The current issue (Fall 2008) of American Artist Drawing Magazine features an excellent article written by my dear friend Dan Gheno. It discusses the challenges faced by artists in drawing legs, and Dan, as always, offers solutions, tips, and detailed descriptions on this efficient, yet beautiful, part of human anatomy. Our glorious gams! Brilliantly engineered, ingeniously designed for their function and, in many cases, great to look at in both men and women.
I can’t possibly add anything more to Dan’s article that would be of help to artists with their drawing. He’s got it all covered. What I can do, though, is add a little bit of art model insight to the strength, versatility and yes, expressiveness of legs. What would we do without them? Not a hell of a lot.
Art models rely heavily on their legs. I know I do. My legs are probably my best physical asset. Thanks to regular squats and lunges (well, semi-regular), they are strong enough to sustain me in long standing poses and generate dynamic movement, elegant lines, and springlike support in short poses. When I’m working, moving from quick pose to quick pose, I am always conscious of my leg muscles and try not to take them for granted. Sometimes, when I strike a one minute gesture pose in a spontaneous fashion, I feel like I’m silently communicating with them. “Thanks guys!”, I say to myself. “Hamstrings, I need you now. You’re up!”. They carry me, move me, push and pull and handle the ambitious expression and motion I demand of them. Just the sheer interplay and cooperation of the quads and hamstrings in assuming shifts in body weight, handling pressure and tension on one side while the other side takes a breather, are a testament to the beauty of our legs’ construction.
One of the many interesting points that Dan makes in his article is about the connection between the legs and pelvis. They are literally connected. A person can bend forward – or raise the leg up with a bent knee toward the torso- with the pelvis barely moving. Try it yourself. You’ll be amazed at how still the pelvis remains. But backwards motion is a different story. It’s very difficult to push your leg behind you without it bringing the pelvis back as well, up to a certain point. That’s why when I do a standing pose with one leg stepping forward, I usually lift my back leg up onto the toe (or the ball of the foot). If that back foot sits flat with the heel on the ground, the pelvis pushes back in a weird, awkward, and uncomfortable way. It’s also a strain on the calf muscle. Ballet dancers can do it easily though because they are, well, incredible. But an art model serves a much different purpose of course. The pose I just described simply looks nicer and more artistic with the back foot up on the toe. And the artists have a useful study of one leg supporting weight and the other more relaxed, which is a great drawing practice.
Drawings by Michelangelo and Caracci are among the many marvelous works you can view in Dan’s article, along with some of Dan’s own. But there is one pair of legs that doesn’t appear in Dan’s article (although he has drawn them many, many times). So here they are, as an addendum to the already impressive legs in the magazine. Hmm . . . who could these belong to? I wonder . . . 😉