The Muscles of the TorsoThe drawings here show the major muscle groups, the visibility of which will depend upon the fitness of the figure you are drawing. The fashion for working out in the gym to achieve a toned body means that you should not find it too hard to find someone with a well-developed torso to pose for you so that you can make the most of the musculature shown here.
The TorsoMale and female torsos present very different surfaces for the artist to draw. Because most men are more muscular than women, light will fall directly upon the angles and planes of the body and there will be more shadowed areas where the skin curves away from the light. The viewer will immediately understand these darker areas as showing muscular structure. In the case of the female torso, the shadowed areas are longer and smoother, because the planes of the body are not disrupted by such obvious muscle beneath the skin.
The male torso shown here from the front, back and side has a very distinctive set of muscles, which are easily visible on a reasonably fit man. Some of the edges of the large muscles are sharply marked, while other edges are quite soft and subtle. Showing this variation will prevent your drawing from looking like a cartoon strong-man character.
The female figure shows less of the muscle structure because of the layer of subcutaneous fat that softens all the harsh edges of the muscles. This is why women generally look rounder and softer than men do.
Here I show two classical interpretations of the human physique at its most beautiful and powerful: the first example, by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo, shows the torso of Adam, the first man; and the second, the body of the goddess Venus, is a Roman copy of a Greek original.
These diagrams of the male and female torso show their proportions. The central vertical line is divided horizontally by four lines which denote, from top to bottom, the top edge of the clavicles ( collar bones), the lower end of the sternum, the level of the navel and the lower edge of the pubic bone. Seen from the back, the same lines mark the top of the clavicles, the lower edge of the shoulder blades, the small of the back at the level of the navel, and the base of the sacrum of the iliac. The latter is hidden by the flesh part of the buttocks. The female proportions are the same, but generally on a slightly smaller scale. The main difference is the widest point, which on the man is invariably the shoulders and on the woman may be the hips instead. The divisions are all one head length apart from each other, so there is a proportion of about three head lengths to the torso.
The female back view shows a smoother-looking figure because a woman’s muscles are usually less pronounced than a man’s and this produces more harmonious, gentle changes from plane to plane. When looking at the divisions from the back, notice the curving of the spine, which can change the proportions of the t