- Arts and Design
Figure Drawing Lessons
Drawing the Figure
In my teens I left home to attend art college. Throughout history figure drawing has been an essential part of an artist's training but not at that time. Art schools where only into concept art not representational art. At the time only abstract art was taught in art colleges but luckily for me I majored in Fashion Design. I had all the basics included in my curriculum like color theory, three dimensional design, art history and figure drawing. The hours I spent in life drawing of the figure where invaluable. Drawing gestures, comparing proportions and improving my observational skills all contributed to my growth as an artist.
My art training has served me well and I am now a full time artist. I never forgot the lessons I learned and the importance of figure drawing. Even now I will take the time to attend an uninstructed figure drawing class at the Art Directors Guild around the corner from me. Like a tuneup for a car, it rekindles my drawing skills.
Michelangelo Studies For The Libyan Sybil, (See the painting below at Great Figures of the Past)
When first learning to draw the figure the best way to start is with quick gesture poses that are one or two minutes long. You may think, "What can I possibly draw in one minute?" but this limited time frame will force you to edit, observe and make rapid decisions. It is the best way for you to improve your drawing skills.
To capture the gesture first lay down a line that depicts the action of the figure. This line will show the direction and force of the models movement. By focusing on the mass and flow of the pose you will record the essence of the figure first. As you become more comfortable with the figure, you can expand to longer poses adding details.
By practicing gesture drawing you will not only get better at recognizing certain aspects of poses, but you will also build a visual library of characters and models.
One Minute Gesture Poses by Chris Legaspi
Action is Key - Exaggerate The Action Line
From The Human Figure Drawing Tutorial
How to Draw the Figure - Learn from the best
Here are my five favorite references for figure drawing.
Found this guy on YouTube and I like his demonstrations. He is talented and has a nuts and bolts approach to drawing the figure.
Rob is a modern day master who has lots to show you. His understanding of anatomy and skill makes this one you will go back to again and again.
This book has most artists voting it the best figure drawing book ever. It is from the fifties but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it.
MY FAVORITE. I think this is the best anatomy book ever written for artists. Lots of great drawings that have usable comparisons to help you get the proportions right.
Figure Drawing Improved My Art
I am first an artist and second a teacher. As I continue my artistic education, I hear and read one recurring theme. Every serious artist agrees that drawing is the single most important way an artist can improve.
With that in mind, a few years ago I decided to attend an uninstructed figure drawing class at the Art Directors Guild. The four hour class was only $10 and I felt that I needed to reawaken some drawing skills. It was one of the best investment of time and money that I ever made for my artistic growth. I kept going back every week and gradually saw a radical improvement in my painting.
One of the result of those figure drawing classes was a method of analyzing any subject by reducing it into basic shapes in order to understand the composition, and values. In the series of photos below you can see the steps I used leading up to my final painting Dragon Stance.
The Making of Dragon StanceClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Personal Journey Drawing the Figure
A Moving Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Video Tutorials
Everything You'll Need to Draw the Figure
Who Needs Figure Drawing?
Figure drawing, far from just being a classical art form, has many different applications. From book covers, graphic art, comic books, fantasy art, movie production and game design the figure claims a dramatic role in every one of these art related media. Every day we encounter enhanced human images, computer manipulated forms and invented species, all initially derived from the human figure and transformed into reality by an artist.
If you are an artist or want to be in an art related field, drawing the figure is the best starting point. I am forever grateful that I majored in Fashion Design in school. Figure drawing was an essential part of my curriculum and later fashion illustration. I attended Parsons School of Design in New York City but there are many good schools around the country. I now live in Los Angeles and am proud to teach classes at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.
Figure Drawing by Sharon Weaver
Drawing Super Heroes
Michelangelo Painted the First Super Hero
I love sci-fi, comic books and fantasy. The talent that goes into the making of a movie like The Life of Pi is remarkable. I am awed by the imagination needed to invent a new species, design an imaginary world or give life to a tiger. How do they do that? Somewhere, somehow, an artist came up with the idea for the creatures in Avatar.
From Bart Simpson to The Avengers, the figure is used throughout the art of animation, film production and video. Lots of movies are inspired by comic books and video games have pioneered animation methods. If you want to be an artist in this special genre, you first have to start with what you know; the human figure. Understanding how to draw a super-hero is a specialized type of figure drawing.
Detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
Animated Artists Use the Figure Too
If your passion is to draw the next big animated film or comic book, you'll need to study these great books.
More Great Resource for Figure Drawing Lessons
- FARP: Fantasy Art Resource Project
Shows you the animators way to construct the figure.
- The Figure Drawing Lab
This site is devoted to better understanding of the elements that make up the human figure and how to better portray them. A wealth of great information.
- Top 10 Online Figure Drawing Resources For Beginner Artists
Some of the best resources for helping you learn how to draw the human body.
- Animation Art
This blog not only showcases the production art of animated films, but the personal work of the artists behind the magic.
Quickposes is a tool for art students, illustrators or anyone who wants to focus on improving their drawing skills. Real models for the serious artist.
- Long-Pose Drawing Basics: How to Keep It Energetic and Alive
A more finished drawing is possible when a model poses for an extended amount of time, but this luxury comes with particular challenges. Identifying and preparing for the potential pitfalls will improve your figure drawing.
- Figure Drawing Workshop #2 - "The Gesture & Quick Poses"
Hands on workshop for everyone to participate and contribute. It is a great place to start your figure drawing journey.
- The Skull: Figure Drawing
The skull usually provides a challenge for most who are learning to draw figures. Here is a video that will help
Draw from Life
The Best Way to Learn How to Draw the Figure
Experience has taught me that drawing or painting from life is the best way to learn so whenever possible I do just that. That is me painting on location at my easel. Of course, if necessary I will use photos for reference but I know they are a poor substitute for the real thing. If you start by using a photo you loose a lot in the translation. After all a photo is a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional reality. so if you only use a photo here are some of the problems you have to compensate for.
1) A photo will darken the shadows, turning them black and flat. In reality shadows are filled with color. Black is a man made color, so remember there is no black in nature.
2) It changes the real colors. Most photos will be too blue or too orange.
3) A photo brings everything into the same perfect, sharp detail. Our eyes are amazing. They focus on only one thing at a time and allow the rest to fade out from that focal point.
4) A photo flattens everything into two dimensions so you have to interpret the depth.
There are lots of ways to pursue your drawing experience from life. Ask a friend or family member to pose for you or set up a mirror and draw yourself. Go out to the mall or the park and do quick poses. The library or a restaurant can be a great place where people hang out for a longer time allowing you to do some longer sketches. Find an uninstructed or instructed life drawing class and always practice, practice, practice.
Greatest Figures of the Past
Inspiration comes from many places but learning from the masters through art history is a must.
In high school, my love for art started with the Greeks and Romans. Not many drawings from that time are still with us but we can see their dedication to the figure in the thousands of statues that survive. I used to love to draw the torso, a foot or a hand of a statue from the art history books in the library.
But I think for me the artists of the Renaissance where the giants of the human figure. The exquisite beauty of Rafael's Sistine Madonna, the unmatched power of Michelangelo's David and the silent calm of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, captured my admiration and awe. I learned a lot from studying these guys.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to travel to Rome where I immersed myself in the art of the city. Amazing to see these towering artistic achievements in person.
Michelangelo Sistine Chapel, Libyan Sibyl (see the sketches for this painting at the Intro module)
The Artists of the Renaissance Loved the Figure
Who is your favorite? Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo?
Art Masters and the Figure
Looking at the work of past masters, the figure was an important subject. I have spent hours studying the way Caravaggio caught the light on a figure. Inspirational.