Breaking Down the Body Into Basic Forms

Robert Marzullo
A free video tutorial from Robert Marzullo
Comic Book Artist / Illustrator
4.5 instructor rating • 17 courses • 30,603 students

Lecture description

In this lesson we will cover breaking down the main parts of the body to the head, torso, and pelvis area.  Then we will work on the figure from there.  ( Note : I have also included my Digital Pencil Brushes for Sketchbook Pro and Clip Studio Paint users. Remember that your pressure settings on your device can vary from my own but theses are the brushes I use to draw with. )

Learn more from the full course

How to Improve Your Figure Drawing - Step by Step

Learn how to draw the human form like a professional with these fundamental step by step techniques.

07:30:32 of on-demand video • Updated September 2020

  • Draw the human figure with more confidence and precision.
  • Create dynamic figure drawings quicker and more effectively.
  • Understand how to draw the various body parts from memory.
  • How to properly use Gesture to create more believable poses.
English [Auto] Call up everybody Rob Marzell here ramps studio comics Welcome back. In today's video I want to show you a way to make Figure drawing a lot easier. So the first thing I'd like to do is break down the form and some basic shapes. So I start with an all for the head kind of a wedge shape for the torso and the pelvic. And if you use that 2:59 method you can really construct all kinds of different poses just with that starting point. And if you can draw an oval like this if you can draw a bit of a wedge shape if you had to break this down even further it could be a bit of a box or another oval this way and over this way. But essentially what this is the torso in the pelvic and this will just draw like my hair played with action figures. Imagine the lower part of the action figure with the body and the legs ripped off. I know it's kind of gruesome but it happens to every action Gager at some point in their lives. So essentially by doing that there are basic shapes you know you could really accomplish this with all ovals. And if you think of it that way I think it helps you to go OK I got that down and I got that beat. Now what do I do. Now the thing that I do is draw the spine in there. You don't have to if you notice I kind of already started to draw these shapes with that kind of rotation or angle or bend to them whatever you feel most comfortable with what I'm kind of picturing is that the chest line would come through here solid plaques down to the pelvic and the front of the face something like that. So that's what I was envisioning when I drew it. Now what I'm trying to get you know help people with is that if you can accomplish these basic shapes the rest of it is much easier. So you've got the opening for the arms and you know from there you have to study. You know you have to study gesture drawing the best thing to do is to do quick studies of the body one to five minutes probably you know start off with five work yourself down to 1 minute sketches of the body and what you're going to want to do is just really study the way that the weight reacts off the body. So you know if somebody is pushing off this leg right here the counter weight you know maybe it's legs back. So you're only going to get this information by doing gesture drives. It's not just going to come to you. I mean maybe if you just have the ability to kind of fill that process out. But most of the artists that I know that are that are good at stuff like this they refine their abilities by lots of figure drawing gesture drawing. You know I wouldn't even recommend drawing from other artists. The only reason why I say that is because you'll learn things about their style. But if they're making mistakes in their fundamentals then guess what you'll probably copy those same mistakes. So it's OK to you know to have fun and study your favorite artist but draw from life whenever you can and create your own studies your own sketchbooks and whatever. So you know same thing with hand poses it's like you know you start to see that there's lots and lots of different ways that the hand reacts from person to person impulse to pause. So you just have to create lots of sketches of that to get a feel for it. So will say this what we're after is a pretty bad sketch and I probably shorten the lines because I ran out of paper there like they always do seem to be one of my artistic flaws there. You never judge how much distance I have at the bottom and I try to start forcing proportions. So I'd probably make the leg down here and the way over to here being that it's more of a comic book eight heads tall kind of scenario. OK so that's my quick little sketch. Not impressive. It's not meant to be. It's just to get an idea down. And then I can study it and go well for one he doesn't have a hand that's cool. But the you know the arms a natural number the pulses a little too accentuated whatever but you like doing these quick studies you can study or work in and grow from that process. OK. So we'll do the I don't know of the local 2:59 method or whatever but three main body masses and I don't know who might have come up with this if this is even a thing. I'm just telling you what I have. But I generally do with my artwork. OK. So again the head. Now I'm kind of picturing looking right at us. And now I want to do a dynamic kind of feel. I don't ever want my stuff to just be plain and standing completely upright because well I traditionally draw artwork and science fiction type stuff. So you know there's not a whole lot of people just standing around in my imagination I guess they're always doing something crazy and elaborate. And so my drawings need to reflect that obviously. OK so pairs are one to three mounted again. And you know if I had to draw the spine I would say it's doing something like this I had to draw the chest it's going like this. You know I should always try to twist the shoulders. If you think of the head the shoulders and the pelvic you know you right here you see they're all lined up let it make for an interesting pose. So to shift that I'll put the one leg opening over here more. I'll try to twist this pelvic shape like this. I'm kind of gross but you get my meaning. OK. So turn that like that and then maybe you know a leg up. Now one of the trickier things I think to get right or the way that the legs connect to the pelvic so that to me is is a whole other study. You know so one day or week or months or whatever it takes you to learn you know you're going at it and you study how the legs connect to the pelvic and you hit it hard for a month or whatever it takes you to feel comfortable with that. And and that's what I do. I repeat that process over and over again for every thing that I do. So I get these questions on my YouTube channel and my DVN are just different stuff Facebook whatever. And you know people ask me how do you draw this. What do you do here. Well you know they want me to give them all these details in Forgive me for saying this but oftentimes when there's a lot of overabundant amount of questions about the process it lead it leads me to think one thing and that is you're not practicing enough. And I don't know I don't want to be mean about that. I hope I'm not being mean by the sound of that but what I'm saying is you're not going to find the magic the gold may. I don't know what you want to call it. But the thing that's going to outweigh your practice or your hard work. You have to do that. That's the answer. So all these questions half and half of the answers are just practice and sheer volume of drawing. So I don't know how some explain it other than that I mean I know it sounds depressing sometimes you have to put all this time in to get good but that's really what it takes. I would say behind every great artist her stacks and stacks of sketchbooks so or you know digital files or whatever whatever style you're working on. So yeah. So that's the that's the truth of that matter. So just lots and lots of practice. And then you start seeing the things that are improper and why they're improper you know because at first it all looks kind of like you're on the right track. You know it takes any artists and haven't panned back at their work from years ago. And they'll tell you that man that stuff sucks. I don't know what I was thinking you know. But what that is is the progression in the. The fact that you are now visually seeing things that you weren't seeing then. So that just comes with lots and lots of of producing work. Yes. Like even this you know it's like why is this head straight up from you know from the posture whatever. I'm not saying it couldn't be that way but it just doesn't look as interesting. So knowing that let me see if I can adjust it and try to move it you know told it whatever. So I'll do that a lot too or I'll sit there and take these polls and I'll try to rework them and see if I can make a good pose out of a bad polls which is really necessary because the more you work professionally The more you've got to figure out ways to cut corners and save time. You know I work a lot of my work is done in storyboards where the at the time intensiveness of it is insane you know where you have to like figure out how to hurry up and draw something really quickly and get it done because people are waiting on you to do some you know picture animation of the work or whatever. The drawing is very important for that. Mike even that one I don't blab in here so I probably went way over and I don't know what this just took but probably way too long for just a gestural concept. So you know even though it's very rough and very crude that's you know just stacking these up is what's really important to start getting a good feel for the way the body works. So again you know I'll do another one where I do. Let's try a totally different polls. Let's try down here and I always start with the head and one other question that I've had recently a couple of times was do you always start with the head. I've read that it's not it's not right to start with the head and maybe it's not. I can't say that I do everything correctly or right but I generally start with that. I don't know why. I don't know if it's right or wrong it's just what I do. So I try to start with the body and there's definitely certain poses that I start with the abdomen. But it's a lot more where I seem to always kind of visually place what my character is getting ready to do by the mike even when to do that had I already had the vision that it was pointing down. I don't know why it's just kind of where I'm at with the way that I envision my poses but I'll tell you like stuff like this. You know these are the tricky ones for me. Like for instance I don't often see somebody squatting down looking down at the ground you know hands over their knees or whatever maybe one knee like this. Here's the pelvic area or should we do that in first or. There's the opening of the legs and maybe this other leg is down to the ground and back so I struggle with polls like this because it's not something I would see every day or even be able to find reference quickly or easily enough. Now keep in mind that's why I have when I get three cameras I get two cameras and I've got my computer camera so this is you know we got cameras on everything luckily now so it makes it a lot easier. But this is why if I get a pose like this that's too tricky and I just can't nail it. Guess what. I'm sitting around taking goofy pictures of myself and my family trying to get the right pose in. I've I've trained myself to be able to draw you know through that. Because obviously you know I work out a little bit or whatever. I'm pretty buff guy really anyways. But I can draw through myself and come up with a character that ends up or polls that ends up looking like a superhero. You pretty much almost have to ignore a lot of the parts of the picture. Teevan do that because our proportions just aren't as heroes because we would like them to be so so you know that just comes with practice. I like that one it's not that great but I can work with that. And then I start making changes. Chances are at this angle the shoulder you're probably barely going to see it. So if you do see it you're just going to see a little bit of the shoulder. So I pull out all the way over to here and say it helps that perspective. I think it does anyway. So just practice this technique where you draw the head the upper torso in the pelvic and then add the limbs on and you'll start to get a better idea of all the various poses you can create from that. And then obviously studying from life to add to that information. You know it's just like the dry lake here you do the upper leg the lower leg the foot the knee and you just really start to itemize parts of the body like that. So through the rest of course we're going to break down arms legs hands things like that really try to pinpoint ways to you know break down the body and draw quicker so now I want to show you a quick one in a foreshortened perspective and here I'm going to use just blocked and shapes kind of cubes cylinders and but I'm going to draw it in a perspective shot. And by doing this it again it simplifies something that would be pretty complex. You know if you're going to draw a body in this downward perspective and this foreshortening it gets pretty tricky with all the curvature of the body and the musculature and you know what goes where. So doing something like this just essentially gives you a blueprint to work over top of an eye I resort to this whenever I struggle in a certain area of my drawing. So if it's something that I'm comfortable with then I probably won't feel the need to do this. But if I start to struggle then I go back to the basics. And this is to me what the basics are. BLOCK method cylinders wedge shapes just easy to draw easy to digest. Elements of the structure or whatever it is I'm doing you see I can make changes to that perspective really quickly and easily. And I can check perspective because it's drawn to a vanishing point where with body parts it's kind of hard to envision that unless you're working pretty tight from a good reference photo then you know maybe you can check it against that. But sometimes you don't have that. So in this case I go to the the block method and it does take some practice to get yourself to be able to draw like this and see into it not just see boxes and cylinders you know like anything else it will take some practice but the more you do it the more comfortable you'll feel. And like I mentioned many times over this course you'll just start to naturally skip steps. That's just part of what happens as an artist the better you get the more comfortable you feel. You'll just do away with certain steps in your work. And I don't even know sometimes I think it's just involuntary or subconsciously. But you'll look back at work and definitely notice. Then so here I just soft to raise it down I've got enough of my blueprint work out of the way my construction and then I just get in here and I start to refine it and I can start to think more about you know what the character looks like now softening up the forms giving some anatomy some shapes of musculature. But I have that underlying you know glorified stick man to show me where my work needs to go. And again a perspective view you know so ultimately you're just able to break these things down and make it easier for you to carry it to the next level. And you know just repeat it you know try this with various angles. Another good tip for doing this and feeling comfortable with that is to actually take photos and break them down in the same method. So I'm not working from a photo here but sometimes it's good to work from a photo. Try these methods over top and then you can see what areas hold true to the design process. Impasse. You know just sheer volume like I'll repeat over and over again in this course. You know when you sit there and draw this type of polls over and over again certain areas are going to start to make sense that at first you know you just couldn't kind of impression. I noticed that the more and more I draw repetitive you know patterns or angles you just start to pick up on things so it's really that repetition that's essential to getting better at the stuff. All right so that will bring this one to to a close and the next lesson will be approaching how to break down arms. So I hope you'll join us for there. So let's proceed on.