Monthly Archives: January 2009

Back to Basics: Shape

Lately, I’ve been looking at shapes in SL with a new eye.

Anybody having anything to do with art knows DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. This drawing depicts the proportions of an idealized male figure according to Leonardo DaVinci’s notions of art and physiology. Accordingly, Western artists have adopted some standards for what constitutes an appropriately proportioned body – and the unit of measure is the length of the head.

Accordingly from the Wikipedia:

The idealized human figure is traditionally represented as being 8 heads tall:

1. head
2. from the bottom of the head to the middle height of a chest (place where a man’s nipples should be)
3. from previous position to the navel
4. from previous position to (upper edge of) the pubis
5. from previous position to the middle height of thigh
6. from previous position to the middle height of a calf
7. from previous position to the point just below the ankles
8. from previous position to the feet

It’s important to keep in mind that the aesthetics of Western Art are not necessarily universal and this is particularly true in SL where the shapes are malleable to a degree not normally associated with “pleasing to the eye” in RL.

For the fun of it, I built a gauge to measure my body based on the size of my head. I did this by making a series of 8 hollow boxes, linked them together, and then colored them in contrasting colors to get as clear a measure as possible. I stood on a posing stand and attached the gauge to my spin, aligning it vertically and offsetting it so that one side bisected my body lengthwise.

body_001The gauge shows that I fit pretty well into the idealized human with the exception that my hips are a bit short, leaving my legs a bit longer than might be appropriate in relation to the rest of my body.

But this is SL and not RL so some variation is to be expected.

Using the same gauge I can check my arms and shoulders:
body_002Technically, I should have my finger tip just touching the ends, but that looks long to me so my arms are a bit too short. The other metric is that my shoulders are just under two heads wide.

There are other traditions in proportion. Ancient Greek tradition in sculpture holds for an idealized shape of 7 heads but includes the length of the neck in the measurement of “head” and results in a longer leg and smaller head in relationship to the body.
Keep in mind that I’m a “normal” guy shape in SL. Models and dancers frequently have legs that are elongated to so that their bodies are 9 to 9 1/2 heads high. SL aesthetic aside, some of those shapes look grotesque to me — usually appearing too tall — and males often take on the appearance of muscle bound pin-heads while females look pipe-thin.

I’m not sure how this all relates to fashion, but the shape is where our avatars begin. The ancients knew that proportion was the key. And here’s a way to look at your own proportions to see how you measure up to your own idea of what a good avi should look like.