Five Tips to Drawing the Figure

By simplifying the shapes of the parts of the body, you’ll find them much easier to draw:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Mark Gottsegen is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and chair of the American Society of Testing and Materials subcommittee on artist’s materials.

You may also like these articles: