Muscular Body Motion Sketches

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Figure Drawing Without Model

As always, weight distribution affects the compensatory movements the body makes during running. The soldier at bottom right swings the heavy gun he is carrying to left and right to keep his lateral balance over whichever foot is in, or about to be in, contact with the ground; this ensures that he doesn't fall over sideways. His centre of gravity is not, however, vertically above the supporting foot at any moment, as it would be if he were standing still and lifting alternate legs; his whole body is leaning forward so that the strength of the legs is used effectively to impel him forwards.

A visual analysis of any single moment in the action can be readily undertaken using the simplified skeletal, matchstick-figure and gesture drawings discussed in Chapter 1. As you draw, try to feel the action in your own limbs, and use the pencil to search out the movements and tensions of the body: if you experience the action yourself your drawing will reflect and communicate it effectively.

Photographs from sports magazines can be useful at this stage - not, let it be stressed, as pictures to copy, for a good drawing of a running figure must be more than a frozen moment in the whole action. However, by drawing the positions of torso, limbs and so on in a simplified analytical way, you can firmly grasp and understand the complete cycle of limb movements and counter-movements.

Just reading about all this will not improve your ability to draw it. You need to search out the information in visual terms for yourself, and practise drawing the essentials, so that the essence of the action becomes a part of your drawing experience.

Whole Body Movement DrawingsFace Youself

Kicking a ball doesn't involve just the leg - the whole body takes part.

All that I have said in the preceding few pages about the drawing of walking and running figures is relevant when you attempt to capture any other figure movement. The entire manoeuvre must be thoroughly understood if you're to make a convincing drawing.

If you have any difficulty, go through the whole movement yourself, noticing how your body quite naturally adopts the balancing and compensating positions which your drawing will need to show in order to be convincing. The two drawings at the top of this page are attempts to draw a man kicking a football. The first figure could be kicking, but if the player is to do it properly his whole body needs to be involved, with compensatory movements of trunk and arms being made to allow the application of maximum force without loss of balance or control. Once you are thoroughly familiar with these movements, it should be possible for you to draw the figure in action from any angle using the gesture-drawing technique described earlier. This is the key to your complete understanding of what's happening in the action.

These principles may sound enormously complicated when described in words, but they are really quite simple. Since you are making compensatory balancing adjustments instinctively almost every minute of your waking life, you will, once you have come to understand the principles involved, find yourself able to reflect them just as naturally in your drawings.

Illustrations from Canon, written by Melvyn Bagnall.

Illustrations from Canon, written by Melvyn Bagnall.

Drawing Kicking HumanGesture Drawing Sequence

The Definitive Moment

Gesture Drawing SequenceRunning Gesture Drawing

Generally you will want - or be asked to produce - only one drawing of any complete action, and so you have to choose which part of the action to draw. Your single drawing must represent the whole of the action from start to finish. In a good action figure drawing, it should be evident what has just happened and what is just about to happen. If the point in the action which you choose to depict epitomizes the entire manoeuvre your drawing will be perceived and understood as a moving figure.

In the sequence above, the javelin-thrower has run up towards the scratch-line and is shown taking the last stride of his run with his body arched back and his throwing arm extended behind him in readiness for the big forward thrust. The other three drawings in this sequence show how the right leg is straightened as the muscles of the torso, shoulder and arm are all brought into play to throw the javelin forward and upward. At the instant of the throw the entire length of the body, with arm extended, is like a long lever pivoted on the left foot.

Perhaps surprisingly, the drawing in the sequence which least represents the dynamic nature of the whole manoeuvre is the one

The Amazing Nature Drawing

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