Figuring out Proportions

Half-term and no life class.  After two sessions, the tutor declared that there would be no class for three weeks…  I have to use this week to do as much catch-up course (and, unfortunately, school) work as possible because my next assignment deadline is the end of December, and the eight weeks that follow this one will be crazy with very little time to draw apart from weekends.  However, I have a large number of drawings that I have made in classes taken over the last couple of years.  The original drawings were made in an A3 sketch pad; I am going to critique some of these with regard to proportions, scale them down and redraw in A4.

I began with a pose that immediately raised one problem of proportions: the upper body is too long in relation to the legs, even allowing for slight foreshortening of the upper leg.  Her buttocks also appear small for their supporting role.


I sketched the model again using a water-soluble Neocolor II in order to be able to wash in areas of shadow quickly.  I checked proportions in her body length with a ruler and can also see that the relationship between upper and lower body is better.  The buttocks are now more rounded. I tried to give the model more context by “grounding” her foot between the table legs (although the table edge is not quite right).  However,  aspects of the upper body, in particular, still did not look right.  I redrew the further shoulder in pencil, sloping up slightly away from the viewer before it curves away out of sight because this would fit better with the eye level being the level of the model’s own eyes.


When I looked at the original again, I saw that I had been so focused on proportions that I had drawn the model tilting forward slightly.  In the original drawing, she is sitting very straight and supporting herself on her hands which are placed slightly behind her. I quite liked the “new” pose. However, when I tried it out in a mirror, it was clearly very unlikely: she could not be pulling herself forward and simultaneously supporting herself on her hands. Although she could have been holding onto the far edge of the table and leaning forward, this had not been the pose!  Also, the upper body appears to be facing the viewer while the legs are angled slightly away from them.  The head is turned away slightly but the torso probably wasn’t.

Finally, I redrew in pencil, trying to correct the points raised above.


When I look critically at the original and the last one side by side, the upper body of the “new” one appears possibly too short now but overall the proportions are better, including the (model’s) right thigh.  I have not fully addressed the position of the torso in relation to the viewer: it still seems to twist slightly towards them.  The clue to correcting this lies may  lie in the position and apparent length of the far shoulder, which in the original sketch seems too long.  I have drawn it sloping downwards once again but it should slope upwards slightly.

Final adjustments: altering the line of the far shoulder and bringing the bent knee a little further left, towards the viewer, concealing slightly more of the torso and so better conveying the impression of someone whose body is not directly facing the viewer.   However, it now appears as if not enough of the thigh of the bent leg is visible – more would be seen from this angle, as is visible in the original.  Also, maybe her bent leg is too rounded as it approaches the foot – it would probably appear straighter from this angle?  Is the model in the new version sitting too vertically?

I have learned something from this exercise and will probably never be happy with the outcome but can bear these things in mind next time I draw from life.

Here is the original A3, with the pencil A4 drawing before and after adjustment to the shoulder and (model’s) left leg.  She now  appears a totally different model – I liked the aloofness of the original.

Screen Shot 2012 10 16 at 11 34 00


3 thoughts on “Figuring out Proportions

    1. Hi Rosemary. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I have not found a completely satisfactory way to reproduce A3 work but have tried the following:
      1. Scanning on a photocopier with scanning function (unsatisfactory and lighter pencil doesn’t show up at all but maybe am using the wrong settings)
      2. Scanning on an A4 scanner. I make two scans from each end and then bring them together in Pages (Mac) and then take a screenshot. Depending on the settings, the reproduction is much better and you can see the join more in some images than others, e.g. final Burghof drawing versus Assignment 3.
      3. Photography – really depends on the quality of the digital camera and the light, although blue tinges can be reduced in iPhoto or Photoshop (no experience with the latter but am intermittently getting to grips with GIMP – similar to Photoshop but Open Source (i.e. free to download) software). This would probably also help with the joins!


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