Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Rendering the female figure
November 30, 2007 11:32 AM   Subscribe

How to draw a female in proportion. If you're a cartoonist. If you're a manga artist. If you're a traditional artist. Divine proportions (NSFW) Idealized Proportions (artistic nudity) Historic Proportions.
posted by desjardins (47 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite

 
[this is really, really good]
posted by Phire at 11:53 AM on November 30, 2007


I look forward to studying this deeply when I get home. No, seriously. <- Not sarcastic.
posted by DU at 12:04 PM on November 30, 2007


@ DU Hey, me too.
posted by SentientAI at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2007


Excellent post. Someone mail it to Rob Liefeld...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:11 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Excellent post. Someone mail it to Rob Liefeld...

These are women? But they all have feet. This can't be right.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


For females, it is often that artists draw them with their bodies slightly curved, their hips bent on one side, an arm resting on one side of the hips. A pose like this visually tells you that this person is feminine in nature right away.

OH MY FUCKING CHRIST

I knew something in these links was going to send me into a fit of rage, and here we are! Right in the first link!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


The site from your "Divine proportions" link is some weird shit, yo.
posted by dersins at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


For almost all of these, the boobs are too high and the legs are too long. The "traditional artist" link has the most realistic. And the divine proportions one is the worst. The nipples are insane, and why is she on her toes? Don't make a lady naked and then pose her, Barbie-style, as though she's got invisible high-heeled shoes on. Ugh.
posted by chowflap at 12:24 PM on November 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


Damn it, the divine proportions example didn't define the ideal depth of the labial cleft. Does no one care about details any more?
posted by maudlin at 12:24 PM on November 30, 2007


Damn it, the divine proportions example didn't define the ideal depth of the labial cleft


Well, if you correctly complete this NSFW quiz on that site, you can get a better view (NSFW!)
posted by dersins at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2007


Thanks, dersins, but the foreshortening makes it very difficult to get an accurate estimate.
posted by maudlin at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2007


OK, hypatia-lovers.com is not THAT weird. Oh wait, Raquel Welch space girl dance? Benny hill clip. Carl Sagan?

Maybe its a little bit weird.
posted by shothotbot at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


For almost all of these, the boobs are too high and the legs are too long.

Well, true I suppose. I'm no artist, but I get the impression that they're idealized forms. In fairness, most guys don't look like the idealized male form either. Not many figure drawing manuals go over how to sketch a guy who is 5'8" and has a 44" waist.
posted by GuyZero at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


They forgot to measure the ratio of the shaved hoo-haa to the pert nipple.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:58 PM on November 30, 2007


If you're a cartoonist or anybody maybe don't look at that proportion chart because the cartoon is of a person who either has a bad disease of the legs or is wearing skinslacks. I just heard that horrible jaime gumm earworm song by the Greenskeepers on the radio Wednesday night. I don't need to see no lady in no skinslacks.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2007


you can get a better view

That's not Hypatia. She's showing the sole of her foot and there's no cootchie there.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2007


I agree, Don Pepino, that woman has got some pretty powerful gams. Maybe she's a cyclist?
posted by arcticwoman at 1:11 PM on November 30, 2007


Why do I keep seeing "Hispanic proportions?"
posted by Mister_A at 1:14 PM on November 30, 2007


"Click the rotating Rhombic Triacontahedron to check out recent changes or additions to this web-site."
posted by box at 1:33 PM on November 30, 2007


I'm hoping there's a male porportion figure drawing post close behind? Cause wouldn't people want to know how to draw both sexes?
posted by agregoli at 1:44 PM on November 30, 2007


I just read down to the Rob Liefeld link, and now I think all of these people have done excellent jobs.

Seriously, these aren't all that terrible (except for the creepy divine proportions one). If you're going for realism, however, the "draw like the comic books!" sites are ultimately going to hurt your work. You need to draw what you see.

And then of course there's fashion figure drawing, which is what you'd expect: All legs, very very skinny, very little (or no) boobage.
posted by chowflap at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2007


Not many figure drawing manuals go over how to sketch a guy who is 5'8" and has a 44" waist.

They should! Actually, that's not true. If you want to draw an accurate depiction of the human body, find a human and stare at them for a while. And then draw them. These guides are only good for rendering fantasy figures. I'm not snarking, either, because they are useful for that. Whether or not these "ideal" drawings are good for our feelings of self-worth, well, that's another topic.
posted by chowflap at 1:51 PM on November 30, 2007


I am not saying that her legs appall me because they are too well muscled for a ladycreature. Her muscles are fine; the problem is that her skin is not attached right. What the cartoonist insists are her ankle bones, for instance, rather more appear like folds of fabric. Since her legs are bare, these must instead be folds of her own skin collecting at her ankles, or, as I think more likely, folds of the skin of some other unfortunate 'toon which she has fashioned into grisly slacks in the manner made famous by the fictional "Buffalo Bill." To add to the horror, she seems to be wearing loafers with a bikini.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2007


If you want to draw an accurate depiction of the human body, find a human and stare at them for a while.

Just, uh, don't do this while sitting outside the changing rooms in a store. Trust me.
posted by inigo2 at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2007


agregoli - most figure drawing tutorials focus on men as the "default human." I specifically made this post about the female figure for this reason.
posted by desjardins at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2007


This FPP, in the mirror universe.

What about the "2.5 heads rule"?

Previously commented on MeFi
posted by not_on_display at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


agregoli - most figure drawing tutorials focus on men as the "default human." I specifically made this post about the female figure for this reason.

Ah. That was not at all apparant. I figured this was another one of those female-centric body posts, cause, well, Metafilter loves those.
posted by agregoli at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping there's a male porportion figure drawing post close behind? Cause wouldn't people want to know how to draw both sexes?

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

Here's an article on child proportions, with formulae for age scaling.

There may be some general rule in this applicable to all animals (eg, the measurements of a "divinely proportioned" cat could be derived). I'd be interested to know how Vitrivius's proportions, and Hypatia above, compare with averaged measurements; chances are, very well. We've discussed before the correspondence between mathematically averaged faces and beauty; the theory probably applies to the rest of the body too.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:41 PM on November 30, 2007


(And personally, I wish the FPP had been couched in what you just explained - as it is, it struck me as yet another post about oogling the female form, and not the male form, which doesn't feel that great. Not an extreme form of anything, and I did NOT feel the need to flag anything here, but it's kind of weird to see the female body paraded around everywhere, all the time, even on Metafilter).
posted by agregoli at 2:42 PM on November 30, 2007


Strange. I thought it was about drawing, not ogling.

I have to wonder just who is behind those Divine Proportions. Scary.
posted by canine epigram at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2007


Sigh. Sorry you can't grasp the larger point, canine.
posted by agregoli at 2:54 PM on November 30, 2007


No need to condescend, agregoli - I take your point quite well.

However, I find it ironic that you were so quick to thwap desjardins, another woman, upside the head for not introducing the post as you thought fit, given that the subject matter was very tightly focused, and (with the exception of that bizarro Divine site) hardly gratuitous or "ogling the female body" kinda posts. I don't know if it's hitting a sore spot because of the recent metatalk threads or what, but it was an interesting FPP from an artistic perspective.
posted by canine epigram at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2007 [8 favorites]


um, yeah, ogling, or providing material for others to ogle, was not in my thought process when composing the FPP. I specifically left out a few sites I found because they focused more on females-as-objects than artistic expression.
posted by desjardins at 4:01 PM on November 30, 2007


The cartoonist whose work is excerpted here has also given a lot of thought on how to draw women. Scroll down to see how superheroic male and female figures demand different approaches. (Hint: one requires outsize muscles, while the other requires that you keep the nipple line in alignment with the shoulder line.) Also: Making Light on Styrofoam tits and Sequential Tart on posture.
posted by maudlin at 5:05 PM on November 30, 2007


That Sequential Tart link about the impossible sway back reminds me of the Riace bronzes - apparent depictions of athletic perfection which are actually rife with anatomical impossibilities, such as legs just a bit too long for belief, lack of a tailbone. (more detail here)
posted by frobozz at 5:51 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Weird, I was just thumbing through some "Draw like DC Comics" library books earlier today. Right after looking through a book with plates of Pieter Bruegel's work. I really don't like superhero or extreme manga proportions. Who defines "ideal" anyway?

I agree that if you want to draw realistic human proportions, you've got to draw what you see. At first. But if you want to move on to drawing what your mind sees without using a reference, you're going to have to memorize a bit about musculature and how stuff bunches up when it moves. It helps drawing realistically as well. At least that's what I'm finding helps.

Maudlin's link to Kevin Maguire's also shows a high level of pointing women's feet on his super heroine renditions. Apparently it's to "give them a dangerous knife like look while still keeping their sex appeal." Which I suppose serves its purpose in an action oriented genre.

Don Pepino, the first thing I noticed were that woman's ankles, too. They look pretty odd, like their too high or something. Makes her look like she's wearing heels or something.
posted by Mister Cheese at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2007


How to draw skinny white women fitting a certain idea of femininity
posted by poweredbybeard at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that learning to draw from ideal proportions serves to provide a foundation. Once you have a decent grasp of the basics, what goes where and so on, then you can go on to better render the human body in all its lovely varieties through life drawing. Unfortunately a lot of comic artists (on both sides of the Pacific) just learn the ideals and stop there. So you have superhero artists who flounder when they have to draw a human being who doesn't look like a demigod or a Maxim model, and manga artists who can't draw anyone who looks older than nineteen.

most figure drawing tutorials focus on men as the "default human." I specifically made this post about the female figure for this reason.
posted by desjardins at 1:59 PM on November 30


Yeah, that bugs me too. I have some otherwise fabulous anatomy books written with artists in mind that will dedicate some pages to drawing women (and maybe children) but when it comes time to focus on drawing a particular body part the examples will all snap back to being male.

And race is very rarely mentioned at all in drawing books, which is incredibly frustrating. So in light of that, here's some tutorials I found which serve as a good guide:

Guide to Human Types. Part Two. Part Three. Focuses on facial and bodily differences based roughly on global regions. For the most part both male and female examples are used, though the facial examples are mostly feminine or otherwise androgynous. It's in a very simple drawing style, but arranged in a very organized and informative way. The artist also has some more tutorials here on a variety of different topics related to drawing.
posted by kosher_jenny at 6:42 PM on November 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


First, the comment about the "feminine pose":

For females, it is often that artists draw them with their bodies slightly curved, their hips bent on one side, an arm resting on one side of the hips. A pose like this visually tells you that this person is feminine in nature right away.

OH MY FUCKING CHRIST

I knew something in these links was going to send me into a fit of rage, and here we are! Right in the first link!


It's called Contrapposto and it refers to a pose where one hip is higher and the shoulder on the same side is lower (hard to describe, easy to do). It is the pose that David is standing in (Michelangelo). It is considered to be the most appealing (to artists) standing position for both males and females. If you flip through an art history book you'll see hundreds of examples. I cannot even begin to count how many hours I have stood in that position on a model's stand in the VCU School of the Arts.

So no, it's not a sexist comment. Just incorrect :)
posted by VaUnicorn at 8:33 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


On a more disturbing note about the divine proportions link, I believe the contents of http://www.hypatia-lovers.com/images/ is just a bit more illegal (by international law) than I'm sure the guy intended.
posted by electronslave at 2:42 AM on December 1, 2007


Wow, electonshave. That's a totally bizarre collection of images. Who knew Angelique Pettyjonn's carpet matched her drapes and a appletini.
posted by cytherea at 10:49 AM on December 1, 2007


I had the same reaction as Agregoli, so I'm glad that Desjardins clarified. Truthfully, I'm sure it's hard to find resources for art about women that wouldn't be problematic in one sense or another, and it's good to see the critical perspectives offered here in the thread.

Canine Epigram, I understand that you had a different reading of the post, I'm just not sure why you think it's so obvious that yours is more correct, especially since every body illustrated actually is idealized and sexualized - and the first two comments are, at best, only arguably not ogle-y.

I'm also not sure why you read Agregoli's response as a thwap upside the head. That certainly seems like a hyperbolic reading of what I read as an interesting, open, and civil conversation.

In between the recent metatalk threads, the relentless cultural focus on women as sexualized objects, I wouldn't be surprised if this post hit a sore spot for a lot of women - regardless of how it was intended. Instead of backing away, Agregoli engaged, openly and politely, resulting in a clarification that is appreciated, at the very least by the two of us. And all of this you analogize to a dismissive violent act.

This seems like an excellent case study in how people are discouraged from raising concerns about sexism - no matter how gently they aim to frame their concerns. In my opinion, that pretty much makes you part of the problem.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


On the subject of impossible poses, apparently Michelangelo is guilty too.
posted by shothotbot at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2007


Posts like this remind me how weird I feel sometimes, because I find the female body really gross. I don't mean my own body, which I'm pretty happy with, but just other women. Curves, boobs, thighs, bingo wings, necks, ugh. To me the most pleasing sight is a man's back. I don't even care if it's a bit spotty or hairy. The dent where the spine is and the general landscape of the back is awesome to me. But I tend to keep quiet about this as I don't think many other women feel the same.
posted by gatchaman at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Salamandrous,

I'm just not sure why you think it's so obvious that yours is more correct

How about the reply of the OP immediately following my comment?

I was using "thwap upside the head" as a jokey (and yes, somewhat hyperbolic) analogy for the criticism right out of the gate. Perhaps "jumped on" would have been a better turn of phrase, since the slightly silly 'thwap' didn't cartoonify the gesture enough.

I disagreed with agregoli's characterization of the post, and responded with my opinion; the OPs clarification was useful in framing her intent, but was not strictly necessary from my point of view, since it did seem like care was taken in crafting the post a particular way.

I'd be interested in knowing if many other women really were bothered by this FPP, regardless of intent. If so, then maybe I really am missing something - you're right that finding art resources about women can be problematic, but this really seemed like a good faith effort.
posted by canine epigram at 5:17 PM on December 1, 2007


I'm a woman, and an artist, and I teach figure drawing. I don't start my classes with proportions because students get too hung up on it if I do. When I do introduce the concept of the "ideal figure" (usually 8 or 9 heads, depending on who you believe) I immediately have them measure me. I'm a perfectly average woman who comes in at about 6 heads. They see the limitations immediately. In any case, as soon as you have any foreshortening most of this stuff goes out the window. Students interested in life drawing are better served by learning how to capture movement through gesture drawing and how to do basic sighting with a pencil or some other object.
posted by Cuke at 6:55 PM on December 1, 2007


Yeesh. I thought this was a correct interpretation:

This seems like an excellent case study in how people are discouraged from raising concerns about sexism - no matter how gently they aim to frame their concerns.

I thought I was extremely mild in my questioning of the post - I asked a question, got a good response, and requested that posts such as these be framed more clearly in intent, which in this case, was clearly good. I thought I'd quietly shown how posts like this can seem to a woman on the site, and also stated that I wasn't even interested in flagging this one. I'm not an authority on this site any more than canine is, but I am welcome to voice a concern, just like anyone else.

I wasn't "thwapping" anyone upside the head, and I couldn't care less if the post was made by a man or a woman. I cared how it was presented, and I hardly think that asking a question is "thwapping" anyone upside the head. I got a polite and reasonable answer that added to my appreciation of the post. Methinks you are a bit sensitive, canine.
posted by agregoli at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2007


« Older NBC is once again dipping its toe into the waters ...  |  The Key to Reserva... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments