Learn To Draw People In Perspective

As you learn to draw people, are you keeping the rules of perspective in mind? Have you attempted to draw figures that end up looking lopsided or simply “just don't look right” even when the anatomical features are placed correctly?

Like any other object, human bodies also conform to the laws of perspective.

When you first learn to draw people, you are usually advised to learn the simplest stance: a straight on frontal view, with no distortion in the view field.

This is a good place to start, but later you find that a turn and a tilt of the head changes the whole thing. Plus the angle from which you view your subject further complicates it.

When you face this situation, you must deal with what is commonly called 'foreshortening'. I won't go into it in depth, but I want to bring to your attention the role of perspective when you learn to draw people.

Unlike drawing more obviously angular objects, such as buildings, houses, and barns, the perspective you see in people is very subtle. So you must learn to apply the rules of linear perspective to curved figures or objects.

Here I will use drawings of human heads to illustrate the point (as heads are usually the most prominent part of a figure).

When you foreshorten the figure's head in a three quarter view, keep 2 constants in mind.

  1. Parallel lines, when in perspective, will converge at only one of the two distant vanishing point.
  2. When 2 or more objects of the same size are viewed at different depths, they will appear progressively smaller as they recede in the distance.
  3. See the principles in the two drawings of the same model below.

    How to draw people- using perspective


    The heads are shown in a three quarter view and are in two point perspective. The eye and mouth, which are parallel to each other, will converge at a distant vanishing point in perspective. As a result, the distance between the eye and corner of the mouth on the nearside will be farther apart than the same measurement on the far side.




    If your eye level is below the figure, and you therefore look up at your model, the eye on the near side of the model's head will be placed slightly higher than the eye on the far side.

    If your eye level is above, and you are looking down at your model, the eye on the nearside of your model will be placed slightly lower than the eye on the far side.


    Learn to draw people - understand perspective

    Other distances such as the one between the top and bottom planes of the head will also be affected by your eye level.

    When you look down at the head, the distance between eye and crown will be greater than from eye to chin. If your eye level is below, the distance between eye and chin will be greater than from eye to crown.

    The bottom line?

    In two point perspective, the vanishing points are often not within the picture plane, but in the imaginary distance off to the left and right of the drawing surface.

    When you draw people with their heads or bodies turned at a angle, there will not be a distance point at your eye level toward which parallel lines converge.

    The implication?

    If you do sight measuring by locking your arm holding a pencil, closing your left eye (assuming you are right handed), place the top of the pencil at the corner of the figure's eye and run your thumb up the pencil to the corner of the figure's mouth.

    Now you can compare the vertical length with the same points of reference on the farther side. In this way you can measure how rapidly the eye and mouth recede on a face.

    So, apply the principles of perspective when drawing figures. Know that parallel lines, like railroad tracks, converge in the distance.

    Therefore, the eye and corner of the mouth will appear farther apart vertically on the near side than on the far side.

    As long as parallel lines drawn through features appear to properly converge at a distant vanishing point, the features will be in proper perspective.

    If they don't, your figure will be off. So as you learn to draw people, check the anatomical reference points and apply the principles of perspective. When you do, you can expect to see improvement in your drawings!



    Drawing and Painting People


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