Male Anatomy – Basic Proportions

On 25 April, 2012 by mathjorgensen


If you’ve never really studied figure art or human anatomy you’re probably wondering why exactly I am drawing ¬†overly elaborate stick figures repeatedly.

Don’t worry, I have you covered! I will do my best to explain what I am doing at the moment.

What you’re seeing is a male human body simplified into an almost skeletal manikin. The reason for doing this is simple – learning the fundamental building blocks and governing ‘rules’ and markers of the human body.

As with every other skill or discipline in life, you have to grasp the fundamentals and basics. If you skip right ahead to the more advanced teachings, your lack of fundamental knowledge will be apparent.

Using my own situation as an example if I was to draw a photograph of a friend right now, it would look like some sort of horrible Chernobyl reject and no matter how much time I were to spend on that one drawing it would probably always have some fundamental flaw shining through. As an example, without understanding the bone structure of the human body, an artists human figure might look like it was made from rubber or plastic due to the muscles, tissue and what have you not being adhering to the dictating flow and movement of the bones.

Here’s some examples of simple proportion that figure artists (all artists really) should know by heart. For reference, these are things I’ve learned from reading Andrew Loomis’ book Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth.

A male adult has several different standards of proportion.

When measuring proportion, artists often use head height as a unit of measurement.

1: Normal proportion – 7 1/2 heads tall. 2 heads wide.

2: Idealistic (this is the norm to most artists) – 8 heads tall. 2 1/3 heads wide.

3: Fashion – 8 1/2 heads tall. 2 1/3 heads wide.

4: Heroic (think Hercules) – 9 heads tall. 2 2/3 heads wide.

I am currently just studying the Idealistic male proportion – 8 heads tall – mainly due to convenience as it’s just easier to measure than 7 1/2 heads. Now, when drawing the Idealistic male figure there are several other guidelines that you should always keep in the back of your mind and structure your drawing around.

The length from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin determines the layout of your figure.

1/3 head unit down from the chin you will find the top of the shoulders.

Between the chin and the nipples there is 1 head unit’s length.

Between the nipples and navel there is 1 head unit’s length.

Between the navel and crotch there is 1 head unit’s length.

Between the crotch and the bottom of the knees there is 2 head unit’s length.

Between the bottom of the knees and the heels there is 2 head unit’s length.

Keep in mind, these are the rules governing the standard idealistic adult male. He can be short or tall, fat or thin, powerful or weak. There are endless combinations.

Hopefully this brief introduction to anatomy and proportion has made it a bit more clear why I draw advanced stick men. I will try to include a short explanation of the various topics I will be touching upon.



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