Beauty

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As the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so it is with the drawings you create. What is beautiful to one person might not be very appealing to another. Some people may love your work, whereas others may hate it. In general, however, there are some basic concepts that help to make your drawings more beautiful by our culture's generally accepted standards for beauty. When it comes to posing the figure, beauty can generally be defined as grace. Capturing the potential for gracefulness in your drawings is the goal of this section. In addition to grace, there are other aspects of beauty, such as lighting and composition. Lighting will be covered in Chapter 7 and composition will be covered in Chapter 6.

The human form is graceful by its natural design, so posing a figure to take the best advantage of displaying an aspect of the human form can be very beautiful. This is one reason why I suspect artists have been fascinated by the human form for centuries. It is also why many artists spend a great deal of time in figure drawing classes and studying the nude figure.

Anyone who has studied the elegance of the human form will probably agree that the grace and beauty of how the body is put together is nothing short of amazing. From the skeletal structure to the way our muscles attach and flow, the human body is one of the most versatile and ingenious designs for movement and grace. Take, for example, the femur bone of the leg and how it is shaped. Figure 5.29 shows the femur next to a straight rod. Notice how much more interesting the shape of the bone is compared to the rod.

Often beginning artists (and even some professional artists) have problems getting their figures to look alive. Their work often looks contrived or stilted because they don't follow the natural dynamics of the figure. This is often the case when using photography because it is difficult for a model to hold a dynamic pose, such as the one in Figure 5.30.

The idea is to have your poses look natural, not posed. When posing a figure, try to keep the action consistent and, where possible, relaxed rather than forced. A good way to improve your poses is to establish an action line.

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Figure 5.29 The femur is a more graceful shape than a straight rod.

Figure 5.30 Try to make your poses flow gracefully.

Action Line

A curved line is generally more interesting and pleasing than a straight line. Look at the two lines in Figure 5.31. The curved line is much more expressive than the straight line.

Figure 5.31 Curves are more interesting than straight lines.

The action line helps artists keep their drawings from becoming stilted by unifying the form. In Figure 5.32, the action line is one continuous arch.

All figures have an action line, even when they are at rest. In Figure 5.33, the figure is seated on the ground. Even though the figure is not moving it still has an action line, as shown in the picture.

Figure 5.32 Pay attention to the action line in the figure.

Try looking for the action line when observing people in life. Think in terms of reducing the figure to a single line of motion. You will soon notice that the more defined the action line is, the more graceful the pose will be.

When posing the figure, you should avoid 90-degree angles as much as possible. As shown in Figure 5.34, 90-degree angles on limbs give figures a robotic look.

A good way to look for graceful motion is to study dance, particularly ballet, because of the emphasis on beauty and grace. Figure 5.35 is a pose of a dancer. See whether you can draw in the action line for this pose.

Figure 5.36 shows the action line for the dancer pose.

Secondary action lines can also be used to unify the figure and add grace to the pose. Figure 5.37 shows two additional action lines for the arms and the other leg.

Try posing a few figures yourself to see whether you can get the feel of establishing action lines in your poses. If you can get the action line to work well in the poses you create, then they will likely translate into good drawings.

Figure 5.33 Even a seated figure has an action line.

Figure 5.34 Try to make your poses flow gracefully.

Figure 5.35 Can you find the action line in this pose?

Figure 5.34 Try to make your poses flow gracefully.

Figure 5.36 The action line follows the major curve of the body.

Figure 5.35 Can you find the action line in this pose?

Figure 5.37 Secondary action lines can help to unify the form.

Drawing Beauty

Now that you understand how to give your poses an action line, let's move on to drawing the figure. In Figure 5.38 I have prepared a pose for the drawing.

Learning to pose your figures well in your drawings will help you to gain more confidence in your work. The number of ways you can pose the figure is limitless. Remember, your best source of information is observation. Look at the people around you and make some quick sketches. There are few things as expressive as the human form.

Figure 5.38 Start the drawing with this pose as a reference.

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