Draping The Figure

When drawing folds that occur at the bending of a limb, it must be understood that drapery is either attached to, or supported at some fixed point. If the material is limited as to volume, such as the bending at the knee, the folds radiate in size and number from the fixed point of attachment as well as a point of resistance. The lower limbs vary greatly as to shape. Below the hip the thigh is round; at the knee the form is square with its sides beveled forward; and the broad double-bellied calf muscle covers the upper half of the leg.

When the leg is bent upon the thigh at the knee, the two opposing masses that are above and below the knee need little detail, but when bent at the joint, the folds become bunched up and take on both spiral and acute angles. To memorize the direction and meaning of one or two of these folds gives a plan to work upon. It takes both theory and close observation to find a fold that occurs again and again.

In drawing folds watch for forms that happen and then happen again. Using this as a background, one can put in the really important things that are essential to the story and not just a series of still life studies describing things that are not worth describing. In studying the character of these different folds, the quality of materials should be tried out to study their comparative relationship, such as: the difference of weight and tension; heavier materials as compared to light or more pliant materials. Try to remember the folds that happen and then happen again and you will find a family resemblance in all materials no matter what the weight or texture.

When considering a sleeved or draped arm, the masses that lie underneath must be considered. The masses of the arm and forearm are joined by wedges and wedging movements that overlap each other at various angles. The shoulder slopes down and out, its broad side facing outward, the upper arm flattened at the sides. The mass of the forearm overlaps the end of the arm on the outside by a wedge that arises a third of the way up and tapers toward the wrist. Whether the arm is straight or bent, this wedge, this underlying form, must be kept in mind. The folds pass over and around it; the creases alternate between round, zigzag or locked yet seldom parallel one another.

The mass of the upper half of the forearm is oval in shape when the thumb is turned away from the body and more round when the thumb side of the hand is reversed. The forearm as it approaches the wrist becomes flattened out to about twice as wide as it is thick. As material has no form in itself, these round and wedged forms must be shown or felt under the material that covers the arm. The folds at the elbow under certain conditions can be looked upon and copied as a piece of still life, but if the points of attachments and resistance, as well as their radiating lines are understood, the translation of the form beneath is clearer and better understood.

Draped Arms


Clothing is nothing but drapery arranged around a body that is beneath it. To express the multitudinous forms it takes, one should learn to express in a direct way the different characters of folds, for each one plays its individual part as distinctly as actors play their different characters upon the stage.

Folds are totally different. There are those which pass around and radiate from the points of support, clasping the figure and thereby reducing the receding surface to a minimum; or they may zigzag in an irregular manner from side to side. There are folds which are straight, festooned and V-shaped; folds which fall, cross or pass around the figure. There are materials which have concave and convex, forms as well as cord-like edges. All folds have laws unto themselves. Some folds run into their opponents and die away while there are others which terminate abruptly. Each individual fold has its own manner, its temperament and almost its religion. Each pursues its function so that each must be studied apart as a fixed law, a thing entirely apart, without connection, yet held throughout by the unforeseen laws of rhythm.

As you would study the surface of an arm and forearm, or a thigh and a leg, and their connection at the elbow or at the knee joints, these folds must come together, linked as they pass around or into one another. To do so, a name indicating a function must be given to each:

1 Pipe or Cord

2 Zigzag

3 Spiral

4 Half-lock

5 Diaper Pattern

6 Drop or Flying

7 Inert

Drapery Flying Drawing

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