One of the greatest problems in drawing seated or reclining figures is foreshortening— representing the human figure or one of its parts in perspective. The art of foreshortening consists of representing the human body from points of view at which its dimensions are diminished by perspective. But foreshortening is not the same as ordinary perspective—there is no need for vanishing points or any of the methods employed in linear perspective.
To render a foreshortened figure, it is necessary to know the figure's proportions, as we have seen. Having the proportions at hand makes it easier to interpret the diminished proportions produced by foreshortening without making mistakes or distorting the figure. But it is as important to pay attention to what we see when we study a pose—and loyally render all of its peculiarities—for the result to appear realistic.
To approach a drawing of a foreshortened figure, we must make a greater effort to adapt the different proportions of the figure on the page, because the different parts of the body are altered considerably by perspective—an arm or a leg that seems to advance toward us, a hand or a foot in which the fingers or toes are perpendicular to our line of sight. Knowing this, the artist has a new factor to consider when choosing the pose best suited to her intentions.
Once the preliminary sketch is done, we can erase the structural lines and shade in the figure (B).
The projection of the box in perspective tells us how we must adjust the proportions to the disposition of the figure. In this way; the part of the drawing closest to the foreground always ends up falsely enlarged in relation to the more distant parts of the body (C).
A common technique for drawing the foreshortened figure is to give greater definition to the foreground and leave the middle- or background sketchier and uncolored. Compare the treatment of the feet in this drawing to the others (D).
If we have problems drawing a foreshortened reclining figure, the best thing to do is enclose the figure in a box drawn in perspective. The box acts as a guide for reducing the size of the limbs through the effect of perspective (A).
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