I continued drawing the Empress, getting the feet onto the canvas, then editing the figures to make them a touch more graceful. Altering figures is a risky business because if you do too much they stop being cohesive and anatomical relationships begin to fail. Although we may not all study the anatomy of the body, we certainly can tell when it doesn’t feel right.
I’ve yet to fully understand how the background of this painting works, so I think I’ll probably seal it as it is, then worry about it later. Presently all I’m seeing when I imagine the piece is a lot of flowers, but they lack form. I plan to research cherry trees, because when they blossom there’s such an abundance of beautiful petals, and that’s the feeling I’m after: multitudes of flowers cascading around the girls.
A few technical clues for checking proportion from the great Vitruvius – I use these all the time and find them an incredibly helpful “rule of thumb”. Like any rule, you will find that oftenÂ they aren’t quite right, but Vitruvius wasn’t messing about, he was interested in the general human form.
The eyes are at the centre of the head.
The hand is the same size as the face.
The fingers are the same size as the palm.
The groin is the centre of the height of the body.
One head units can be used to measure from chin to nipple; nipple to navel; navel to groin.
We did an impromptu survey in my drawing class yesterday, with my students bringing a picture of somebody they thought was particularly beautiful. By dividing the faces into Vitruvian proportions we noted two interesting trends: we tend to like the appearance of women with large eyes and thin faces, but prefer men who are classically proportioned. I’d like to develop this survey a little more so that I can apply it to my paintings, because I’m particularly interested in our understanding of beauty.