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The Canons

As a child, I’m sure you were already drawing people as you saw them with your own eyes and your simple understanding of details and proportions. Today, I’m sure that you draw people a lot better but you probably still wish to make them more realistic. How can you make your drawings of people look real?

If you want to learn how to draw the human body, you will need to respect the “Canons of the Human Body” as we call the model used for reference in order to draw a body with correct proportions.

The first to be known whose proportions are listed in a chart goes back to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. To establish a canon, one needed to decide what was “beautiful” in a body and gather those rules in one single model. Of course, the concept of beauty is quite subjective and discussions are still vivid.

In the Signus drawing course, Piet Herzeel explains very clearly what a canon is and how useful it is in the art of drawing. He introduces different models to us and then shows us how they evolved in time and how to use them.
Piet Herzeel defines what should be a good canon for the drawer.
In the special workshop about the human body, thanks to the step by step explanations, you will be able to draw a person with realistic proportions.
This first approach gives amazing results. In the “drawings to do“ chapter  you can have fun building different bodies using the special charts.

Short, tall, fat and skinny people… You can give the right proportions to all your characters thanks to Piet Herzeel’s explanations developed in the specific module about the human canons.

Drawing people


The human body

Arm, leg, torso, head, hand, every part of the human body respects proportions. The bones making up the body follow rules of movement and limitations in the directions and angles.

The Canon of Proportions (The standards)

How to understand and create a canon (Standard) and obtain realistic results.

Respecting and using the correct proportions to draw realistic characters. The proportions of the human figure will vary due to the age, sex and type of person. Tall, short, large, thin, young, old…

Drawing the body Proportions of the body

You will be able to learn and draw a Standard quickly and easily, with time you’ll be able to place the body in the position that is suitable for your drawing, perhaps a person who is sitting down, running or holding an object. Learn where to place the lines defining the waist, shoulders, brest, knees, elbows and eyes, but also the limits in movement.

Drawing a hand

The hand is one of the most characteristic features of man; by means of it he is able to perform the most delicate manipulations. It may also be made use of as a means of expression. The actor’s art is one of the most striking examples of this the finger to the lips to indicate silence, the hands held up to express horror, are only instances of the more common modes of expression by this means. This may be carried further, as in pantomime, and men who could not otherwise converse are enabled to interchange ideas by means of this gesture language.

The artist will frequently have recourse to this mode of suggestion, as it enables him to assist in giving expression and action to the figures he represents.

But in other ways the hand reflects to some extent the character and mode of life of its owner. Apart altogether from the refinement associated with the female, very great variations in the form of the hand are met with in different individuals, modifications in many instances due to the uses to which the hand has been put.

To represent the hand of a blacksmith as delicate and refined would be absurd from a pictorial standpoint, though it is curious to note that the hands and fingers of those employed in the most delicate manipulations are often clumsy and uncouth looking. As a rule, however, we associate delicacy of hand with refinement and with mental rather than manual labour, whilst a muscular hand is regarded as an attribute of strength and of a powerful physique.

A man’s hands are often as characteristic as his face, and in portraiture the artist frequently avails himself of this feature. With women, however, this is less marked, as here we expect to see elegance and beauty rather than character, a circumstance which has often led nainters in the past to supply the hands from other and better models.

This article is an extract of the Signus online drawing course