Establishing a “Key Figure” part 2

The Idealistic Proportion

Last time, we discussed the principle of properly building a figure’s proportions based on naturalistic measurements.  The end result was noted as being fairly dumpy looking, and unimpressive as a figure.

To choose to elevate a subject into a representational form is a kind of expression of one’s values, and thus the choice of ‘naturalism’  is actually related to philosophical matters.

Consider the reasons an artist may choose to represent a figure naturalistically. One reason could be that the artist claims that the subject ‘really looks that way’. To record realism is a task for an historian or an objective reporter, and is better served that way.  Artistic representation must be more than an anecdotal record of history.

Another reason may be that the artist believes his job is to educate his viewers. Education is not the job of art either, as those ends are better served by science or through the consumption of written information.

Some artists believe that naturalistic representation is in service to exposing the misery of mankind, and thus seek to improve the lot of society by representation of natural reality.  This position depends on a value judgement, and thus changes art into a vehicle for transmitting a didactic moral purpose.  This is not the function of art, but of propaganda.

To choose to represent something in artwork is to display one’s values in a purely visual aesthetic manner.  The art represents the maker’s belief systems, and so displays his soul (for lack of a better word).  The choice represents ‘existence plus’, that is, how reality is -plus a bit more.  Perhaps one could say that good art demonstrates how reality could be in it’s most perfect incarnation.

This is the first observation as to why Idealized Proportions of measuring a human figure are used commonly in art.

The Idealistic Figure is 8 heads tall, with the middle point in the overall height falling just above the genitals and below the swell of the great trochanter of the femur bone (that is the the knob-like lateral projection at the proximal end of the femur).  The span of the shoulders from their widest points is 2 and 1/3 heads wide.


The measurement of 8 heads as a proportional size of the human is appropriate for most illustrations which seek to represent realism.  Any image displaying normal day-to-day people going about their business, some book illustrations and most adverts will all show the figure measured as 8 heads tall.

idealistic proportions Most viewers who compare these proportions to the ‘naturalistic’ measurements used in the last posting will easily recognize how much more attractive the Idealistic Proportions appear to the eye.  That being said, this proportional measurement of 8 heads is not the final word on Establishing a Key Figure.  8 heads is only appropriate in some situations when drawing the human figure.

Artists who draw fashion illustrations, comic artists and even the sculptors of the Classical era use -and did use- greater proportional standards.  We will examine these proportions next week.

Thanks for reading, and I would like to wish you happy and accurate drawing.




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