The Ideal Proportions Of The
The figures to the right (12
13 14) show the male figure standing at attention, seen from
the front, the side, and the back, proportioned according to
the eight-head canon.
First note the overall proportions, comparing the height with
the width, in fig.12 as seen from the front. You will see that
it is; eight heads high by two heads wide.
By drawing a rectangle that measures eight units long by two
units wide, we will have a "box" that will enclose
an ideally proportioned human figure. Now carefully study the
following basic points, which are automatically determined by
the dividing lines or modules of the canon. Notice that I have
numbered the modules respectively, from 1 to 8, in order to identify
more rapidly the following dimensions and positions:
- The level of the shoulders coincides
with subdivision "A", which is situated a third of
the way down module 2.
- The nipples coincide exactly
with the dividing line of module 2.
- The navel is just below dividing
- Both elbows are situated almost
level with the waist, just above the navel.
- The pubis is in the exact center
of the body, coinciding with the dividing line of module 4.
- The wrists are level with the
- The extended hand is the same
length as the face.
- The total length of the arm
from the top of the shoulder to the fingertips is equal to three
and a half modules.
- The most prominent part of the
knee, the kneecap (see fig.13, the figure in profile), is just
above module 6.
Also observe the following relationships,
which are equally important for correctly representing and proportioning
the male figure:
- The space between the nipples
is equal to one module (one head length).
- By joining points "B"
and "C", we obtain:
- The position of the nipples.
- The position of the ends of
the collar bone, or the most prominent part of the shoulder.
Finally, observe the male figure
standing at attention in profile (fig.13). In that position,
the calves project beyond the vertical line drawn from the shoulder
blades to below the buttocks (points D, E, and F). The points
above are of the utmost importance. Study them closely and assimilate
them, since they provide information that will be indispensable
when you come to do your own figure drawings.
Canon-Block Perspective Of The
Until now, we have taken for
granted your knowledge of perspective, Horizon Line, and Vanishing
Point, and although you may understand what they are it would
be helpful to review the basic facts again very briefly.
The fundamental elements of perspective are the horizon line,
which is situated at eye level when you are looking forward,
and the viewpoint (VW) and the vanishing points (VP), at which
the perpendicular and oblique lines converge (fig. A).
There are two basic types of
perspective: parallel perspective, with only one vanishing point,
and oblique perspective, with two vanishing points. Note that
the rectangular solid is the ideal basic form with which to construct
any body (fig.A).
Forget all you've heard about cylinders and cans, and imagine
the figure encased within a parallel pipe, that is, a long, thin,
rectangular block constructed to the proportions of the canon:
eight modules high, two nodules wide, and almost one and a half
modules deep. Put this block in perspective, and, of course,
the dividing lines A, B, and C, and so on will converge at the
vanishing point. Similarly, by putting the human figure in this
box, we see that the lines or levels formed by the shoulders,
nipples, elbows, hips, and so on down to the feet are seen in
How To Place Several Figures
The artist often has to draw
several figures in relation to a given horizon in a single picture.
When this need arises, the problem of perspective may be solved
in the following manner:
When we draw a single figure,
we've already seen that the perspective is resolved by means
of the forms in the human figure, along with the application
of the canon model as a guide to the lines and forms that converge
on the horizon. But what happens when we include two or more
When a painting or illustration
has two or more figures in it, there is always a relationship
of sizes based on proportions and perspective. But let me go
further in explaining this interesting problem of perspective.
- FIGURE 4. We are going to show,
step by step, the problem of positioning various figures in different
places in the same picture, all the time maintaining relationships
of proportion and perspective that we have discussed. We start
by sketching the horizon line. Afterwards, we must situate and
proportion one of the figures (A) with our eye. The we determine
the place where we will put another of the figures (B).
- FIGURE 5. To find the height
and proportions of the second figure, we have to sketch an oblique
line from "A" to the vanishing point (VP 1) going through
"B". Then, we draw another oblique line from the head
of the first figure to "VP 1". Lastly, we draw the
vertical line "D" between the two oblique lines at
- FIGURE 6. The vertical line
"D" gives us the height of the second figure, "B".
The proportions of "B" come from the oblique lines
E, F, and G, starting from the neck, breasts, waist and knees
of the first figure.
- FIGURE 7. Supposing you need
to place another figure "H" in the drawing. In order
to find "H" at the same level as "B", all
you have to do is draw the horizontals "I" and "J"
to determine the height and proportions of the third figure.
- FIGURE 8. We now want to locate
another figure in the picture. What height and proportions should
it have with respect to the others? Start by sketching an oblique
line from "E" on figure "A" to any point
along the horizon, in this case VP 2.
- FIGURE 9. This line "K",
allows us to obtain point "L". From there we draw vertical
line "M", and obtain a new point, "N". (points
"L" and "N" came from the oblique lines drawn
from the first figure. see fig. 5).
- FIGURE 10. Now, by joining VP
2 to "N" and continuing it to "O", we obtain
the desired height "P". In order to determine the proportions
of the fourth figure, all we need to do is project those drawn
in the initial figure "A".
- FIGURE 11. This is the solution.
We can see the same formula works when applied to a picture with
a low horizon or to a picture with a high horizon.
So there you have it. I hope
that this will help those of you who often get the proportions
and perspectives incorrect in your drawings. Often I have had
students who rebel about the multiple person exercise. They contend
that they have painted many, many paintings, none of which had
multiple figures, and deem the whole thing a waste of time. Nothing
could be further from the truth! The day will surely come when
it will be necessary to do this and if you do not possess the
knowledge, you will be lost. The ability of an artist is in direct
relationship to the amount of knowledge he/she possess.
See you next time!