Figure Drawing

I’ve spent quite a bit of time now talking about various aspects of portrait drawing.  It would be logical to move on to a series relating to figure drawing.   For centuries figure drawing has been the classical way to develop drawing skills.  It is both complex and personal at the same time.  Each body is different, each body expresses uniqueness and individuality; and essentially, if you can draw the human form competently, you can draw anything.

Throughout the world art centers and schools offer weekly figure drawing.  We have two local opportunities where I live.  Pay the model fee and draw a nude figure posing in a variety of positions for several hours.  I’ve never been.  Quite honestly, it just doesn’t interest me.  Yes, I have done it in the past, but these days I’d rather explore subjects that fascinate me.  What appeals to me more is people doing things, out in public, fully clothed, immersed in life.  I guess you could say my version of figure drawing really is life drawing.


I love to capture quick moments of people looking, talking, glancing, thinking.   A coffee shop is great for this.   People are fairly stationary and either engaged in conversation or focusing on their computer.  The airport is another  good place.  Obviously it’s helpful to draw people who are essentially still.  On occasion I’ve  been known to take photos of interesting folks and draw them later.


Working from a photograph can be a helpful way to practice drawing people.  A good photo can present form and values clearly.  And the real bonus is that your model won’t move.   My understanding is that if a photo is taken in a public place, one doesn’t need the permission of the subject.  Also, I use the photographs only as a resource for drawings that I do not sell.   I try to be unobtrusive with both drawing and photography in public but I will admit that gotten some strange looks from people.


Because I don’t draw from life  often, I’ll leave the finer points to others with more experience.  I plan to move on to other topics.  If figure drawing, clothed or unclothed, is your thing, by all means go for it.  It’s important to draw what appeals to us.  I like this sentence I found in The Undressed Art by Peter Steinhart, “We draw what we perceive to be universal and eternal, what we perceive to be human nature or divine gift.”

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