The Secrets of the Figure

Every artist who studies the human form should learn its basic design or proportions. This includes understanding the differences between an adult male and an adult female, as well as the differences between an adult and a child. Once you understand these, you’ll be able to accurately draw an adult male or female form from any position or from your imagination. Some units of measurement include:

  • The head—One length is commonly used as the basic unit of measuring. Children are four to six heads tall, while the average adult measures seven-and-a-half heads. Michelangelo used a slightly idealized eight-head figure. Fashion figures and superheroes are often drawn as 10 heads tall.
  • The hand—From the top of the head to the bottom of the nose measures one hand length. From the bottom of the nose to the pit of neck is another hand length, and from the pit of the neck to the bottom of the sternum is yet another.
  • From the back, the height of the scapula (shoulder blade) is also approximately one hand length.

Beverly Leesman is a watercolor artist and freelance writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work can be found at

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