Below is a diagram of the male figure from various angles: back, front, ¾ view, and the side:
The Human Figure
Below are simplified stick figure drawings of each angle of the human figure shown in the previous example. Basic & 3D shapes are used in each of the drawings:
The Stick Figure
Joints- The joints of the body are drawn as circles or you may draw them as spheres. The following circle pairs should be the same size: shoulders/hips (large), elbows/knees (medium), and wrists/ankles (smallest).
Hands & Feet- The hands are more triangular in shape and the feet are also triangular with the heels being round.
Limbs- The lines forming the arms and legs are not created equally. The upper arms & legs are straighter & parallel whereas the lower arms & legs have slight curves.
Head- The head uses circles and elliptical/oval shapes. The front view oval is slightly longer than the back view. The heads in ¾ and side view resemble ice cream cones with a circle and triangle attached.
Body- The chest & pelvis are drawn as trapezoids. As you can examine, the trapezoids are at an angle in ¾ view. In the side view the shapes are narrower than the other views and the overall frame is an ‘S’ shape as indicated by the red curve. In other words, the back is swayed & is not parallel like the other angles. Horizontal & vertical lines are drawn within the trapezoids indicating where the backside, chest, & abdomen should be.
The Manikin Figure.
*Be aware that the human form is abstract. Even when not in motion, it has fluidity and curvature.
Now we will examine the angles of the human body as a family unit: adult (man & woman) and child (baby).
We will examine and compare the stick figures above. Each stick figure is unique in size, shape, and proportion according to age and gender.
- Male figure- The male figure has more of a box shape. The angles of the trapezoid are not as distinct as the female figure. The shape above is wider (indicating broad shoulders) and the shape below is not as wide as the top (indicating narrow hips). The joints are larger and the overall shape of the hands and feet are also larger compared to the females.
- Female figure- The general shape of the female figure is curvy. The width of the shoulders & hips are wider as indicated in the trapezoid shapes. The waistline is smaller than the male’s.
- Baby/Toddler- The baby’s figure is the smallest and more condensed. The lines signifying the limbs are apparently shorter. The face is a rounded square instead of an oval because of the fullness of the baby’s face. As you can see, the hands are drawn as circles unlike the adult figures because babies’ hands are round & pudgy.
Body proportions are determined by height and sometimes age & gender. The simplest way to do this is by dividing each segment of the body by the length of the head. We will examine this below:
This is a general view of body proportions of the male figure. Each proportion is divided into 9 parts. The length/ height of the human figure is based on the size of the head. The width is also determined by the human head. The shoulders is the width of 3 heads; the center of the human figure (the upper thighs) is the width of two heads; the feet standing together are the width of 1 head.
Now we will examine proportions even further according to age & gender:
As you can see, each proportion is labeled. Use these labels as a guideline when drawing your figure. Below is an analysis of each:
- Male figure- Taller and larger in size; head is larger (8-9 Heads in length).
- Female figure- Smaller frame & generally shorter than the male; head is smaller (7-71/2 Heads in length).
- Baby/Toddler- Overall shape of the head is rounder, but the length of the head is smaller (31/2-4 Heads in length).
♦ Key Points to Remember
-The primary angles of the body are: back, front, ¾ view, and side.
-Proportions are identified by height, age, and gender.
-Use the size of the head to measure the height & width of the body.
-The male figure has more of a box shape.
-The female shape is curvier.
-Don’t be hard on yourself & have fun!!
Kalilah L (author) from Michigan on October 23, 2014:
Thank you so much Dbro. I really appreciate your feedback. The most important thing that I stress to my students is to have patience when learning how to draw. Patience is the golden rule when it comes to life in general. As you mentioned drawing can be challenging, but it definitely isn't as hard as it seems.
Dbro from Texas, USA on October 22, 2014:
This is a very informative article on how to draw the human figure. I appreciate the clear descriptions of how the various parts of the human body relate to one another proportionally. I also found the information on the differences between genders and the age of the subject very helpful.
I also think your advice to be patient and practice is spot on. No one can improve their drawing skill unless they approach the challenges they face positively. Thanks for this informative and inspiring hub, Kalilah L!