note that the forearm consists of two bones. It is flat and a bit triangular.
...and you draw leg muscles like this:
- The thigh is conical, narrowing down to about half the diameter to the knee.
- The lower leg is spindle-shaped, with the calf as it's main mass.
- Note the way the bones protude at the kneecap and how the sinews protude around the hollow of the knee.
- The foot is wedge-shaped, not flat!! (I can't stress this enough)
- Other than the arm muscles, the leg muscles "flow" almost parallel to the bones.
The shoulder, neck, breast and belly muscles are just a thing of practice. They almost never change form and appearance.
Bodys in action are harder to draw, obviously. Arm movements are particularly important. To learn how to draw a correct arm, watch your own. Watch how you would pick up something, how you would open a door. Especially important is shoulder movement. The shoulder is very flexible and is used almost as a part of the arm. If the arm is lifted, the shoulder will lift. If you reach out forward, then the shoulder comes with your movement. Watch how the shoulder and the collarbone move.
Arm (hand) twists are very tricky, since we can twist the arm in two places. The whole arm can be twisted in the shoulder joint, and the lower arm can additionally be twisted by shearing ulna and radius. When the arm is stretched out, both movements are possible. The easiest way to determine how the joints are used is imitating the arm to draw with your own. Memorize how your arm takes this position and draw it thereafter. This can lead to amazing results when combined with correct muscle drawing, especially when you use the "flow" technique.
An important point is that a moving body can be out of balance, or better: has to be out of balance to seem moving. A body in balance looks static, while one out of balance looks like it would move soon. If you see a still shot of a runner, you will notice that the body seems to tip over. It is impossible to stand like that, so your brain "completes" the frozen motion to another step.
5. What I always wanted to say.
|Here is one of my drawings. Note how often my pen slipped (right leg, right elbow, belly, left shirt arm, ribcage, mouth. The face is not an accident :-) and how I covered such "slips" by transforming it into a muscle line or something similar. Note also that the left foot is somewhat twisted (and corrected, too!). The hands are a bit strange. I could point out about 30 or 40 things that are not perfect (or not even acceptable).
But you have to admit that this girl is definitely cool and sexy.
Nobody is perfect. Practice is the only way to overcome your problems.
This drawing is the result of about 3 years of practice (2 of them sporadically, 1 year intense, and one half year I learned pen&ink technique). My main practice themes were (in order of importance and time consumption): general anatomy, faces, hands, feet, hair, clothing. I approximate I completed about 300 or 400 drawings in these 3 years, about 2/3 of them in the last year, and used about the same time to learn about what I draw from books.
||I noted that the main point in the work is the finish, especially when you are inking. When finishing, you convert a sketch to a drawing. There your drawing gets expression. Sometimes I train my finishing skills by just drawing a skeleton and then "finish" it without first sketching what I want to draw. This definitely helped. Here is one of these drawings, which is a variation on the theme of the drawing above. I just sketched another skeleton in the same pose and finished the figure. The left half had an accident, that's why I cut it off ;*) Note that even without anatomic correctness, the expression in the lines is far higher because I was free to "let it flow".
Really, I never saw a really good book about anatomy. There are some fairly good ones, but most of them lack system and order and are very confusing. Mine is a translation of Burne Hogarth's "Dynamic Anatomy", perhaps I will look up the ISBN of the original.
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