The human body is a road map of memories and experiences. Laugh lines tell of the comedies we watch, the silly things we hear children say, or simply good times with friends. Wrinkles show our worry for loved ones and stretch marks–although they’re dreaded and regretted by many–celebrate the mystery of life itself.
Then there’s shape: the arch of a foot, the curve of a hip, the angle of the jaw. These lines and more have captured our attention since the beginning of time. Perhaps it’s the unique nature of the body that makes us want to draw it. No two are alike, and even if people share the same shape or build, they each have their own freckles and physical idiosyncrasies that make them each an individual. Or, maybe it’s what we have in common; when we study another body, we can’t help but compare it to our own, for better or for worse.
To me, figure drawings are beautiful because they’re timeless. It could be a person from any century, any country in the world, and yet I can relate to his or her humanity. Of course, artists use different styles; Lucian Freud was brutally honest in his renditions of the form, to the point of causing offense to–(gasp)–even other artists. His work reminds me of Denmark artist Charles Weed’s portraits, including Guitar Player (above; oil, 51×39.5). This painting was included in a gallery brochure sent to our offices several months ago, and I loved it so, that I’ve kept this musician in sight, right by my lamp, ever since.
Artist Ho-Jun Lee once said, “As a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis inside a chrysalis before it becomes a butterfly, I believe that we are constantly striving for personal growth.” His figure painting, Chrysalis No. 7 (below, left; oil, 30×48), was a winner from The Artist’s Magazine‘s 2010 Annual Art Competition. It’s a beautiful portrayal of the body; not glorified, not defamed, just true. Of course, the lighting and pose add to the appeal of this painting. “The focal point, the left hand pointing to the ground, also draws in the view,” says Lee. “The ground represents the earth where we all grow.”
If you’re pulled in the direction of wanting to draw the figure, Robert Barrett’s “Life Drawing: How to Portray the Figure with Accuracy and Expression” is a resource that you’ll want to have handy. No matter if your style leans toward contemporary or is true classical realism or textbook illustrative, you can rely on this book for hundreds of figure drawing examples, advice and step-by-step lessons.
Your fellow human,