Train Your Eye With Figure Studies

Vincent Giarrano, featured in the October 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, shares a procedure for doing figure studies that work well for training your eye.

Train Your Eye With Figure Studies
By Vincent Giarrano

I have a procedure for doing figure studies that works well for training your eye—disciplining yourself to override what your mind is telling you about shapes and to follow what your eyes are really seeing. I’ve separated the steps and used darker lines so it will be clearer what’s going on. My actual lines in the early stages are quite light.


1. Draw the gesture: In a quick (just several seconds) gesture drawing with very few lines, establish the top and bottom of the figure as well as the overall rhythm and major directions of the pose. You also can indicate the angle of the hips and shoulders. Long, sweeping strokes are best; move from your shoulder and use your whole arm.


2. Draw the silhouette: Next do another gesture drawing, but this time focus on the silhouette of the figure, which brings much truer information into your drawing. Think of these first steps not as a way of achieving precise information as much as a means of getting to know what you’re really seeing.


3. Map out the figure: At this point, pause and look over the pose. Find an area or shape that you feel confident about getting accurate. From this shape, move out to neighboring shapes, one after another, bleeding out from where you started. I think of this as mapping out the figure. During this stage it’s important to consider the small individual shapes you see and also how those shapes line up with other parts of the figure.


4. Render the contour and subtleties: Once you have the figure mapped out, begin refining from a point you feel confident about. This time you’re observing and rendering the finer aspects of the figure; the subtleties of the contour, smaller shapes within your initial simple shapes and details. Shading should be put in as even, flat tones.

Keep in mind that, from the beginning, your drawing will be a series of corrections. Think of it as focusing in from a blurred image to a more defined one. When everything has been corrected, your drawing is complete.


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Why Do a Drawing Study? By Vincent Giarrano
Vincent Giarrano | Painter of Cityscapes and Interiors

New York City is the frame for solitary figures who go about their ordinary business in extraordinary pictures by Vincent Giarrano. Get your copy of the October 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine to read the feature article on his work, “City Stories” by John R. Kemp.
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Click here for the print version.

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See an award-winning artists’ approach to drawing. Click here for a link to a free preview of Grant Fuller’s Drawing Workshop from


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