Get essential tips on how to draw a foreshortened human figure. Learn to identify key points on the figure that will make foreshortening clear and concrete.
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Foreshortening is when an object appears to be shorter than it actually physically is, creating a point of view that is dramatic and challenging to portray in drawing. Lecture by Art Prof Clara Lieu.
- Foreshortening is when our point of view on an object makes it appear shorter than it actually is.
- Foreshortening makes dramatic angles, and is often seen in dynamic action poses, especially in movies.
- Foreshortening is an effective way to show depth, by depicting what is far away and what is close up.
- Foreshortening emphasizes the viewer’s point of view.
- When there is any foreshortening in the human figure, it makes the foreshortened area look weird.
- Foreshortening is never going to look “normal,” so let it look weird!
- Proportions go out the window with foreshortening, nothing is ever going to look “correct” when it’s foreshortened.
- Sometimes foreshortening is much more subtle, you can see it in a finger.
- Other times it’s the entire body which is foreshortened.
- A foreshortened head means you are either above the figure, or looking up at the figure.
- Facial features get squished when foreshortened!
- With foreshortening, it’s common for body parts to “disappear” with that particular point of view.
- Look for overlaps in the anatomy to help emphasize the foreshortening.
- For example, show that the calf muscle is in front of the thigh.
- Ultimately, foreshortening is simply a series of overlaps.
- Exaggerate foreshortening when you see it to make it more pronounced.
- Draw objects in the foreground bigger on purpose.
- Make the objects in the background appear a bit smaller.
Prof Lieu’s Tips
One thing you can do to “cheat” with foreshortening, is I usually make the parts that are closer to the viewer a touch bigger than I think they should be.
I shrink the parts that are further back in space. That tends to give the foreshortening an extra nudge of drama which can be helpful to portray a sense of depth and space.
- Dead Christ, Andrea Mantegna
- Crucifixion of St. Peter, Caravaggio
- Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio
- Laocoön and His Sons
- The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Gian Lorenzo Bernini
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