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Seeing and Rendering Planes in Figure Drawing

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Visualizing Planes on the Figure
Seeing and Rendering Planes in Figure Drawing
Ed Hall, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Planes can be defined as what appear to be flat, connected surfaces across the figure. A cube only has six sides (or planes), but an arm can have a myriad number of planes, which when viewed together as a whole, make up an arm “in the round.” Even though these planes probably have some subtle convex or concave shape, many times they appear to be flat. Think of a diamond, and the planes that make up it’s shape. Think about how each plane touches the next as the diamond spins around in space. The planes border one another – their edges connect. The easiest way to visualize these planes on a figure is by squinting. When we squint, we are able to filter out all of the detail, and just see the large “value” planes.

This drawing shows value planes both on the figure and in the fabric. Notice how the breast is made up of several interesting planes of varying sizes and shapes. The same can be said of the thigh, and the shoulder blade. This drawing was done by a student who had just been introduced to the concept of planes, so the number and shapes are limited, but as you become more adept at recognizing planes, you will see that there are many different sides to a form; many different planes. It’s a very geometric approach to figure drawing, but one that I think is beneficial to understanding the three-dimensionality of us humans. Think of the figure as a topographic map, with varying levels, vistas and plateaus. In this way figure drawing can be seen as closely related to the landscape.

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