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How to Draw the Female Body
Drawing the Female Form
How to Draw the Female Body in Proportion
There are many different approaches one can take to drawing the female body and as such, different art teachers will teach you different tips and tricks to getting it right. There is no real right or wrong way. What counts is that whatever approach you take, you enjoy the process first and foremost and that you get the results you are after. How good your end result is, is directly proportional to how much you practice drawing the female form. Life drawing class is probably the best place to begin learning. Failing that, ask a friend to volunteer as a life model and practice at home or in your studio. If you can't find anyone brave enough to volunteer, hire a model or work from photos. You can find plenty of practice reference photos on the internet and there are also a few very good online courses which teach you what to do in a virtual classroom. This article will explain the approach I take to drawing the female form in proportion.
Human Proportion: The Female Body
The human body is a marvellous machine! Every single one of us is unique, different. Books on anatomy for artists will teach you what the so called ideal or average proportions are for a female body, but it is important to note that these are for guideline purposes only! They are excellent to use when you are inventing a character or drawing a person or body from memory. They are also good to use as a sort of measuring stick when you are observing a real person. Here are the most important things to remember when it comes to female body proportions:
- The female head fits into the female body on average between 7 and 8 times.
- The neck is about half the height of the head.
- The space between the bottom of the chin and the mid point of the breasts or nipples is approximately one head.
- The elbow starts halfway down the body, just above the belly button.
- The distance from armpit to elbow is about the same as elbow to wrist.
- The fingertips end about mid way down the thighs.
- The length of the thigh is about one and a half heads long.
- The shin is about two heads long.
- The distance between the belly button and the groin is about one head.
Knowing these approximate proportions is helpful information, but the most important take home message is observation. Your subject might have longer than average or shorter than average legs or arms for example. It is getting the measurements of your unique subject correct that will mean you are more likely to capture a likeness.
Gesture Drawings of the Female Form
Centre of Gravity
Whether you have a model in front of you, or are working from a photo, the most important thing for you to do is observe. Observe the position of the body, the shapes it makes and note her centre of gravity. This is the point where gravity exerts the most force. The point just above the crotch, where if the body moves too far to one side or the other, they will lose balance and fall over- due to the forces exerted by gravity. Use this to ensure that your body looks grounded and not about to fall over.
A good way to start off for beginners is to quickly copy the pose of the model using stick figures. Observe the position of the body and copy the position of the limbs by drawing in sticks for the arms and legs and small ovals for the hands and feet.
Gesture for Capturing the Female Form
An excellent way to really capture the curves of the female form quickly is with gesture drawing. Gesture is really the art of capturing a pose in a very short space of time. We are talking 60 seconds and sometimes less here. You will be surprised by just how accurately you can capture a pose in such a short space of time. The trick is in the observation. Look at your subject more than you look at your paper and feel the movement of the subject as you trace the shape of it fluidly on your page. Gesture helps you to understand the figure in motion- or as it moves. This helps you to better understand the human figure. Practice lots and watch as your gesture drawings improve. Set aside an hour and set a timer. Ask your model to change positions every 60 seconds- using the timer as a prompt. When the model changes, you have 60 seconds to capture the pose and then move onto the next pose. Try doing lots of small gestures on one page. Gesture drawing is an excellent way to warm up your hand before you start on a drawing.
Practice Drawing the Female Form
Once you have the basics of female anatomy, stick figures and gesture drawing, you can build from there. Practice capturing the gesture of a pose and then building more detail into the drawing. Do not erase anything, just keep working at it until you see it start to come to life. With regular practice, you will see your drawings improve and your ability to capture the female form will come on in leaps and bounds. There is no secret formula to drawing the female form accurately. There are tips to help you see things differently- so that you draw what you see, rather than what you think you see. But overall, nothing beats practice and lots of of it.