Some Basic Proportions

The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 b.c.e.) recognized two body types:

Phthisic habitus—tall, thin physique Apoplectic habitus—short, thick physique

But these two body types really don't even begin to cover the variations in the human body, and the study of physical anthropology has identified a wide range of body types. William Sheldon, an anthropologist in the 1930s, devised a system based on three main types:

Endomorphic—fat Mesomorphic—muscular Ectomorphic—bony

Try drawing the action and position of the figure with the simplest of lines for the spine, shoulder, hip, and limbs. Add some volume to the body cavity, the shoulders, and the pelvic area. You can practice a kind of stick figure, or you can draw the body as a series of proportional ellipses, or you can see it as a group of cylinders and boxes. However you begin, close seeing and drawing of the muscles should follow. The best practice is ... well, practice.

An awareness of body types helps to see the proportions of an individual, for better or worse.

Ellipsoids, as opposed to humanoids, and cylinder/box figures are a great way to start adding volume to a gesture.

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