Establishing a ‘Key Figure’ part III

Fashion Proportions

The previous two postings have been regarding how an illustrator sets up the proportional measurements of the human body by measuring the overall height in heads.  It was shown how using the “naturalistic” proportions of 7.5 heads -while true to life- produced an unappealing, dumpy figure.  The more attractive ‘idealized’ proportions of 8 heads stretched the figure out more, and the look became more attractive.  It was indicated that the ‘idealistic’ proportional measurements of 8 heads is used frequently in illustration.

Though the above statements are all true, domains do exist within the world of illustration where the aforementioned proportions will not suffice.  One such domain is fashion illustration, and another is comic book, or (more broadly considered) fantastic illustration.

The 8 head proportion method is only marginally stretched out from the ‘naturalistic’ proportions -indeed 8 heads tall is intended to appear natural to the viewer.  In fashion illustration or fantastic illustration, the artist is trying to render the human form as being ‘super’ i.e.  akin to superman.

The fantasy character or the fashion model needs to look even more exceptional as a specimen of anatomy than do figures in other general illustrations.  Therefore, the typical proportions used in these disciplines is 8.5 heads tall.

This change brings the halfway point of the figure’s height to be dropped down to the middle of the genitals, whereas in the previous proportion drawings show that same midpoint landing above the genitals.

The width of the ‘fashion’ proportioned figure can be between two & one-half heads, to two & one-third heads wide.

In the illustration below, which I have drawn to the ‘fashion’ standard of proportion, you can immediately see the heightened sense of grandeur in the figure’s physical appearance.  The “stretching-out” of the proportions by only 1/2 of a head has given our figure a much more impressive stature than was seen previously.  8.5 heads

Take the time to look back through the previous 2 posts, and compare the proportions of the figures.  You can easily see that elongating the figure slightly makes it appear more attractive and impressive.  That being said, the ancient Greeks did one better than even the ‘fashion’ proportions of 8.5 heads tall…

In their statuary, one may find figures as tall as 9 heads, which we call  ‘heroic’ proportion.  It is this standard which we will be covered next posting,

See you in seven days.

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.

trochanter

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.