Clothing the Figure

To better understand the relationship between the form underneath and how it influences the drapery on top of it, try this exercise. I have my students do this often, and I still do it from time to time to brush up on my skills.

1 The form beneath. Draw an undraped figure. (A bathing suit will do if a nude model is unavailable.) Give the model a break and have him or her put on a costume with loose-fitting drapery. Have the model assume the same pose as before—this time in costume.

2 Clothing the figure. Now place a sheet of tracing paper over your drawing that’s big enough to fully cover it. Draw only the costume on your tracing paper. At times you may find it helpful to lift up the tracing paper to observe the figure underneath and review its relationship to what’s on top.

Repeat this exercise several times with a variety of poses. It will become immediately clear how much stronger the drapery studies are in establishing relationships with the underlying structure. While the model is posed with the drapery, try to design the drapery and understand the construction of the various folds.

Robert Barrett is an artist, illustrator and teacher, teaching drawing and painting at Brigham Young University. He’s a member of the Pastel Society of America and the Society of Illustrators. He’s represented by Clayton Williams Fine Art in Salt Lake City. He lives in Provo, Utah.

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