Today, we are going to look at the pelvis, this massive structure inside the figure. It’s hugely important for the gesture, it’s hugely important for the anatomy and for the forms. But it’s also horribly complicated. It is a bit of a nightmare shape:
Now, I have a little confession for you. I haven’t studied the complex shape of the pelvis very much at all. We’re going to bypass a lot of the complexity and really focus on the things that are going to help us to draw better, just as we did with the ribcage. For the pelvis, we’re actually going to take even more liberties as we heavily simplify it.
The 80/20 Rule
Have you heard of the 80/20 Rule? Quite often, when trying to achieve an outcome, 80% of the benefit of the improvement will come from just 20% of the effort. In this case, we might be closer to 90/10. 10% of the information about the pelvis is going to give us 90% of the drawing benefits. So, before the anatomy police come and arrest me, let’s give you that 10%.
Find the angle of the pelvis
The first thing to do is figure out what angle the pelvis is on. If we’re looking at it from the front, we’re going to do this by checking the ASIS points.
So what are the ASIS points?
You can think of the pelvis as having an opening around the top, like in the diagram below. But the bony bit, the actual pelvis bone, doesn’t go all the way around. If you feel the front of you, you’ll notice that it’s kind of soft at the tummy, there’s no bones there, but if you come out to the sides of your front, there’s these bony bits here that kind of stick out from the pelvis: Those are the ASIS points (where the red arrows come to in the diagram on the right below).
Sometimes the ASIS points can be a little bit tricky to find, so I’m going to give you a whole set of clues to help you figure out where they are.
ASIS Clue #1: The ASIS Points are on the front outer corner of the torso.
What I mean by that is, they’re not going to be where I’ve got the little red crosses on the figure below. The cross furthest to the left is too far out and the other two are too far in.
For the ASIS points, we’re looking for points out on the edges on the sides of
the front of the person but before you get to the side plane of the person.
ASIS Clue #2: Follow the diagonals from the crotch up to find the ASIS points
To work out how high up the ASIS points are, follow the diagonals from the crotch up – they’re going to direct us up to those ASIS points.
ASIS Clue #3: Look for the obliques
Another clue is to look for the obliques, the kind of ‘love handles’ that bulge over the crest of the pelvis. They’re going to come around the top crest of the pelvis and that’s going to guide you right to these ASIS points as well.
ASIS Clue #4: Look for the horizontal angle
What is the pelvis doing? Can we figure that out? So if the person has their pelvis shifted to one side, it’s often going to rotate with it that way. That might help us to figure out what overall angle we expect the ASIS points to be on.
ASIS Clue #5: Look for the angle of the centre line
Another thing we can check is the line from the crotch going up towards the belly button, going up the middle of the torso. What angle is that on? That is going to tell us the overall angle of the pelvis and we would expect the ASIS points to be roughly perpendicular to that line, like in the example below.
ASIS Clue #6: Look at the tops of the thighs
Another clue is the tops of the thighs. The ASIS points are going to be just a little bit up from the top of the thighs. So for example, if the person is sitting or if their leg is raised, you can see where the top of the thigh comes up to. Then you just go up a bit – there’s the ASIS point.
ASIS Clue #7: Match the pose
The final thing you can do is you can do the pose that the person is doing. Try and match it and then figure out where are those ASIS points on yourself. You can feel them and then you can figure out where they would be on that figure.
A final tip for pelvis angle: how do we find the angle from the back?
I think it’s actually a bit easier to find the ASIS points from the back. So you still have those love handles bulging out as your first clue and the butt crack will give you an idea
of the overall angle too. Plus, very often you’ll see that at the top of that butt crack, there will be these two dots from the sacrum. Those dots will give you the angle of the overall pelvis.
Check the tilt
So, we’ve figured out what angle the pelvis is on but now we can figure out, is it tilted forward or tilted back? And what I mean by that is, in a neutral standing position, the pelvis is usually tilted forward. In other words, the crest of the pelvis, that top opening of the pelvis, is normally slanting down from the back to the front in a forward tilt.
And what’s really nice is that the tilt of the pelvis is often the opposite to the overall tilt back of the ribcage. And so what we get is this really nice shape where there’s a big stretch in the front body and a little bit more of an angle change at the back. As we know from our gesture tutorial, that kind of squash and stretch is really nice for figure drawing.
Check the rotation of the pelvis to your eyes
Are we looking straight at the front of it or are we looking at it from the side? Or maybe we’re looking at it from a bit of a 3/4 angle?
One thing we can check is if we go from the centre line to each edge, how much can we see on the far side of that line and how much can we see on the near side of that line? Below is an example.
Another thing we can check is how much of the side of the butt can we see? So if we’re looking straight at the front of it, we’re not going to see much of either side of the butt, but if we’re looking at it from a bit of an angle we’ll see a little bit of the side of the butt. We want to check that, we want to note that and think how much of that centre line, how much of the far side can we see and how much of the near side can we see.
Remember the pelvis is a rigid mass
So now I understand how the pelvis is oriented in 3D space. I know its angle, I know its tilt,
and how it’s rotated relative to my eyes. If it was a simple box shape, I could draw that box. I know everything I need to know about it. And that’s actually something that a lot of people do. They just draw it as a box shape to get started.
The top edge is across the ASIS points and then you figure out how it’s tilted to project the rest of the box out from there. You can figure out how much of the side plane you can see versus the front of the box because we know how it’s rotated to our eyes.
A box is actually a really nice way of starting to draw the pelvis area. But I personally prefer the ‘pelvis pants’.
So, the pelvis pants is something that we learn in our Fresh Eyes Challenge, which is a great way to learn about the basics of figure anatomy. It gives us a really simple 3D shape which really maps to what we can actually see. It helps us draw the angle, the tilt, the rotation, and we can build our anatomy onto it pretty easily.
Whatever way you choose to visualise and draw this pelvis area, the point is that the pelvis is a rigid mass. It’s not bendy.
The angle across the hips and the ASIS point and the tops of the thighs have all got to move together. If I’m looking from the back, the sacrum dots give me the angle of the pelvis; the bulges of the external obliques which are above the pelvis, need to be on that angle too. And the bottom of the butt needs to make sense with the overall angle of it.
See the whole story
Now what really matters is not so much the pelvis itself but how the pelvis relates to the ribcage.
In this lesson, we used a really simple way of simplifying the ribcage into a simple egg shape. Now we’ve figured out how to find those ASIS points and stuff like the pelvis pants. If we’ve got the
pelvis pants and the ribcage egg related properly, we’ll see an angle change and therefore then we can squash and stretch the midsection between these two rigid masses. Through this, we’ve figured out probably the most important idea in all of figure drawing. We have done more for our figure drawing than we would have done if we’d read and memorised an entire anatomy book. This is the heart of gesture. It’s also the heart of the forms and the heart of the structure.
A couple of extra things to note
The male pelvis is going to be a similar width to the
ribcage, but the ribcage is wider from the front view than it is from the side. So if a person is twisting, then the width of the ribcage may appear to differ. Bit if you’re just looking at a person from the front, the ribcage and pelvis will be similar in width. For a female figure, very often (but not always), the pelvis is going to be wider and the ribcage and shoulders are going to be narrower.
Another useful common difference between male and female figures is that the obliques, which are just above the pelvis (the ones that bulge out above the pelvis). They might have some fat on them and they create those love handle shapes. That bulge is often going to be more prominent on male figures.
So often we’re going to see the outline come back in for the top of the pelvis on a male figure, whereas on the female figure that often gets smoothed out so that it doesn’t come back in in the same way. It tends to be a smoother curve all the way down from the waist and around the side of the hips.
So that’s it for today! I really hope that you’ve been enjoying this new anatomy series! For more advice on learning anatomy, I’d recommend checking out this article, or trying out our free Fresh Eyes drawing challenge here.