Monday, October 10, 2011

JUURI's Figure Drawing Tips

Here is the first of my little tips/tutorial lessons. Ask me any questions you want! Most of this info I've learned in university, and it's as invaluable to me now as it was then.


Drawing the figure (from life) is one of the best ways to develop your art skills no matter WHAT your medium. You will learn proportion, depth, shading, negative space, and so many other skills that every artist should possess. If you can, always try to draw from life. You could have a friend pose for you or you could even practice drawing your own hand. There is something magical about drawing something actually in front of you as opposed to a photograph. Your eyes don't work the same way when interpreting a 2nd image as a 3d image.


Yes sorry "nude" doesn't rhyme with "be" in the least. Anyways. For the beginner, the unclothed model is better. You cannot draw a proper clothed figure without knowing what's going on with the proportions and muscles underneath. Don't be squeamish; I promise it's not that awkward if everyone has a professional attitude. The models in this post are looking modest, though, so you won't be fired if you're reading this at work. Aren't I miss considerate?

Also, say no to this guy:

Seriously there is no point in using these types of manikins to practice the figure. They have no semblance to reality or the intricacy of real muscles. Their rigidity will also promote bad habits in your drawing and make them look robotic. Always draw from a human being, even if the only one you can find is in a magazine.

Mediums: You can use whatever you want to sketch the model. I prefer vine charcoal or conte crayon sticks because they allow you to make small lines or broad strokes and shading. But have fun and experiment with mediums!

I could write a book if I talked about every aspect of figure drawing. So instead, I'll just give a few golden rules and you are free to ask me questions at any time in the future. Here they are:


#1. STEP BACK FROM YOUR DRAWING OFTEN. Yes, I mean like every ten seconds. You'll be amazed at how many errors in proportion you'll see ONLY after stepping five feet away. At first you'll feel weird doing this, but I promise it will become second nature in time. I'm convinced this is the number one practice that will take your drawings from amateur-ish to professional-looking in a short amount of time.

#2. FIND LINES THAT CONNECT THE FIGURE. DON'T JUST DRAW THE OUTLINE. What do I mean? You ask. OK check it. This is how an untrained person would usually draw a figure:

The reason why using the outline method is bad is because it is much harder to check proportions since you are just saying on the outer edge and ignoring all that goodness in between your lines. When you try to fill in the middle, you may often find that there is no room, or you have way too much room. Only then will you discover that your proportions are way off! Instead, try this:

Notice how you are quickly moving from the outside, right through the figure? Use muscles, lines, light and dark, or whatever you see to draw from the outside in. This way, you'll be checking proportions as you go. Think of all those lines and muscles as little helpers to help you get the shapes right. Also act like you are on a mission to get to the center as quickly as you can. Don't stay on the outer edge! It's boring out there!

#3. SQUINT OFTEN. This sounds crazy, but you won't believe how much confusion it solves. It will clear confusion about color, lights and darks, overall shape, and much more. For example:

There are several grades of darks in this figure. But which do you draw the darkest? It's a little complicated and hard to tell. But put on your fog goggles:

And now, it's much much easier to pick out the darkest shadows as compared to the not-as-dark shadows. The colors of his skin are also simplified, making it less confusing to determine what colors to use.

More figure drawing golden rules to come later this week. For now, practice these three!

Part 2 is here.

Figure photos courtesy of

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