I’ve recently started going to life drawing sessions and have been plagued with constant problems when it comes to foreshortening. I just can’t seem to nail it, and I can’t figure out why. The lines I draw look correct compared to the model, but the drawing somehow never looks right.

Does anyone have any advice here? It’s really bothering me, I really want to improve this in my drawing.


For me I generally find it’s easier to think of foreshortened elements as 3d objects, drawing a wire frame-like structure to figure out the perspective.

For example, if an arm is facing you outstretched at an angle, it’s often helpful to draw a series of overlapping circles to create the arm just to get a sense of how the space is being filled and obscured by itself. Quite often i’ve ended up with just part of a shoulder with a hand, as the whole arm gets shortened to almost nothing, but it looks right.

If it helps, i’ll draw a picture to explain what I mean.

I can usually skip this step now, as I’ve learnt to just see the form and contour, but a structural approach worked well for me at the beginning.


I do know what you mean, Martin. Thanks for the tip. I’ve been researching this a bit this afternoon and also found others recommending this technique. I’ll try it out tonight at our drawing session.


No worries.

I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing this (yourself included), but Loomis, Hogarth and Bridgeman are gold for figuring the building blocks of anatomy out. It’s a cliché because it’s true!


The key to good representation of a foreshortened object (arm, torso, etc.) is emphasizing its cross-sectional contour continuously along its compressed length and maintaining the right amount of perspective exaggeration as well.


Bill, could you please explain that a little more simply? Bear in mind that I’m woefully short on art theory knowledge, as my entire art education was practical, and not theoretical, and I find some of this theory stuff a bit hard to follow - I’m not sure I understand what you mean by emphasizing the cross-sectional contour continuously along the length. Why should it be emphasised? Does this help to communicate the perspective, so to speak? And by emphasised, do you mean bolder lines, or what exactly?


Leigh, I think of drawing foreshortened objects more as landscapes instead of shaded easily recognizable silhouettes. The contours of the foreshortened object’s surface becomes the focus. This make drawing foreshortened parts hard to do.

What I’m saying here is similar to what erilaz mentioned.
I see a lot of drawings depicting foreshortened arms, as an example, that are proportioned correctly but rendered ‘flat’. The details do not follow the contoured surface and do not portray the compression or textural perspective that is necessary to pull off the 2d illusion of depth.

I hope the illustration helps.
Good to see you drawing!


Thanks so much for that, Bill. That explains it very well. I think my main problem was that I was relying too much on the silhouettes, instead of hinting at the contours to communicate the perspective properly. Cheers :beer:


Quadart: nice examples… me like.

leigh: maybe you could post some examples of your work?


Here are some foreshortened arm drawings (done in PS) I decided to do recently, after doing that abstract example above.


Lovely drawings (your entire sketchbook thread is filled with great stuff)! I can really see how the effect works. I have a drawing session again tomorrow evening, and hopefully the model will pose in a way that there is some foreshortening. Unfortunately last week there weren’t any opportunities for it.

@Farchi, I’ll add some foreshortening drawings to my portfolio once I have some.


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