Lesson 4 Life Drawing

The Figure as Softened Frusta

Perhaps the most sophisticated approach to developing figures and other organic forms, is with what I am calling here "softened frusta".  This uses the form we met in the Fundamentals of Form section for this lesson, which combines all the other basic forms.  Note that this is not the same as drawing a rough oval shape to map the form - it is using a cultivated intuition for the basic forms - the "feel" of them to map a volume in, with its implied centrelines, cross contours and tangential directions in space.

Some advice:

1. The mass you draw for the upper body will often include the ribcage plus the rough shape of the shoulder girdle, but sometimes the shoulders are very uneven and it makes far more sense to describe the ribcage only, and add the shoulders on.  If we do include the shoulder girdle as a mass tapering to the waist, it is wise to have a sense of where the ribcage would be within this.  (In this lesson, the shoulders are not the focus, but this still needs to be considered when you start off drawing the torso)

2. When you draw in the volume of the softened frusta, what you are really doing is finding the orientations established last week when we were drawing the rectangular prism - angle along and across the masses, as well as whether a cross contour is up and over, down and under or more straight across.  This approach therefore skips several steps that we were going through last time, compressing them into a more direct approach.  If you are drawing the softened frusta mass, but are not su re what orientation the rectangular prism or square frusta would be at, neither will your viewer.

3.  As you lay down your marks, consider that you want to have a conception of the volume you are trying for before you even touch the paper - so that by the time you are drawing along the edge or across the angle of the ribcage for example, you are focussing on estimating the angle of these parts of the volume, but already have a sense of how they relate to each other.

4. As soon as possible there should be a cross contour applied, with a feeling for the roundness of the form, as well as the angle across the flatter planes of the front of the ribcage and the pelvis.  Try to find this ovoid or hook shape, where the front surface straightens out before curving out of view on the foreshortened sides.

5. Notice that in the examples of the prisms and softened prisms below, where the mass is seen such that three planes are visible,  you will find a more apparently obtuse corner and a more apparently acute corner.  This immediately implies the cross contour up and over or down and under.  If this is not clear from this description, it should become so in the class during the demonstrations.

6. As you draw the figure during this process, try not to lose the masses of the upper and lower torso as you add limbs and superficial forms - this might mean going back and reestablishing these general masses during the process.



Examples with the figure

Notice that often this approach allow one to efficiently made the overlap of volumes as well as the volumes themselves:

The circle in perspective