Five Tips to Drawing the Figure

Figure drawings and sketches by Ilya Repin.

Figure drawings and sketches by Ilya Repin. Article contributions from Mark Gottsegen and Bill Tilton

Easy Ways of Making Figure Drawings

When you get comfortable creating figure drawings or sketchings, you watch your whole world change. Every person — waiting in line in front of you, sitting at a table across from you at a cafe, on the bus or passing you on the sidewalk — is a figure waiting to be captured in your sketchbook. To put you at ease and in the rhythm, so you can start to fill up page upon page with sketches, here are five tips you will want to learn about simplifying the shapes of the parts of the body. From there, you’ll find every figure much easier to draw.

Hands Off

Use your non-drawing hand as a model to practice creating gesture sketches. You can also use an ordinary mitten as a model to capture the essential mass of the hand. Try drawing the mitten in a number of positions, then divide this mass into four fingers.

Out on a Limb

Practice drawing the basic arm and leg structures by thinking of them as cylinders. Initially, ignore any details that change with your viewing angle. Drawing from life is always the best approach, but if you don’t have a model handy, try substituting sections of PVC pipe, straws connected by modeling clay or pipe cleaners.

Sketch by Linda Capello

Sketch by Linda Capello

Body Art

Use the peanut shape to quickly construct a human or animal figure in any position. Then simply refine this basic shape with details. To better capture this shape, try making a model out of foam rubber, clay or another pliable substance. This model can be twisted or bent into any position for drawing.

Happy Feet

To get the basic form and positioning for feet, draw them as a three-dimensional, rectangular form similar to a brick. Practice drawing them in perspective and in a variety of positions.

Get Ahead

Initially, avoid getting enmeshed in the features and other details of the head. Instead, practice representing the head using a ball for the main portion of the skull and a bucket shape for the jaw.

When you find yourself doing this automatically, begin lightly indicating the shape and position of the nose, eyes and ears.

Once these are in place, draw the nose more definitely and add the mouth, relating its size and placement to the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin.

Next, add the eyes, relating them to the width of the mouth. Finally, sketch the ears, using the eyes and nose to gauge the proper size and position.

The Best Way Forward

Spend 10 minutes sketching people passing by. Then the next time make it 15 minutes. Then 20. Start tacking on the minutes but the consistent rule is don’t stop. Fill the page! And then another! Soon the figure drawings will flow, especially if you couple that sketchbook time with all the lessons and fun exercises Brent Eviston teaches you in Figure Drawing Essentials: Getting Started with Gesture & Shape. Get Figure Drawing Essentials now and enjoy!

Show off what you’ve done by tagging your work #artistsnetwork! We are excited to see what you’ve been working on in the studio and in the pages of your sketchbook!

Courtney

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