This is a public version of the members-only Art with Justin Bua, at ArtistWorks. Functionality is limited, but CLICK HERE for full access if you’re ready to take your playing to the next level.

These lessons are available only to members of Art with Justin Bua.
Join Now

The Fundamentals of Drawing
Building Skills in Drawing
Advanced Drawing and Painting
Bua's Master Lessons
Business of Art
«Prev of Next»

Art Lessons: Three Shapes of the Figure

Lesson Video Exchanges () Lesson Study Materials () This lesson calls for a video submission
Study Materials
information below
Lesson Specific Downloads
Play Along Tracks
Backing Tracks +
Written Materials +
Additional Materials +
resource information below Close
Collaborations for
resource information below Close
Submit a video for   

This video lesson is available only to members of
Art with Justin Bua.

Join Now

information below Close
Course Description

This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Art with Justin Bua. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Art Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

CLICK HERE for full access.
now we're talking about the three shapes
of the body.
And this is really important because the
one thing that they all have in common
is that they're connected by the spine.
Everything else, the hands, the legs,
those are extremities.
So we really have to understand how these
three shapes work together.
So what three shapes am I talking about?
That's what I wanna know.
Here we go.
We're talking about the head,
going into the rib cage,
going into the pelvis.
So, this is one, two,
So those are the three shapes.
And we really have to figure out a way
to break it down into simple shapes.
So let's take the rib cage.
The rib cage is right around 12" high,
8" deep, and 10" wide.
Obviously, it varies from individual to
But let's, let's break it down into a
understandable shape that we can all
relate to.
And you might be able to relate to one and
not relate to another.
So I'm gonna give you a couple of iconic
that you can use to construct your figure.
So the rib cage I, I like to call this,
the bullet.
Cuz it's kinda shaped like a bullet.
And I just draw like this.
And obviously there's an opening here.
Like that.
for all intensive purposes, the rib cage
can be kinda turned into a bullet.
Now the important thing is to make sure
there's an opening for where the neck
comes out.
Like that.
And then, you could kinda construct as
you're doing your figure,
you can construct, on, on your bullet
And try to build from there.
So you could see here how nicely we could
kinda build the form out.
But maybe you just say, you know what,
The bullet is cool.
The bullet is interesting, but the bullet
is not for me.
That's fine.
So let's talk about something else that
you can really kinda.
Think about that makes sense for you.
Because like I said, there are no rules in
drawing, there are just tools in drawing.
You don't have to construct a figure's
torso with the bullet shape.
For me sometimes the bullet works, for me
sometimes it doesn't.
So another shape that I like to go to is a
box because the rib cage
is really similar to a box.
So, let's say from the back, if we have a
We just have to do a very simple box, like
And obviously, whatever
direction your figure is, you're gonna
find the back of that figure.
And the spine, like that.
So, maybe the box works,
because you can put scapulas on the box.
And you could start building a figure,
your trapezius on the box.
You could all, you can do all these
wonderful things on the box that wasn't
working for you.
Like it was for the bullet.
just doing a little bit more here to show
Kinda how it all fits together.
Okay, so that is another way to do it.
How about the pelvis?
So now we realize that with, with the with
we can use a bullet,
like that or
we can use a box, like that.
Either way works, either way is good, and
either way is,
has to be comfortable for you.
So what do you like to do?
Why don't you draw a couple of bullets for
torsos, draw a couple of boxes, and see
what feels more organic to you.
Maybe, maybe one feels more organic than
the other.
It's really up to you.
Either way it's just another device to
kinda help you see and
imagine what's going on with the rib cage.
You don't have to think about, the worst
thing that could happen is if you could,
you start drawing the rib cage.
And you kinda start articulating every
little rib and
you get caught up in the nuances of
What the rib cage bullet or box is doing
for you is letting you see it as one unit.
So you don't have to think about it as all
these tiny little ribs in the sternum and
all of that stuff that's going on in
The more simple you are the easier it's
going to be for you to see and
understand what's going on.
Okay, so now let's talk about the pelvis.
So we have.
Let's say we're using a bullet.
And we have the pelvis.
Maybe we're gonna draw it as, a cone like
That might be the best thing.
We can do it front or back.
Let's do it back.
So the cone might be a really good symbol
because we're able to
quickly kinda play off of that.
And get the pin side.
And let's
maybe make that leg come out that
And this direction.
And so, see we can just start building it.
What I've done is I've just used the
symbolic shape
that we start to build upon.
So that all just came from the cone.
Okay well, what else have you got?
Because, maybe the cone is not the best
design for me to build upon.
Okay, well.
How about a box?
A shorter box.
Usually the pelvis is 8" high, 6 in, 6"
deep, and 10" wide.
So let's think about it then, from the
front, as more of a box.
Like that.
That might work for you, too.
When you have the pelvis just as a little
You have the rib cage right about that
distance apart.
So, you could really just take your fist.
Right here.
You don't have as much space as you think
you do.
You could take your fist and barely fit it
between your ribs and your hips okay.
So there's really not that much distance
between here and here.
A lot of people think that.
They're really, really wide apart.
A lot of people think that they're all
squished on top of each other, but
in reality, it's about a fist distance.
So it's really important to take note of
So let's say you do have your pelvis here,
and you have your bullet here.
Well, that can work.
Now typically though that's a little bit
The boxes use a little bit more for men.
So with women I
prefer to use a a cylinder or I prefer to
use a bowl that's tipping.
So sometimes when I draw a pelvis.
I think about it like this.
Now the reason a tipping bowl is a good
way to use a good symbol for a woman.
Is because women are obviously wider at
the hips, wider because of child birth.
But also, it kinda offers us space.
We can immediately start really feeling
how volumetric the figure is.
And that's an amazing thing.
So, immediately if you use a bowl, and you
well that's kinda where I'm gonna go with
That kinda presents you with, you know,
just a lot of spacial relations right off
the bat.
So here would be kinda the way I would
interpret the female figure, like that.
And obviously, you can, you can do your
own thing.
This is just what works for me as I'm
constructing the figure.
When I'm drawing from life,
I'm not really thinking about the symbolic
interpretation of constructing a figure.
Because I'm actually just looking, I'm
observing, and
I'm using the knowledge that I already
But when I'm creating a figure out of my
it's really important to have the certain
symbols to help me construct.
This is called constructive drawing.
So this is really one of the most
important things
when you are drawing out of your head.
Maybe you just don't have a figure.
You can't afford a figure.
You don't have the luxury of living in a
place where you have access to a figure.
And you say, I really want to draw this
figure and I, I,
I don't really know how to start.
Well, okay, here's a great place to start.
Start with kinda constructing the head,
the rib cage, and the pelvis.
So, here's a.
You know, here's the, the bowl, here is
the box,
and here is the cone.
So we've got one, whoops,
one version of the pelvis.
Two versions of the pelvis.
And finally, the third version of the
Cone, box, cup or bowl.
The rib cage, I've
got the bullet, and
I've got the box.
These are just geometric shapes obviously.
So now that you have this way to construct
the torso and
the pelvis we're gonna move on to how do
we construct the head.
So, now we're talking about the head.
So a simple way to break the head down is
obviously just a cube, you know,
it's a, sometimes you see a head, and
you just kind of think, God that guy's got
a boxy head.
And that's what the guy looks like.
So that's kind of a, that's one way to
break it down.
Now that's very, very, very, very simple.
Other way is just a cylinder.
Did you ever see those little maquettes,
those wood maquettes of the figure,
and they're super simple, but
a lot of artists buy them because they
want to know, they want to have reference.
Those heads are basically just like this.
So, now clearly that works on [LAUGH] some
level for some people.
Just one of these.
Those are those heads, too.
So, you can construct the head as a box.
You can construct the head in a
cylindrical way like that.
Whatever you feel comfortable with works.
Now, let's take those shapes and
build a figure moving.
So you gotta think about this
Like let's say you have an armature and
you have a figure on the armature like
that because you're sculpting.
I make a lot of sculpture references
because in sculpture you think
about things in three dimensional terms.
So and you always have that wire running
through it.
You have the neck which is curving always
this direction and you have the spine
curving in this direction and the spine
comes down like that.
[SOUND] So here
you have
the torso,
the pelvis in
perspective and
the head.
So, you're always kind of thinking about
things moving.
There's the torso.
I'm gonna use a different kinda head this
The cylindrical head.
The bottom of that
rib-cage and the pelvis.
And see you always have the spine running
running through like that, okay?
this is a really good exercise to kinda
always just play around with these shapes.
It doesn't have to be dynamic like this
where the you know,
the clavicle, the shoulders are moving
this way,
the pelvis is moving this way, the head is
on an angle.
You know, sometimes it could be more
where you just have a head, and
you have a rib cage, and you have a
Now, this is designing with the box.
But it's a good assignment.
It's a good assignment to start figuring
things out.
And I would play around with this because
this is a really, really important thing
to get down, rib cage and maybe you could
change it into a bullet.
And remember,
these line up, these actually line up,
like that.
This lines up to this.
And the more you practice it, the better
you'll get because practice
makes perfect and a perfect practice makes
a perfect performance.
Get a little crazy when you're drawing,
all the time by yourself.
That's what happens when you're an only
Do a lot of sitting around drawing.
Okay, so one shape,
torso, head, pelvis.
Those are the three shapes in
So now let's maybe take those three shapes
and add a little bit of extremities so
we can start creating our own figure,
we wanna now kinda take these, these
And play with them.
We wanna play with them.
Here's that really nice torso shape.
And then we have the really,
let's do a little bit more of a, of a bowl
shape here.
And we could always, so we start to find
where we wanna play with it.
So, let's say this is the, you know, this
is the the front of the figure like this.
Then we could start to play with that.
We're using that as the front.
We're just constructing out of our
imagination, but
we've got something to construct over.
So even when we create
the oblique muscles or where the pubic
bone is.
We're, we're creating from a place of
understanding that we're
building on top of these simple shapes.
You know, and, and
the same with the arms, is like we don't
have to come up with a formula for those
because really, we've talked about it just
being a simple cylinder, like that.
So pel, the ribcage.
We're seeing a little bit underneath it.
Like that.
And then imagine the light is coming down.
And then we're catching a little bit of
light here.
And then as it moves back into space.
We're kind of losing that light again,
like that.
The pelvis, the leg is coming out, like
And once again, we're constructing that
We're constructing it.
That leg.
We're constructing that leg and a simple
cylinder shape.
And if the light's coming down there.
This is casting a shadow.
This hitting here.
Casting a shadow onto the arm.
Rolling that form.
Rolling that form.
Rolling it.
Really just kind of quickly creating.
The illusion of light falling onto this
image that we've
constructed from our imagination.
And we can do that because we've had these
simple shapes that are really fundamental.
[SOUND] The arm
coming from here, et cetera and so on.
So, and maybe from a back view.
Like to create a back view.
Why not?
So maybe use a bullet.
You've got a bullet, and then is a,
is the figure, feel like a figure be
twisting, twisting in here.
And we got the pelvis here like that.
So it's pinching here.
See how the pelvis is pinching?
And then, I'm sorry.
The rib cage and pelvis are coming
together and
pinching like a little, like a bean.
Like that.
Pinching like a bean.
Those simple little things are important.
As it's pinching, we're going to the other
side of that bullet.
And the scapula is moving in the direction
of that.
And this is how we're creating our figure.
And we're creating a, you know?
Pretty good out of our head figure based
on these really simple principles.
So, maybe we don't need a model for this.
We need a model down the road, if we wanna
investigate some more complicated things.
But for this, you know, we've got maybe a
figure sitting down.
Like that.
And kind of laying down a little
You ever heard that word, odalisque?
First time, maybe.
Talking about maybe a Jean Dominique
I'm kind of softening that shadow, as it
goes away into space.
The head is here and the neck is coming
And she's got her hair in a bun.
you could see that like just, you know,
just blacking it in real fast.
You could see that we're kind of getting
some interesting
shapes that are built on some some simple
principles of just
the head being a cylinder.
The rib cage being a bullet.
See the bullet in here?
Right in here.
And the pelvis also just being a cylinder.
And obviously, as you work it,
you can erase things that are just too
many lines, too many extra lines.
Things that are just too subtle.
Maybe add some little accents of darks.
But [NOISE] this is the way that we start
to actually construct from our
And we could figures that do anything.
You know, we could build figure that are
swinging bats.
We could build figures that are playing
We could build figures that are in
We can build figures that are.
Just glorious.
And pious.
And noble.
With the power of art, we are the ultimate
And we can create from our imagination.
And that's a very powerful thing.
Creating something out of nothing.
And that's what makes this one of the most
beautiful exercises that you can do.
Because you are actually creating
something out of nothing with those simple
So if you follow those simple tools
[NOISE] with the head and
the pelvis and the rib cage.
You can create not only your own figure,
but your own world.