artists make wonderful gesture drawings in twenty minutes or
less. Yet, if they spend more time on the work, peculiar problems
of proportions surface. They will often doggedly stick with
the gesture technique and feel that over-analyzing is a curse;
when, in fact, mastery of proportions is what is needed.
impossible to make a detailed, beautiful, figurative drawing
without mastering proportions--and proportions are pure math.
I don't think
there is any easy way to master proportions, but I would like to
share with you a wonderful technique that, when mastered, gives
you a great deal of freedom to tackle difficult poses.
Many years ago I
learned the Triangulation of Points from a dear friend and
colleague, Martine Vaugel. She is a great sculptor and wonderful
for a 3-hour model session, aiming only to line up the
proportions of her body. A model posed live for this drawing and I
choose a simple pose: a standing frontal nude centered on
The mediums are Strathmore pastel paper with a compressed charcoal rub and charcoal pencils (soft).
The crotch is more or less the half-mark on the human
figure. So, if you have the crotch smack dab in there center of
the page, you should be able to get a standing figure's feet and head on
the page. That is the "v" shape in the center.
One of the
first things I did was ask the model to point out her
trochanters, or hip bones, as they run parallel to the crotch. This
tilted red line marks them.
Looking at the
model, I held up my pencil in space and lined it up from her
crotch in the direction of her right knee. This is the light
transparent clock face centered over your first point. In this
case, it is her crotch. When I lined up the pencil and pointed in
towards her knee, the angle was similar to a hand of the clock
pointing towards 7:00. Example, clock fig. 1.
to center the imaginary clock face over her left hip bone
and to point the hand of the clock again towards her knee. This
blue line on the drawing above. Its direction points to about
7:30. Example, clock fig. 2.
Okay. We started with the
crotch, then lined up her hip bones, and then lined up her right
knee with her crotch and left hip bone. Now we get to circle her
knee, here with something that looks like an orange grapefruit.
Our first triangulation!
I know this seems terribly
complicated and difficult, but after an hour or so of practice
it gets easier and easier.
Working outwards from her
crotch and left trochanter with the transparent clock face, I
start picking off landmarks--the 3rd point of the triangulation.
You do not need to use this
technique for every mark you make in a drawing. At the first
sign of trouble, however, find your key points and triangulate from
there. This will keep you on track.
This demo is looking like an
astrological chart, but as soon as you begin drawing in the
contours from point to point a real body begins to surface.
Ah, I am finally getting all the
major alignments out of the way and now I am ready to let the
math go. At this point, I can begin to really enjoy the forming her body and
character with light and shadow.
To see the steps I took to
completed her in this final image, go
Dreams of Round Things, 2006, charcoal on Rives BFK,
I used the same triangulation technique for this
extremely difficult pose, from a live model, in my Ascension
Night. The original is in color.
I hope you enjoyed seeing
proportions in a fresh way.
New York, December 14th, 2006