Most art students—and too many professional artists—will do anything to avoid drawing the human figure in deep space. Walk through the life drawing classes of any art school and you'll discover that nearly every student is terrified of action poses with torsos tilting toward him or away from him, with arms and legs striding forward or plunging back into the distance; twisting and bending poses in which the forms of the figure overlap and seem to conceal one another; and worst of all, reclining poses, with the figure seen in perspective!
These are all problems in foreshortening, which really means drawing the figure so that it looks like a solid, three dimensional object which is moving through real space—not like a paper doll lying flat on a sheet of paper. Drawing the figure in deep space foreshortening is not a mere technical trick, not a mere problem to be solved; it's the essence of figure drawing as perfected by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Tintoretto, Rubens, and the other great masters of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
But most art students would greatly prefer to draw the figure as if it were a soldier standing at attention, with the axes of the body and limbs parallel to the surface of the drawing paper, like a building in an architectural elevation. Well, no, they don't really prefer to draw it that way, but the dynamic, three dimensional, foreshortened figure is so forbidding that most students are inclined to give up and stick to wooden soldiers—though silently longing for some magic key to the secret of foreshortening.
Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing doesn't pretend to be a magic key-to-three-dimensional-figure-drawing in-ten-easy-lessons, but it is a magical book. Here, for the first time, is a logical, complete system of drawing the figure in deep space, presented in step-by-step pictorial form. I've read every figure drawing book in print (it's my job) and I know that there's no book like it. The system and the teaching method have been perfected over the years in the author's classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where many of the dazzling drawings in this book — immense, life-size figures which the artist invents without a model — were created before the eyes of hundreds of awestruck students.
And surely the most stunning thing about Dynamic Figure Drawing is that Burne Hogarth teaches the reader to invent figures as the great masters did. After all, Michelangelo didn't ask his models to hang from the ceiling or hover in the air as he drew! He invented them—and this is what the author demonstrates in the carefully programmed series of drawings (with analytical text and captions) that sweep across these pages with the speed and graphic tempo of an animated film.
Dynamic Figure Drawing in the author's own words, shows the artist "how to fool the eye, how to depress, bend, and warp the two dimensional plane" of the drawing paper so that a figure drawing springs from the page in the same way that the author's remarkable drawings bound from the pages of this book. He demonstrates how to create the illusion of roundness and depth by light and shade, by the overlapping of forms, by the transitions from one form to another, as well as by the accurate rendering of individual body forms. He explains how to visualize the figure from every conceivable angle of view, including the upviews and the downviews that baffle students and professionals alike.
Particularly revealing are the multiphase drawings — like multiple exposure photographs—in which figure movement is dissected, broken down into a series of overlapping views of the body, "frozen" at various stages of movement, so that the reader can see how forms change at each critical phase. Learning to see movement as a process, the reader can draw the figure more convincingly because he knows what happens to body forms at each stage of the process. The reader ultimately finds that he can project the figure—from any viewpoint and in any stage of any action—as systematically as an architect projects a building in a perspective drawing.
Burne Hogarth's achievement in Dynamic Figure Drawing is the creation of a rational system which eliminates the guesswork that plagues every student of the figure. This system isn't a shortcut, a collection of tricks to memorize in order to produce stock solutions to drawing problems—for nothing can make figure drawing that easy. The human figure remains the most demanding of all subjects for the artist. What Dynamic Figure Drawing reveals is the inherent logic of the figure, and the author proposes a system of study that is built on this logic. The system takes time and patience and lots of drawing. You'll want to reread Dynamic Figure Drawing many times. Give this remarkable book the dedication it deserves and the logic of the human figure will finally become second nature to you. Your reward will be that you go beyond merely rendering figures — and begin to invent them.
Figure drawing in depth is accomplished with ease and authority only when the student becomes aware of the characteristic body forms. He must train his eye to see three kinds of forms in the human figure: ovoid forms (egg, ball, and barrel masses); column forms (cylinder and cone structures); and spatulate forms (box, slab, and wedge blocks). These three kinds of forms should be distinguished from one an other and studied separately according to their individual differences. Comparisons should be made with respect to relative shape, width, and length and special emphasis should be placed on variations in bulk, thickness, and volume. This is an approach which seeks to define the body as the har-monious arrangement and interrelationship of its separate and individual defined parts.
At some point in the art student's development, figure drawing reaches a stage where better performance becomes the norm. With his work at this level, the student may be able to draw a variety of natural forms (those usually seen in landscape and still life) in space. Capable as his The Definitive work appears at this point, the student should develop a deeper insight into the forms and Body Forms interrelationships of the parts of the figure. He may be thoroughly familiar with figure work in conventional attitudes, with depicting the posed movements and gestures of the art class model; but these, if the student is aware, begin to look predictably dull and static.
It takes a different kind of effort to conceive and draw the figure in deep foreshortening, in form-over-form spatial recession. If the student is called upon to show the unexpected and unfamiliar actions of the body— those seen from high or low angles he feels taxed to the limit of his resources. At times, in direct confrontation with the live figure, he may do passably well by copying the model in the see-and-draw studio method; but this approach is not always successful or satisfying. To invent, to create at will out of the storehouse of his imagination—that is the challenge which so frequently eludes the most intensive efforts of the art student.
Was this article helpful?
Realize Your Dream of Becoming a Professional Pencil Drawing Artist. Learn The Art of Pencil Drawing From The Experts. A Complete Guide On The Qualities of A Pencil Drawing Artist.