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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.


The study of drapery is happily one that can be carried on at almost any place, time, and season, and perhaps it is because of this very ease of access that it is so often neglected and many an otherwise satisfactory picture will be marred by the poor drawing of drapery and clothing. When the weather is unsuitable for sketching, when there is no person available as a model, time may well be spent on a little practice in drawing drapery. Take any piece of material, a handkerchief for lack of anything better. Pin it up on the wall or to a curtain—anywhere so long as it falls in natural folds—and make a sketch of it. Notice the tendency to trian­gular forms, the way in which the folds radiate from the pin, and the foreshortening of the curves which form the bottom edge of the handkerchief. Having satisfied yourself with that sketch, take the handkerchief down and throw it over some object such as a book standing on edge or an inverted flower vase, and make another sketch. Notice the arrangement of the folds; they will end abruptly at the top if falling from a sharp edge, and will

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fade away gradually from a rounded shape. Something of the underlying object should be obvious from your drawing of the handkerchief in the same way that clothes should suggest the limbs and body they cover. Then make a sketch of it, knotted, or tied around something. As you tie the knot (which makes the best study if not tied too tightly), notice which fold passes behind and where it reappears, and be on the lookout for this continuity when you come to draw it. Fig. 117 to 123 show outline studies of drapery. Fig. 117 shows it loosely looped around the figure in natural folds. Long, sweeping lines predominate. In Fig.118 it is more bunched, and the long lines are disturbed and irregular. In Fig. 119 the fluted line of the edge of the material is noticeable. Fig. 120 shows the abrupt change of line where the drapery trails on the floor. In Fig. 123 the triangular form of the folds is again plain, and also the fluted edge. Fig. 122 emphasizes the under­lying human form even though the drapery is voluminous.Fig. 121 shows the flowing lines and repetition of form in material blown by the wind. The usual tendency in drawing drapery is to shun straight lines and make the folds too rounded. The angularity in Figs. 120 and 123 should be noted. Figs. 124 and 129 show how the lines of material, in one case loosely and in the other more closely draped, follow and suggest the form they cover. Fig. 126, a sketch of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, shows the charm of simply interpreted drapery; Fig. 125, the elaborate arrange­ment of a bygone fashion. Fig. 127 is given to show that the ragged, careless effect of old clothes may be accentuated by ragged and somewhat carefree lines. Fig. 128 gives folds of a thick, rich material. The broad folds show the thick, com­parative stiffness of the drapery and the reflected light in the shadows suggests the sheen of brocade. Thick material will not fall into narrow folds unless artificially arranged, and will tend to straight lines and angles. Thin material falls in narrower, less clearly defined folds with more flowing lines and rounder corners. drapery loosely looped around the figure in natural foldsdrapery118drapery119drapery120drapery121drapery122drapery123drapery124drapery125drapery126drapery127drapery128drapery129