See art in a
Anatomy Series: The Rib Cage
The figure is probably the most
difficult subject for the artist. It can be very intimating, in
which far too many things go wrong and so little goes right. But
the rewards in the getting the figure right benefits the artist
across the board; not only will their figure work become more
powerful and natural looking, their landscapes and still lifes
will improve ten-fold. With a lot of focus and sticking to
fundamental shapes, you can get there!
Getting the rib
cage right is the
key for drawing the upper torso successfully. One of the easiest ways to
do this is to think of the rib cage as an egg shape.
If you can draw an egg in
different positions you are more than halfway towards mastering
the rib cage.
Here, Julia is holding a real egg with charcoal
lines that roughly resemble collar bones, sternum, bottom of the
rib cage, and the collar of the neck. This is a handy little tool
when you need to get the rib cage right, especially for some
detailed drawings or paintings. It will help you from getting
lost in detail.
Okay let's start at the beginning.
You have a upright standing model. The shape of the rib cage
narrows at the top, and is broader at the base. The axis line
indicates that the model's upper body is straight up and down,
no sideways tilt.
If the model is facing you dead center then the
sternum is follows the axis line. The sternum, is the band
connecting the collar of the neck with the domed bottom (about
2/3's down the egg/rib cage) of the rib cage.
If the model is slightly turned away from you,
the sternum shifts over, but the axis line remains the same.
In the one-minute sketch below
you can get a sense of form and feeling of rotation. Notice how
the egg shape marks the upper waist of the figure.
The rib cage slightly tucks into the waist, and
the top of the rib cage is at the back of the neck.
When the model leans over or is reclining on an
angle the rip cage tilts. Notice that egg shape is tilted yet
centered on the axis line, and the sternum indicates the model
turning slightly away.
If the model were leaning over towards us, in a
foreshortened manner, you can take the egg, rotate it
accordingly, and you will notice that the shape becomes more
During classes and for myself I often sketch out
a little ball (above) accented by light and shadow. It is a
reminder that the shape is round and which direction the light
is coming from. The egg serves the same purpose for developing
the light fall on the rib cage (below). It is far easier to think
of how the light hits an egg than how the light works with all
the details surrounding the rib cage.
Don't underestimate how much feeling you
can achieve by following the simple shapes of the tilting egg.
Learning figurative drawing can be daunting but if you stick to
fundamental shapes, it becomes more manageable and with a solid
foundation the furthest reaches of your imagination are
Other related art tutorials you might enjoy.
Santa Monica, August 2010
copyright 2012 by Michael Newberry