Centre Line on Portraits and on Figures

In the second stage of both portrait drawing and figure drawing, we are concerned with the construct of the internal anatomy.

The first and most important element to capture is the centre line.  Some of us can benefit from clarification of what this is.

In both cases, it is a construction line.  By construction, I mean that this line does not exist in reality.  We need to understand what it is, why we need it, and where to put it.

In Classical Drawing, any line that is referred to as a construction line, is one that one doesn’t exist in reality.  “Construction” means that such a line is one that we must deduce from observing clues, and that we place this line into our drawing for the purposes of placing correctly smaller forms in the right perspective.  Eventually after placing our other forms correctly, we will be erasing these construction lines.

Let’s look at these diagrams to get a better understanding.

 – Andrew Loomis, Drawing Heads and Hands

These diagrams show the same head at various angles and in various perspectives.  The centre line on a portrait is that line which divides the left side from the right side of the mask of the face.  It intersects the widow’s peak, the bridge of the nose, the philtrum, and the cleft of the chin.  When placing this line, those are the anatomical clues that we look for, and in placing this centre line, we are immediately capturing the angle and axis of the head.

The centre line does not need to intersect the ball of the nose, as that protrudes out from the front plane of the head.

The centre line, then helps us place, perpendicular to it, the eyeline, the brow line, the nose line and the lip line.

Here are some further diagrams to help us practice locating the centre line on different tilts of the head.

Gottfried Bammes, Die Gestalt des Menschen

The centre line is equally important on figures.  It divides the left and right portions of the torso and helps us locate symmetrical forms in their proper perspective.  It also enables us to capture the gesture of the pose and the major change of direction of the torso in a contraposto pose.

After placing the centre line on the figure, we can locate accurately the line just beneath the pectorals and the iliac crests.  The centre line on a torso can be traced from the pit of the neck, down the sternum, down the linia alba, to the belly-button and then to the pubic area.

Here are more diagrams from Bammes, displaying that all important centre line on both the front pose and the back pose.

Gottfried Bammes, Die Gestalt des Menschen

© Mandy Boursicot 2013