One of the most challenging aspects of figurative study is when the body or limbs are projecting towards your viewpoint. All artists struggle with the foreshortened figure, it throws up strange perspectives, uneven scales and unusual aspects. It is easy to not trust the eye and fall back on preconceptions about how things should look. As an artist one needs to create an optical illusion of three dimensional forms.
The oddly distorted proportions can be difficult to master but with a few tips and practice the obscure can be portrayed with conviction to the viewer. In the picture above notice how large the foot appears in comparison to the thorax and head, notice the length of foot in comparison to the tibia and even the large femur bone is smaller than the foot. Skill and fine-tuning your observation is key; a good rule of thumb when tackling any subject is to take longer to observe the form than actually drawing it. Remember draw what you see and win the battle of the brain’s preconceptions.
There are 2 ways to deal with foreshortening: measuring and negative shapes.
1. Measurement is your single most important tool when dealing with foreshortening, it forces you to trust your eye and look hard at the subject. Let your eye do most of the work and keep your viewing position constant. Comparative measurements of proportions and distances within the figure will help you correctly gauge the shortening of distances on the body as it projects away.
2. Negative shapes around the positive figure or between the positive forms can often be easier to gauge than isolated lines. The space between the legs or space between the body and arm, or a leg and the chair are all negative shapes. These are easier to interrupt and draw rather that the whole complicated arm or leg.
The following two sites are helpful with a vast number of foreshortened poses for you to practice. Both sites can be used to reinforce your learning; recommend you carry out several sketch book pages of quick sketches as well as blind contour sketches.
Tips and Techniques to Drawing the Human Form Digital-Tutors
Practice even for 10-15 minutes a day helps build your creative memory recall. Breaking things up into smaller more manageable pieces will also help you master the intricacies of the human figure.
Would love you hear your impressions of these two sites as learning resources post your comment below.