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 1


Today’s posting will combine some conceptual elements which Loomis has outlined in earlier sections of the book, with some rules which are better stated in his companion book “Figure Drawing for all its Worth” (which will be reviewed on this blog in time).  The concept Loomis is outlining is “Establishing a Key Figure”.  It is akin to his rule about setting up the relative heights between human figures standing in perspective.  The added element is exactly how does one properly determine a human figure’s height?

Before too much is stated, I want to  address some generic disputes which arise when discussion of humanity and attractiveness is considered.  In the following discussion, it is  considered that symmetry is more attractive then incongruence, and that upright, slightly elongated figures are more appealing to the eye, than are hunched and squat figures.  This model of beauty is defined by Classical aesthetics, and it has been the standard in the Western World for over 2000 years.  Contrary points of view are a derivative of the very recent movement of Post Modernism, and the full-frontal attack on Western Values.  Andrew Loomis does not consider Post Modern takes which subvert Classical definitions of beauty in favour of alternate positions.

Let us get underway by defining how one sets up the proper proportions of the human figure.

Many books outline the method of ‘measuring in heads’ to find out the attractive proportions with which to render a human figure.  Andrew Loomis uses the same method, but he adds many important considerations which are usually overlooked in other books.

Academic measurement of the human body is 7.5 heads tall.  This measurement is generally accepted as being true to reality, on average.  The particular height of a person is not altered by this measurement proportion method.  For instance, a 6 foot tall person and a 5 foot tall person could both be measured at being 7.5 heads tall, the difference being the head unit size would be larger on the taller person.

Furthermore, the average width of the figure is taken to be 2 heads wide.  This measurement is fully represented at the outer edge of the shoulder, as it turns down into the arm; basically in a line straight across the chest.

Here is a drawing I have done, measured at 7.5 heads tall.

knee7.5 heads tall

The problem with this measurement of the figure is that, despite it being accurate to life, it produces a figure which appears rather stumpy, and unimpressive.  As far as illustration is concerned, the choice to represent an idealized version of humanity is preferable, rather than representing a naturalistic version of humanity.

The measurement of the idealized version of the figure will be explained in the next posting.

See you then.


A More Precise Method

Previously in Understanding Loomis, I have shown several ways of determining depth by diagonals.  The method explained today is another method of finding depth by diagonal, but this one is a more accurate method than those previously covered.  Today’s method should be used when the illustrator is seeking to draw to scale; i.e. when he must divide the vertical and horizontal planes into square units for measurement in perspective.  The previously outlined methods are fine when the illustrator is seeking to represent visually realistic perspective, but when mathematical precision is necessary -as in the cases of scale drawings-  a more precise method is needed.

Today’s post will explain the method of laying out the precise division of vertical planes.  How this is used in the creation of scale drawings will be covered in the next posting.

  1. First establish the horizon and the V.P. for the first plane.  Cast perspective lines back from the VP to establish the height of the plane.  Determine height by eye.2 precise
  2. Establish the First Unit depth also by eye. This establishes a Base Unit Plane, which will be cloned in perspective.  Next, cast a new line from the centre point on the nearest edge of the Base Unit Plane to the VP.  This will bisect the plane perfectly in half.  We shall call this new line the Middle Line. 3 precise
  3. When the first unit is established, it is cloned by using diagonals.  Create a Vertical Line by bisecting the horizon at the original VP.  Make certain to draw the Vertical Line long enough to accommodate the diagonals which you will draw in the next step.  4 precise
  4.  Cast the first diagonal (green in this example) from the near bottom corner through the far top corner to the Vertical Line (the pink line in this example).  At the place where the (green) diagonal line crosses the (pink) vertical, make a secondary VP5 precise
  5. This step is where the method tightens up the measurement.  Cast a downward diagonal (yellow in this example) from the top near corner of the plane, through the point where the bisecting Middle Line (from step 2) crosses the midpoint on the far edge of the plane.  This line does not go corner to corner. Extend this downward diagonal far enough for it to meet the (pink) Vertical Line.  Mark a tertiary VP at the low crossing point.  6 precise
  6. Again, as in step 4, cast a new ascending  diagonal from the next bottom corner (where the next plane will be) up to the secondary VP marked on the Vertical Line in step 4.7 precise
  7. Where the ascending diagonal (green) and the descending diagonal (yellow) both cross the original perspective lines (red), draw a vertical line to indicate the depth of the second plane.  This will be a more accurate representation of the First Unit Plane’s width in perspective, than that which was shown in previous postings. 8 precise
  8. Repeat the procedure by casting ascending lines corner to corner, and descending lines from corner through the Centre Line to establish the further planar depths. 9 precise
  9. Erase the guide lines to reveal the four planes receding into the distance, with more precise perspectival depth.10 precise


Readers will have noticed that with the introduction of a secondary guiding point, i.e. the bisecting Middle Line, the illusion of correct perspective is tightened.  For the sake of interest, compare the planes of today’s post with the divisions of depth created with the earlier methods in previous postings.  You will be able to see the subtle difference by eye, and how this method creates a more accurate representation of repeating planar depth in perspective.  This is especially true in the perspectival plane sections which are shown far off in distance.  The previous methods tend to shorten the depth incrementally, such that the distant planar sections become much too close together.

Next week, we will investigate how to use this method of depth by diagonal to set up for the creating of scale drawings.