The Body in Motion
Now that you can render a fairly realistic human figure in a standing position, you're ready to tackle more complex challenges. Drawing people in motion is still a matter of starting from a stick figure and fleshing out rough shapes, but now you'll have to take perspective and balance into account.
If you're finding it difficult to draw a stick figure in a realistic pose, consider using a wooden mannequin. Pose the mannequin and then use it as reference for your stick figure. This is a good way to check your proportions as well.
What's Your Perspective?
When drawn in perspective, an object that is close to the viewer will be drawn larger than the same object drawn farther away. The closer an object gets, the bigger it is drawn, relative to its actual size. So, in a drawing in which the character is pointing directly out at the reader, the hands — especially the index finger — will be much larger than the rest of the body.
When drawing a foreshortened figure, start with a box that recedes into the distance. Remember, you can find the center of any rectangle by drawing lines from the corners. The lines will always cross in the center. This actually divides the rectangle into two rectangles. Finding their centers will result in dividing the overall rectangle into fourths. Now that you have your line divided into fourths, you have guidelines against which a foreshortened body can be drawn.
Second, an object looks shorter as it is tilted toward or away from the viewer. For example, even though the thigh is two heads long proportionally, it will look much shorter if the figure is seated, facing the viewer. In the preceding example of a character pointing directly at the reader, the arm will appear very short. This is called foreshortening.
You can see foreshortening in action. Hold a pencil at arm's length, pointed at the ceiling. Now rotate the point toward you. The height of the shape decreases as the pencil tilts toward your eye. When the pencil is pointed directly at you, the height is no more than the diameter of the pencil.
Balance It Out
Look at some of the action poses in the following illustration. Compare the angle of the shoulders and the angle of the pelvis. Unless the figure is off-balance, the angle of one is counteracted by the angle of the other. If one slopes up, the other slopes down.
The angle of the shoulders counteracts the angle of the pelvis, whether the action is intense or calm, as in the two poses on the left. Some poses (as the one on the right) are purposefully off-balance, in which case the slope of the shoulders and hips will be in the same direction.
You can see the effects of the counterbalancing angles of the shoulders and pelvis for yourself. Try to walk by swinging your right arm out at the same time that your right leg goes out and vice versa. It's difficult to walk that way, isn't it?
When drawing your initial stick figure, keep in mind where the weight of the body is being carried. Draw a vertical line from this point. Now, stop thinking of this as a cartoon character and simply think of it as a shape. If this shape were to be cut out of your sketchbook, would it be able to stand on its own — or would it tip to one side?