Thursday, March 26, 2015

On rhythm in the human figure

by Chris Brizzard
Level One student

In studying human anatomy, there are many great books and resource materials available. Some of the books used at Studio Incamminati include Stephen Rogers Peck’s "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist," Dr. Paul Richer’s "Artistic Anatomy" and the works of George Bridgman. Sometimes looking at this material, we get overwhelmed by all of the diagrams of the muscles and lose sight of a critical element: rhythm. There is a rhythm that flows through the human body that can be captured with just one line, as when starting a gesture drawing, to the gentle S-curve found flowing through the standing figure.

Gesture drawing controlled by one dominant line

The S-curve in the standing figure. (Image from Edouard Lanteri's book "Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure")

As an example, let’s look at the leg on a standing figure (and also assume it is the weight-bearing leg). In looking at this picture.below, from Stephen Rogers Peck, we can see all the muscles and tendons that comprise the leg.

Leg anatomy diagram from Stephen Rogers Peck

But before we start drawing in all the muscle groups, it is important to first get how those groups are controlled by basic rhythm lines that flow through the leg. For example, in the standing (weight-bearing) leg above, we can reduce everything to four basic rhythms. The major muscle masses align themselves along these rhythmic lines, and help give the drawing more unity and cohesion as a result.

Rhythms controlling the forms of the leg

Here is an example of how this might work in a structural sketch:

rhythms/forms of the leg

To sum up, I think it is important that we look past the surface of what we see and try to understand the controlling factors that lie beneath. Rhythm is an important example of this and it flows throughout the figure, still life and landscape. Learning to find those underlying rhythms help give flow to the work and is one of the artist’s many tasks.

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