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Merrill Kazanjian
Ultimate Guide to Human Proportion for Figure Drawing

Ultimate Guide to Human Proportion for Figure Drawing by Merrill Kazanjian


Head Lengths as Measurements: Average Joe versus Heroic Proportions

merrill kazanjian in head lengths

Michelangelo David

The most common unit of measurement in figure drawing is a head length. From antiquity through the Renaissance, artists painted and sculpted figures that were 8 or 9 head lengths tall. For instance, Michelangelo's David, when measured, is 8 head lengths tall. The proportions of the David are idealized and heroic and different than the proportions of the average person, such as myself. I measured 7 1/4 head lengths tall. I guess that I am NOT a hero!








I could never get a consistant answer on how many headlengths tall the average human body I decided to construct an experiment. have read in some places that the body is as short as 7 head lengths and as tall as 8. I measured 100 people. 50 males and 50 females....right now you are seeing only a small sample... I made sure to include various body types to make this study scientific. I was able to learn that a humans proportions in head lengths is directly related with a persons height. The shortest person measured only 5 and 1/3 head lengths...the tallest was 8 and a half head lengths. ...But the vast majority were very close to 7.5 head lengths....and When I averaged the 100 people together, the result was 7.47 head lengths. Merrill! What the Hell is that .....and how does this relate to figure drawing? ......Oh dont worry, this chart shows you a normal distribution of heights. All that you need to know is that you can use 7.5 head lengths as a fairly accurate measurement, 95 percent of the time. So there its settled. The average human is 7.5 head lengths tall. Spaces on our bodies equivalent to one head length are...on our arm, 1.) from the top of the armpit to the joint of the elbow 2.) From the bottom of our chin to our nipples 3.) From our nipples to our navel 4. ) The height of our rear end. While females have differences in their anatomy, these measurements will work on them as well. Where do two head lengths fit on the human body? 1.) Its two head lengths down the upper leg 2.) It is also two head lengths down the lower leg 3.) It is two head lengths between the clavicle and the anterior iliadic crest...also known as the bony area that protrudes slightly lower than and on either side of your navel. 4.) It is also two head lengths from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger 5.) It is also two head lengths down the back, not including the neck Across 1.) Two heads across the shoulders What about three head lengths? 1.) 3 head lengths from the top of the head to the belly button 2.) 3 head lengths from the top of the armpit to the tip of the middle finger and Four head lengths? 1.) The length of the leg is four head lengths I have an important suggestion for when we draw the entire body. We know that the average body is 7 1/2 head lengths. Split up these head lengths in to three from the top and four from the bottom, with the extra half head length in the middle of the body. Splitting up the body in this way allows us to identify the landmarks more easily. We know that the height of the leg is four heads and the nipples and navel are landmarks that can be used from the top down. If you dont like using headlengths, there are other useful measurements to know. For instance, did you know that our armspan is usually the same distance as our height? Notice that NBA star, Yao Ming has an equal arm span to his seven foot five inch height, in the picture on the right. Another suggestion that I have is to remember the belly button rule. This comes from Leonardo Davinci who states that if a persons legs are chopped off below the knee, the belly button becomes the center of the body. Also, it is the same distance from the top of the head to the tip of the middle finger, as it is from the ground to the belly button. Davinci also said that the width of a persons shoulders is 1/4 of their height. I have found this measurement to be less accurate than head lengths but it is still applicable most of the time. Knowing this information also gives us the ability to break the body in to four parts. 1.) Head to nipples 2.) nipples to groin 3.) Groin to kneecap 4.) Kneecap to ground Now lets talk about size relationships between similar body parts. On average, the arm is about 25 percent smaller than the leg. The hand is the same size as the face. It is also the same size as the foot without the toes. The head is very similar in size to the foot. Finally there is about one hand length between the rib cage and the pelvis. In my next video I will cover the skeletal differences between males and females. You can download the notes to this video by hitting the first link in the video description.



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