Lesson 3 Life Drawing


Warm up and review from Lesson 2

Activity 3: The masses of the figure as rectangular prisms

Activity 4: The masses of the figure as "frusta"

Activity 3

For each of these activities, the figure will be built from the torso outwards, noticing the relationship between these parts first of all.

Activity 3 is to build the torso as rectangular prisms by using the bony landmarks we have been looking at.

Activity 4 will use the same bony landmarks but more closely approximate the shape of the body by using "frusta" or truncated pyramids.




Examples of Activity 3 - Click to view

The Block of the Thigh

The knee joint, while not symmetrical in the way that the axial skeleton is, still has a definite block structure, with the ends of the femur and tibia forming the points of the block.  This form tapers from the wider region of the end of the femur to the slightly narrower tibia.

The upper thigh is quite full and curving because of the volumes of muscle and other soft tissue located there, but the knee must be thought of as a blocky form if we are to not have it lose its strength in a drawing.

The rectangular prism in the old masters

In these drawings by Luca Cambiaso, notice how he has used the rectangular prism to develop his figures as a group in space, as well as an aid to estimating the division of light and shadow on the figures.

Activity 4: The figure as "Frusta"

A frustum, or truncated pyramid, is the term for a tapering block that is of particular use for the artist drawing the forms of nature.

Activity 4 will use the same bony landmarks but more closely approximate the shape of the body by using these forms.

Drawing a frustum is more complex than drawing the rectangular prism from which it is built, but on the other hand the closer approximation to the observed figure makes it easier in other ways.

The figure as alternating truncated cones and truncated pyramids

The bony, more structural and block-like forms of the joints and torso masses are interspersed with the rounder forms of the muscles and other soft tissues that pull between these structures.  There is a wonderful variety in the human form because of the alternation of the bony structures and the soft tissue stretching, compressing, and contracting and relaxing between. 

The blocky structures provide quite specific orientations in space, and so must have their integrity maintained to be convincing. The conical or cylindrical soft tissue between these are more forgiving and provide an opportunity for exagerating organic tensions and flow.  Even a highly exaggerated figure can be spatially and anatomically convincing if the blocky structures maintain their integrity in perspective while the cylindrical regions take up the slack of the exaggeration.