WTF is going on with my proportions?

SentrySentry Registered User regular
edited February 2013 in Artist's Corner
Edit: Uh, the pictures contained in the spoiler are huge. Just a heads up. Sorry about that!

Hey all, long time lurker, first time posting anything of my own. I want to start by saying I've only been drawing for about a month. I've never really drawn before last month, except for some doodles when I was a kid, and a shark wearing a fez riding a dinosaur on roller skates to impress a girl. I'm not expecting to start off being very good, I accept that. Having lurked here a while I took the more general advice, starting off learning the basics of drawing and then jumped right into anatomy. I've been using this anatomy book for artists, and this one. While I think I've gotten better, something is still really messed up with my proportions. I've tried everything to nail it down, and can't seem to figure out what I'm doing wrong here. So, with that being said, here are some examples...

As you can see, they all share some similar characteristics. They look like they've been on the rack for three days. The books I'm using said the average person is 7.5 heads tall, with the pelvis appearing halfway up the body. Am I making the pelvis too tall, short, or too angled? The head ends up looking small, the torso looks long, and the arms and legs tend to go whichever way the wind is blowing that day. Now, on to my NEXT issue...

for some reason, I can't seem to get my eyes to be the same size. Or even almost the same size. Everyone I make looks in some ways like Mad-Eye Moody. Are there any tips or tricks for this? It's starting to frustrate me.

And finally, here's just some random stuff I think came out okay. But please critique away. I'm not trying to start a web comic, or develop video games... I just want to be better at this, because I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
Sentry on


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    EgosEgos Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    I kind of assume you aren't using photo references for the majority of these? (female portrait, zebra head, skull and link (perhaps) aside) Or were you using references for all of them?

    edti: Superman..I'm not sure if you looked at a photo afterwards. Because it seems like you are thinking about altering the crotch and neck likely for the better, but haven't fully committed.

    Egos on
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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    Try this months enrichment thread. Getting proportions right is pretty difficult, even when you have a pretty good knowledge of anatomy, But in the end, your basic grasp of rendering the most geometric shapes in space will damn you.

    There are a few reasons to do simple shape studies, but the main reason is that it isolates your problem areas (Contour, Light, Perspective, Basic Observation) and magnifies them. All of it is to understand how to manipulate objects in space, and then translate that to 2d rendering. Eventually, the 2D part becomes a sort of invisible part of the problem, you'll mostly just think about it as a 3D space, and try to figure out the technicalities of why you are incorrectly rendering an object.

    Uh, to try something less abstract. Lets say you build more of your drawings off of flat, 2d grids. You are trying to make a figure the correct size by measuring out its head, and then, on a flat plain, trying to arrange the parts to make the numbers add up. A figure is 7.5 heads tall, but what of the perspective? What does that tell you of a fat man with a small head? What does it tell you about leg placement? On a grid everything may not look so bad, but add a skeleton to it, and suddenly things look real odd. This is where your basic exercises start to build on each other.


    See how the most basic stick figure looks wrong, once you reveal the internal structure of this drawing, but if you just draw strait lines through it, it sort of has its own logic? You need to think more dimensional, and that should mean that rendering basic shapes is a no-brainer. If you cant understand the figure as a form in space, it will be very hard to keep your proportions in check.

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    tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited February 2013
    when you say you've tried to nail everything down, what exactly have you tried? How do you start a sketch? How do you approach the structure and form of the body? I'm not seeing any guidelines or measurement lines or anything like that. If you want a 7.5 head measurement, you can draw the oval of the head and then measure that, and measure out the proportions accordingly. With a pencil and a ruler. Personally I'm not a fan of that method but it's a starting point.

    There's a lot of tips which can help you while drawing, but they all essentially come down to observation and practise. Are you working from reference? I'm getting the sense you're trying to draw straight from your head. I'd avoid that at this stage, it takes a lot of experience to be able to draw items accurately without seeing them in front of you. Draw from reference, draw from life. Look at things. If you know the eyes are different sizes, fix them. Change the size. If something doesn't look the same as your reference image, figure out what that is and why that is and correct it, or start again and try to get it right. Don't be afraid to mark down lines which aren't actually part of the finished image. Eg: (this is a horrible demonstration), but here's a very, very rough head lay-in where I've put the construction lines over the top of the drawing and darkened them, so you can see what I was working off*.


    Your eyes need guidance. As you become more experienced, you get better at transferring proportions onto paper without this kind of guideline. And there is a place for practising without measurements, just trying to eyeball proportion. But it takes a long, long time before you can do that well, and in the meantime you need to train your eye to see the lines and spatial relationships which exist. One way to do that is to physically drawing those out and then adhering to them. Another, complimentary method is to study anatomy, realise those proportions that are innate in human beings (and all mammals will have rules which can be followed) - the height at which the elbows usually sit, the proportional relationship between shoulder:elbow:wrist; the variations and averages of biological construction.

    *I feel like I should point out that if I was doing a portrait or anything more time-consuming than a rough sketch, these lines would be lighter, more careful and probably more thorough. This isn't a 'what you should do' image, just trying to demonstrate that you need to physically mark the geometric relationships between objects or they will go askew.

    tynic on
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    SentrySentry Registered User regular
    Wow thank you guys. You've already been a huge help. I have been trying to draw as little from reference as possible, I sort of wanted to be able to create things on the fly... but in retrospect that may have been a bit like trying to ride a bike without first having the training wheels on.

    I'm now going to go check out the enrichment thread...

    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
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    ScosglenScosglen Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    I'll begin by saying you're on the right track by starting in earnest with anatomy and a mind for learning. You have a lot of fundamentals to cover as a beginner. In the future I would recommend resizing your images and not spoilering them, as it makes the drawings kind of annoying to assess when they're so big. All of these could easily have been posted at a quarter their current size.

    It would not be hard to take any one of these drawings and mark them up all over the place with things that are wrong, but it would be a bit beside the point because you're at a stage where what you need more than anything is simply more hours of practice rather than specific corrections. Glancing through your figures, I would say in general they have long torsos (the general canon is that the bottom of the crotch should bisect the figure, that's what people mean when they say the pelvis is halfway up the body), but again, there is so much wrong with the structure and proportion of everything that it would just not be very helpful to give you an itemized breakdown, because you're not really at a point where you can successfully internalize those corrections.

    I'm being blunt, but don't be discouraged. I know you said you realize that you shouldn't expect great results after only a month, but really, good draftsmanship is going to take you years to learn and there is no shortcut or trick, so these drawings are totally typical.

    These all look like invented figures and portraits. I don't know what your regimen of study looks like but I would highly advise you try to draw people from life (draw from life in general whenever possible) if you have any opportunity at all to do so, such as an open weekly figure drawing session at a local art college or something, or failing that, gather photo references or copy plates from instructional books. It is impossible to master construction of imagined figures without paying your due diligence to studying the original source first.

    Finally, and this is just my personal opinion, but I am not a huge fan of the Paul Richer book you've been using, at least not for someone at your stage of development. The information in it is totally solid, but It's a very, very "dry" tome that's primarily composed of clinical textual descriptions of muscles and bones and insertion points and movement, and the image plates are nearly all sequestered away in the back of the book rather than interspersed with the relevant text. I'm much more keen on Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, as the written portions are far more enjoyable to read, are imbued with the insight and experience of a working illustrator rather than a detached academic monotone, and the plates are organized in a far more useful fashion that progress in a way that makes sense, building through chapters up from a simple mannikin framework to a fully realized body. You can get a PDF of the book here, or buy a copy on amazon, as the book has recently been put back into print if you much prefer having a physical copy around. Check it out and see if you like it.

    edit: (took me a while to write my post so some replies got snuck in first)
    I have been trying to draw as little from reference as possible
    This is a privilege that you earn after achieving a pretty high level of mastery, and even then a lot of stone cold professionals rely on reference materials. Right now you need to be working as much from reference as possible. Keep practicing your invention work as well, but the lion's share of your study should be observational, from life it at all possible.

    Scosglen on
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