How can I show foreshortening in life drawing?
I return to Andrew Loomis’ excellent book – ‘Figure Drawing For All Its Worth‘ whenever I need help with a drawing challenge. And one challenge I regularly face is how to draw depth when I am at a drawing class and my view of the model is foreshortened. How do I show the observer that a part of the body is moving back into space?
Try cross sections and connecting
Loomis recommends breaking up parts of the body and drawing what he refers to “intermittent cross sections”. On the left hand page of the image above Loomis provides some examples of this, starting with a simple cylinder to more complex shapes. For example with the cylinder Loomis draws what he cannot see – all parts of the cylinder: the back and all around the shape. It is as though his shapes are made from a transparent material and we are able to see through it.
Loomis shows that this method can be used with complicated shapes too; breaking the one shape into smaller cross sections and working on them separately. He writes that any form can be foreshortened by drawing these cross sectional shapes and then “connecting” them to create a whole. Breaking the down the problem into smaller chunks and then dealing with each chunk before bringing them together as one form is a good way of approaching this challenge.
Loomis recommends practising this method with all kinds of objects, from small household objects to larger ones and even buildings. The more you practise breaking down a shape or figure into smaller sections, the easier foreshortening will become.