Inspirations for Figure and Life Drawing Poses
Jeff Mellem teaches beginning artists how to draw the human figure, from stick figures to anatomically accurate ones in his book, How to Draw People. Here, he shares clear, easy-to-follow lessons on male art model poses that you can use to get comfortable with the proportions and arrangements of the male figure in different positions.
Four Levels to Figure Drawing
Knowing how to draw the ﬁgure is a great skill for any artist to have. If you are interested in working in one of the narrative arts, such as ﬁlms, comics, video games or illustration, being able to draw and invent ﬁgures is essential. Even if you’re more interested in expressing abstract ideas through ﬁne art, having the skill to draw a ﬁgure in any pose opens up a whole world of expressiveness.
The First Level of figure drawing is getting a sense of proportion and range of motion is vital to inventing ﬁgures and poses, and the armature is the perfect tool for that task along with the gesture drawing, which captures body movements in the drawing.
An armature looks like a stick ﬁgure with shoulders and hips. It’s very simple to draw and an easy way to start learning both proportion and how to design poses. Essentially, the armature is a very simpliﬁed skeleton.
The Second Level is when you start to incorporate the sphere and cube to add volume to the armature. You start to create simpliﬁed, dimensional skeletons in your drawings.
Level Three is when you start to build out the ﬁgure using basic volumes, ﬂeshing out the simpliﬁed skeleton by joining and combining boxes, spheres and cylinders. This simpliﬁed ﬁgure will begin to look more human despite lacking any muscular anatomy.
The Fourth Level of figure drawing is when you can comfortable reflect the body’s shapes and rhythms in your drawing. The shapes of the body are mostly inﬂuenced by the largest muscles so learning the shapes of these large muscles is the ﬁrst step to creating ﬁgures that are anatomically correct. You have to learn how to draw them when the muscle is stretched, ﬂexed or relaxed. The best way to do so is to use a variety of male art model poses to capture the body in many ways.
Male Art Model Poses — Photo to Armature
Gather several photos of people in motion. Search the Internet for images of athletes from nearly any sport or performers such as dancers, actors or acrobats.
You can also ﬁnd great dynamic action in movie stills, comic books and concept art for video games. Whatever piques your interest is what you should use.
Print out at least ten images and first trace each figure as an armature and then draw them free hand. Pay close attention to the size of the head compared to the body and the lengths of the limbs. Try to render the proportions as accurately as possible.
Level Up with Contortions and Simple Volumes
Find a photo of someone who is posed in an extreme way — someone posed with a strong twist or bend in the torso and arms and legs in motion. Parts of the body will likely be foreshortened.
Lightly draw the pose as either an armature or as a gesture drawing. Do not trace the image; ﬁgure it out for yourself through careful observation.
Re-create the whole pose as a simpliﬁed skeleton by drawing on top of your armature or gesture drawing.
Look at your picture carefully alongside your drawing to see how the body is positioned while you use your armature as a foundation for your drawing.
Pay particular attention to getting the forms to sit in space accurately. If a leg is kicking toward you, make sure the cylinders are clearly pointing toward you as well. If you see that something in your armature drawing isn’t accurate, correct it as you build up your new drawing.
Draw Different Body Types
Start with a gesture drawing for a pose and build up the three-dimensional shapes for a ﬁgure. You can develop your ﬁgure however you like. It can be muscular, skinny, short or overweight.
Create a new gesture for drawing the same pose, but this time, build your ﬁgure with a different body type. You’ll use different shapes and proportions to develop this new ﬁgure than you did for the ﬁrst one.
This exercise will help you practice building shapes and forms that fit your model rather than just repeating the same shapes on every ﬁgure you draw.
Create a new drawing with unrealistic proportions. See how far you can distort the body. For example, you can create a character with tiny hips, a huge chest, very short legs, long arms and a tiny head. This will help you really stretch your skills in morphing anatomical shapes to ﬁt what you imagine instead of what you’ve ever seen before.
More from the Instructor
Jeff Mellem is a professional artist and graphic designer. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California State University, Fullerton, and studied at the American Animation Institute in North Hollywood, California.
His previous book, Sketching People: Life Drawing Basics, was released by North Light Books in 2009, and he was one of the artists featured in Sketchbook Conﬁdential: Secrets From the Private Sketches of Over 40 Master Artists. For more on his work, visit his website.
Article includes excerpts from Jeff Mellem’s book, How to Draw People.