Lesson #2: Looking at Proportion

Part of the unit: The Figure at Rest and at Play |


How can we draw a figure in proportion?
Students will be able to:
Identify proportional relationships in the body
Draw a figure in proportion using the head as a unit of measurement
Students will understand that:
Artists observe anatomical relationships in the human form.

12x18 drawing paper, ebony pencils, erasers, drawing boards


A large photograph of a standing figure from a newspaper, several 12" or 16" wooden manikins positioned in simple standing poses.


Display a student gesture drawing from the last lesson. Explain that these drawings focused only on the action of the figure and that today's lesson will focus on drawing the figure in proportion.

Display a large photograph of a standing figure from a newspaper.  Ask the class to determine the height of the model.  When they realize that they can't possibly know the figure's height, explain that artists use the head as a unit of measurement.  Using a black marker, place guidelines at the top and bottom of the head and count off the number of times the head goes into the figure.  Discuss the concept of proportion.  Add to the word wall. 

Direct the students to the photograph of a standing figure they brought for homework.  Using their pencils, direct them to place lines directly on the photograph to determine the number of heads of the model.  Share responses.

Invite a student to stand in front of the room.  Demonstrate how to "sight" with a pencil to measure the height of the student.  

  • Using the head as a meaurement, how many heads is this student?
  • Why is this proportion different from the adults in our photographs?

The teacher should explain that everyone is built differently.  Taller people like fashion models might be 9 or 10 heads high while shorter people might be 7.


The teacher should demonstrate how to use the head as a unit of measurement by lightly drawing 8 heads in a straight row down a large piece paper.  She should emphasize that the circles for the heads should be the same size.  All 8 heads should fit on the paper.  After explaining that the first circle represents the head, and will determine how "tall" the drawing will be, she should direct the students' attention to a wooden manikin positioned in a simple standing pose.

  • How can we divide the figure into approximately three sections?
  • Where do you think the waist should be? the bottom of the hips?  the knees? the elbows?
  • What shape does the torso look like? the arms? the legs?

Using simple shapes, the teacher should demonstrate how to draw directly over the "heads" to outline the manikin.  

Distribute 12x18 drawing paper, ebony pencils, erasers, and drawing boards.  Place standing manikins in several places around the room.  Direct the students to draw 8 heads vertically down the paper.  The 8 heads should fill the page. Using simple shapes, students will draw directly over the circles to replicate the manikin. 

Ask for volunteers to share their drawing with the class.

  • What was challenging about drawing the figure in proportion?
  • To what extent did you meet these challenges?

Distribute 9x12 white drawing paper.  Ask students to cut out a photograph of a figure in action (athlete, dancer, model)  from a magazine or newspaper.  Fold the drawing paper in half.  Paste the photo on one side.  On the other half, draw the figures using simple shapes.