It’s very common to draw a figure, and know that something looks… wrong, but not be able to tell *what*. Having a juicy set of “ideal” proportions can help you course-correct when your instincts lead you astray. Beginners can use ready-made sets of rules, but as you become more attuned to exactly how you want your figures to look, it can be helpful to generate your own.
Step 1: Learn a few existing canons of proportion. Try using them to measure real people, to measure art you like, and to measure your own art. See what happens if you take one of your own drawings, and adjust it to match the system you’re studying. See what rules make sense, and are easy to use, and which rules are confusing, or hard to see.
Proko has a couple great videos on different systems of proportion; here’s one system I think is particularly effective (but lots and lots of people use Loomis’ system and other skull-to-chin systems to great effect):
Step 2: Gather a number of references of figures whose proportions you like. If you want realism, you should use photos. If you want to make superhero comics, find panels that especially speak to you, instead. Ditto anime, Egyptian sculpture, whatever. If you’d like to draw people who are fat, or exceptionally tall, or very muscular, be sure to add them to the mix. We’re trying to capture your artistic ideals, not anyone else’s. You’re looking for two kids of figures: first, neutral figures, standing up straight, facing forward or directly to the side, with arms out of the way. These figures make it easy to see the proportions. Second, you’re looking for dynamic poses. These figures will help you test if your canon is useful.
Step 3: Start looking for shapes and distances that are easy to identify. Classic examples are the distance from top of the head to the chin, from the base of the hand to the elbow, the width of the hips. However, it can be extremely helpful to take a page from Robert Beverly Hale’s book, and use volumes instead of lines when you measure. Use the cube that contains various parts of the body – like Hale uses the cranial mass. You could also use a clenched fist, or the volume of the hips.
Step 4: Start looking for relationships. Move your chosen measures around each of your neutral reference figures, looking for structural points in the figure that are simple, whole-number ratios of your measurement. When you think you’ve found a good match (“the width of the rib cage is the length of the forearm”), start testing it out on the dynamic poses. Still seems reasonable? Great! Be sure to make note of when the measurement is a little too big, or a little too small, and see what effect that has on the way the figure looks.
A canon is just a big collection of these rules. So make it as simple or as complex as you feel comfortable with! Feel free to get creative with your comparisons, too. IIRC, Polyklietos mentions that if you draw a square with each side being the length of the hand, the diagonal of that square is the length of the forearm (from pit of elbow to base of palm). Any relationship that’s easy to see and to measure is fair game – find what works for you. Mine existing canons for good rules, but test them. Don’t blindly believe anything – there are plenty that won’t quite suit your tastes. Pay specific. attention to areas you struggle with the most! I tend to draw people’s hands much too small – so I keep a number of rules around that I can use to verify when I’ve done it right.
Step 5: Draw it out. This is the fun part, because you get to play at being Da Vinci. Draw a good, clean, neutral figure, and note out all the relationships you discovered. If you can, find geometric, visual ways to show the relationship off (like the stacked squares in the video above, or like the Vitruvian Man’s circle-in-a-square). That will make it easier to remember.
It will probably take you several tries to draw out a figure that *you* think looks right *and* that has measurements that are easy to remember – so don’t fall too much in love with your first attempt. In the worst case, you’ll spend a few hours studying the figure, improving your instincts. In the best case, artists of the future will busy themselves trying to learn the secrets of YOUR system of proportion.
If you do this exercise, post your results! Knowledge shared is knowledge multiplied!
I had been rudely awakened by a extremely large and heavy Scot rolling across my legs. It was full morning now, and through bleary eyes, I could see him crouched low to the ground, stark naked, his fists raised and his attention fixed on the doorway, through which was drifting—
“Jamie,” I groaned hoarsely, still coming out of sleep. “Its just the phone.” He was breathing heavily and didn’t immediately respond. “It’s a machine that—”
“I ken what a TelePhone is,” Jamie said over his shoulder in a testy fashion that suggested that while that might be true, he hadn’t known that one been the source of the sound. This hypothesis was confirmed when he mumbled, “Didna ken they were kept in houses.”
He straightened, but lost none that look of scenting imminent danger, not taking his eyes from the door for a moment. “Christ, must they be so damnably loud?” he demanded irritably back at me.
“Well, yes! One has to be able to hear them, after all!”
Actually, I probably needed to turn the ringer up even louder, as it hadn’t been loud enough to wake me. James Alexander “warrior-instincts-never-die” Fraser had seen to that.
“Hear them?” He was breathing very heavily, his voice high and full of flustered annoyance. “Ye could hear that thing all the way from Scotl—”
We swiveled our heads in unison toward the diminutive speaker.
Brianna was sitting up on the bed, just at my elbow, and was baring her jack-o-lantern teeth in a hysterical grin as she said again, “Bum.”
I looked from Bree to Jamie’s bare haunches and had to bite my lips, very hard. Jamie, still looking at me over his shoulder, seemed to be having equal difficulty. I could see his shoulder quaking silently, though part of his effort was certainly from keeping still to prevent giving his daughter any more inadvertent anatomy quizzes.
Facing Bree, I tried to keep my voice conversational. “You, erm….do you see a bum, sweetheart?”
She gave me a look that clearly demonstrated pity for my dimness and pointed at the item in question. “Bum Da.”
We exploded. I doubled over and Bree began to cackle, thrilled with herself. Jamie sunk to the ground, his back against the bed, so that his uproarious laughter floated up from the floor.
God, I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had heard him laugh, really laugh. It had to have been long before Culloden, surely, as bleak as those last months of the campaign had been. The sheer joy of hearing it poured fuel on my hilarity, and I was genuinely struggling to catch my breath between bouts of coughing and giggles.
Jamie, too. He hooted and breathed deeply as he got to his knees and turned to rest his arms on the mattress facing us. He gave a huge, final exhale and laid his cheek on the coverlet, putting a hand on my thigh and gripping me. “God, it’s good to laugh wi’ ye, again, Sassenach.”
He looked so young, smiling broadly up at me that way. My lad. I ran my fingers lightly through his hair. I still wasn’t used to having it so short. Or here.
“And as for you, a nighean,” he said, turning to rest his head on his chin, facing our offspring, “looks as though Da’s going to have to be far more careful about where he shows his bum, now, aye?”
“Bumm-umm-aye,” she agreed happily.
I tossed him a blanket, and, once decent, he sat on the edge of the bed, making silly faces across the way at Bree. She couldn’t stop staring at him. Her grin was face-splitting, in fact, and she didn’t look away even as she pushed her little bottom up into the air, took three wobbly steps across the mattress, stumbled, and fell headlong into his waiting arms.
“Good gracious,” I said wonderingly.
I pursed my lips. “Brianna Ellen, lately Beauchamp, is extremely selective about making new acquaintances, and yet she’s taken to you like a duck to water!”
“Duck?” Bree said, ears pricking up.
“I think I ought to feel a bit jealous!” I added, in mock pique.
“Do ye?” Jamie asked, looking distinctly nervous overtop the curly red head. “Feel jealous?”
“No,” I said, laughing, bending forward to kiss his bare shoulder. “Not one bit. It’s…it’s absolutely perfect, Jamie.” He beamed. I did, too, seeing them together, drawn together like magnets.
It was only natural, I supposed, for Jamie to crave contact with her, to look intently at her, to try and absorb all he could of her; but for Bree, who was too young to understand the significance of Jamie’s appearance, what was it that drew her to him? Was it genetics, some common frequency of their blood that attuned her to him? Or, might it simply be novelty? Come to think of it, I didn’t think Brianna had ever really seen a grown man before up close. She’d never met Frank, of course. All of the adults with whom she interacted regularly were women: Mrs Byrd, me, and one or two of my nurse friends from Mercy. Her whole male experience would be a brief glance at Father Gentry at mass or a passerby in the supermarket.
Yes…perhaps the unfamiliarity of the male face was some of it…but there was no way in hell I would suggest such a thing. Let’s just call it ‘love.’It will be soon, in any case, I thought, with a contented pang.
“DUCK!” Bree said again, sounding decidedly annoyed that her contribution to the conversation was being ignored.
“Where’s a duck, mo chridhe?” Jamie asked her seriously.
I laughed. “That’s right, lovie, the ducks are at the park.”
He got to his feet with Bree in his arms, swaying her gently from side to side. “Is it normal for a wee lass of her age to ken so many words?”
I couldn’t help but grin at the bursting pride in his voice. “Oh, I think so. They usually have quite a number of words by eighteen months, and she’s going on twenty. She’s just starting to put them together, now, though.”
Jamie gave his daughter a winning grin. “Well, ye got ‘bum Da’ right enough, ye clever wee thing.” We all giggled again and Bree started up a game of peek-a-boo by “hiding” under her father’s chin and then popping up again seconds later. Jamie played right along, acting absolutely flabbergasted with shock everything time she reappeared, making her go red as their hair with uncontrollable giggles.
Yes, thick. as. thieves, those two, I thought, alight with so much joy it bubbled out into a need to tell him everything. “Her first word was dog. We were walking on the Common, and a golden retriever came up and licked her hand. She cried and fairly screamed it: DOG!! Just like that! Then, the next one was NO when we were trying sliced bananas with breakfast and she was not having it, so she—”
I glanced up to see that Jamie’s face had gone markedly stiff and pale. He was clenching his jaw and looking toward the chest of drawers…trying not to look at me.
“Jamie? What ever is the matter?” Alarmed, I stood and went to his side. So tense was his manner that I half-expected him to turn away, but he pulled me hard against him with his free arm instead. He didn’t speak, but I could feel him swallowing thickly, and see tears forming behind his lashes.
I put my arms around them both, rubbing his back as I looked up at him. “You’ll be here for all the rest, Jamie. All of it.”
“Aye,” he croaked after a few moments, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “Aye, and God be praised for it.”
I kissed him on the cheek and heard his stomach rumble. “Hungry?”
He did look thin, now that I surveyed him in the light of day. While still broad in shoulder and sturdy-looking as ever, his cheeks were decidedly gaunt, and I could see the shadow of every single one of his ribs, faintly, but there.
I cleared my throat and blinked back moisture from my eyes at the sight. “Well, I’m still not much of a cook, but I bet I can manage a proper fry-up. Normally its just fruit and toast for us of a morning, but you need to get some meat back on your bones, so it’s bacon and butter until it comes out your ears.”
He bent down and kissed me in thanks, very gently.
As I made my way down the hall toward the kitchen, I heard the sound of a second kiss.
“I’ll always be here, m'annsachd. Its a promise.”
It was absolutely uncanny, the way the soft coo of her response matched Jamie’s tender tone.
Hillary or Donald? How badly did Bernie hurt the Dems? What are the biggest political fights on deck for 2017? Our top thinkers weigh in.
By POLITICO MAGAZINE
The men and women on 2016’s Politico 50 list are some of the brightest, most provocative minds in American life. So what do they think about the pressing questions facing this country in 2016 and beyond?
Where do they stand on Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump? Where would Barack Obama rank on an all-time list of presidents? What single word best describes the respective states of our two political parties? Of all the challenges facing America right now, which one is the biggest? And what issue is most likely to surprise us in 2017?
We asked The Politico 50, and although they have very different ideas and backgrounds—from entertainers to academics to lawyers to professional agitators—there are areas where they agree. Ninety-eight percent, for instance, said that Russia is an international menace. Seventy-three percent said that, on balance, international trade deals help America. Fifty-three percent said that Bernie Sanders’ candidacy ultimately helped the Democratic Party. And The Politico 50, on average, are quite worried about the prospect of a Trump presidency.
I absolutely have shame and I do have guilt. I am a human. It’s true that I’m not ashamed of my body. I’m comfortable and I think more women should be more confident. I think nudity and sexual scenes are beautiful when they’re tastefully done.