3 Ridiculously Easy Tips To Get Into Figure Drawing
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
What figure drawing is, where and when you should start with this method and what the best tips are to get into figure drawings fast.
Do you ask yourself what figure drawing is or how you can learn it? I have first heard about it when I was learning about still life drawing. Figure drawing is definitely something you should consider taking a look at.
II. Tips To Learn Figure Drawing
1. Experiment With Various Tools
2. The Right References
3. Right Amount Of Time
III. Bonus Advice From A Disney Artist
"What is figure drawing actually?" The first question you probably have right now and I want to give you a clear answer in this short introduction part of this article.
Figure Drawing is the exact contrary to still life drawing. However, it is also a type of life drawing since you're drawing subjects without using reference artwork or photos but actually from real life.
Figure drawing deals with learning about, understanding and drawing the human body and the different parts of it. Anatomy is a huge section of figure drawing and so is the act of observing your subject.
Observing in drawing is generally very important and in figure drawing sessions the observation part can be almost extremely long and you must have almost obsessive perseverance.
It is mostly used with human bodies but figure drawing can also mean to work with animals and their respective bodies. Anatomy, of course, is always a part of figure drawing no matter what subject you're practicing with.
II. Figure Drawing Tips
Let's finally get to the part you've initially come here for. My nine tips for you to get into figure drawing if you're starting out with it.
It doesn't matter if you're already drawing figures from time to time, if you're more advanced already or a total beginner. These tips can help you at whatever stage on the learning curve you are on at the moment.
1. Experiment with Various Tools
If you're asking yourself what tools are most suited for figure drawing then the answer is simply "it doesn't matter at all". Just as in every field of art or drawing, the most important thing is to just start.
Start drawing with anything you want is my first advice for you. If you want to know what best suits your needs in terms of figure drawing... well, you have to try it out. Experiment with as many tools as you like and find out what's most comfortable with you.
That, of course, doesn't mean that you have to find the one perfect tool for you to create figure drawings. Beside of your main and favorite tool, which can be the basic graphite pencil I always want to encourage aspiring artists to also try new things.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a very important part of progress and leads to greater achievements in less time. It's as simple as that. With also talked about leaving the comfort zone a little more detailed in another article on the Mac H. - Creative website. It's about how to avoid the most common and devious beginner mistakes.
For some artists graphite works best, some figure drawing specialists use graphite and again another group even uses crayons. There are really no limitations in your choice of tools. You can also take out your iPad and draw on that one or you use a drawing tablet to draw digitally on your computer.
If you want to improve your figure drawings or find out what the best option is for you personally, the number one advice from me will always be "experiment as much as possible!"
However, you can generally also say that for rougher and faster figure sketches (which normally are the only ones you do as a beginner) a simple graphite pencil or even a pen is absolutely sufficient.
If you're already a more advanced figure drawing artist and you're aiming for figure drawing you work multiple hours on you should consider using charcoal. Try what suits you both, maybe for you it is exactly the other way around. There is no right or wrong here, it's art!
2. The Right References
Maybe you're asking yourself now if you've never done a figure drawing before, how you actually start, what you should draw from. Where do you get the right references? Well, let me tell you something, you might probably not like...
Figure drawing requires real human beings as references.
At least mostly.
If you want to really learn about the human body, its proportions, its anatomy, you almost have to get yourself a reference model in real life. You can also use alternative ways that we will discuss later on. They are not recommended from me and are far less effective than real models.
There are different ways of how you can get to draw from a real-life model. I'm going to tell you the possibilities I know of and I'm pretty sure there will be one or two you can consider.
The first option is to go out and visit a live drawing session where different artists gather around a model for a certain amount of time to draw it. They cost anywhere from 15 to 50 bucks, but they really are worth the money.
You have a decent amount of time of mostly about 3 hours, at least in my experience. If you have these dollars available and you're not afraid to leave your home (and by that your comfort zone) this is one of the best opportunities for you to get into figure drawing.
Sometimes the model is completely nude, since the fewer clothes a person wears the more of the actual body you're able to see and study, obviously. These drawing sessions are an honest recommendation for every artist who is serious about learning figure drawing or improving his skills.
Don't worry if you're an utter beginner or just don't want to be around other people which is absolutely understandable (I haven't got myself to one of these sessions either for a long time). There are actually a few quite good alternatives to drawing sessions that include real people.
I want to start off with a method that I personally don't really like that much but I've seen it in a video some other day and I don't want to withhold that from you. The first alternative and second real-life model option are you.
You can get in front of a mirror, preferably a large one, where you can see your whole body. This option clearly has its advantages because you don't have to pay for yourself as a model, you don't have to be around other people, you don't even have to leave your sacred home.
The reason I'm not a big fan of this method is the many limitations you have. You can't really get yourself in extraordinary positions, filled with movement and at the same time look at the mirror and your sketchbook, drawing and keeping your position.
If you want to gain basic knowledge about human proportions however this method is completely sufficient. If you now have a really long mirror somewhere at home you can absolutely go for your first tries. If you're really courageous you can get naked as well and study yourself entirely. That's completely up to you.
Furthermore, there is a possibility I like very much. It is even my favorite method to get into gesture drawing. Briefly explained, you have to use complete strangers as your drawing models.
Go sit on a bench in a beautiful park you like that is not that far away, you could spend an afternoon at a lake or river where you can combine your drawing sessions with a little bit of swimming. Two very enjoyable activities for a sunny summer afternoon.
Why I recommend any swimming locations mostly is that people there mostly don't have that many clothes on, am I right? On top of that is going outside to draw always a great idea. It can increase your level of motivation, gives you inspiration and can even solve creative blocks you're perhaps struggling a lot with.
It is completely free, you don't have to be afraid of other people's eyes scanning your paper and most importantly the biggest advantage is that you have to be fast! You have to sketch strange people you're observing as quickly as possible since they are consistently moving around.
In Tip number three I will explain more about the right time to use for a figure drawing session or single gestures.
One disadvantage is that you most likely will look like a creep, but that hasn't bothered me so far. If you're good at it you can learn some tactics to not look like a creep who is permanently staring at one person and obviously trying to sketch him or her.
One more possibility I want to mention is close to using yourself as a model. You can ask a friend if he or she is willing to stand 3 hours in front of you, maybe completely naked so you can learn and improve your newest hobby "figure drawing".
Well, if you have such a friend and you're comfortable with that, amazing for you! Okay, of course, you can come to similar arrangements that aren't as awkward as my drastic example right now. However, you do need friends for this.
If you haven't I would always go with the "strangers" option or the official drawing sessions with real models in case you are willing to pay a few [insert your currency].
If you don't want to try these options either and you don't want to stare at yourself for an hour or you want to study astonishing poses... okay, okay. You can exceptionally also you reference photos for figure drawing.
I repeat it once more: You will experience better progress and faster results when you draw from actual life!
To get appropriate reference pictures you can actually just google search "figure drawing reference photo" and you'll find plenty of sites filled with good reference photographs. If drawing from photographs is good or bad in general has been dealt with in this article.
3. Right Amount Of Time
There are a few things about the right amount of time in figure drawing sessions that I want to share with you. I'm convinced that when you stick with these simple tips your figure drawings will tremendously improve very fast.
To give you a little overview of my time regarding tips, these are the three things we'll talk about now:
Beginner Stadium Sketches
Whole Session Duration
First of all, I want to give you a very important bonus tip within Tip #3. Doing warm-up sketches helps you insanely much with your serious figure drawings afterwards. Doing warm-up sketches grants you the possibility to warm up your arms, fingers, and mind.
Through warming up, you get yourself in the perfect mood for the following drawing session and the best way to do so is by scribbling the model or any figure from your imagination in as little time as possible.
This is suited for beginners as well as for intermediates and professionals with years of experience. Even if you know everything about human proportions and anatomy, warming up is just as useful for you as for a professional athlete.
Try not to create a perfect human being but try to use fast and curvy lines to very roughly indicate a person. More important than depicting a person is to depict the movement you have in mind.
Think about what kind of energy the figure has you have in mind or what emotions the model in front of you expresses and try to capture that with the movement of your lines.
Do you want to show strength, courage, leadership or maybe boredom, disinterest, sleepiness? Use harder lines or softer ones, long ones or short ones. Once again you are invited to experiment as much as you want to until you feel comfortable.
Don't be afraid or discouraged too soon. The time you need until you get it can vary strongly. I, for example, needed multiple hours of frustrated screwing up pieces of paper after I filled them with multiple scribbles that were all far from looking like an elegant human being or whatever I was trying to express.
Keep going! The longer you practice the faster you will see first satisfying scribbles and as soon as you reach that point you won't want to stop anymore.
1. For your warm-up sketching I've already said you should do them in as little time as possible. So, how much is a little time you might ask now? Absolutely plausible question and I'll answer it quickly.
Merely a few seconds should be used to create a one-person warm-up sketch.
2. When it comes to your very first sketches drawing people from life after your warm-up sketches you will definitely need more time than a few seconds. Just be aware you don't put too much time and effort into it. Don't even use 30 minutes for one sketch, because you will be disappointed if you do, that's almost certain.
For beginner figure drawing 10 to 20 minutes are completely sufficient.
Not until you've reached the intermediate level of figure drawing you can use more time and put more and more time into your drawings. For intermediate 30 to 60 minutes per gesture sounds good to me and at the professional stage, you can go up to 90 minutes.
3. The duration of a whole figure drawing session is something everybody has to find out on his or her own. How many different gestures or poses you want to draw in one session is up to you as well.
Generally, you can say that too much time without any breaks is unhealthy and doesn't lead to great results. Too little time spent in one session, on the other hand, doesn't lead to fast results.
Don't overwork yourself and don't be lazy. Find the perfect time for yourself but overall I'd like to give you a rough span.
Whole figure drawing sessions should last anywhere from one to 3 hours. Some people have more than three hours of energy at once and others have less.
The number of sketches you create during one session shouldn't be too low, especially if you're a beginner. As I already said you shouldn't waste much time on one drawing that will look mediocre. Use your time to practice with very rough but many sketches.
As intermediate or professional you can decrease the number of postures you want to draw in one session but increase the amount of detail you add to it. If you're really good you're probably not reading this article but in the improbable case that you are, you can also use an entire session to only draw one position, to create one detailed artwork.
III. Bonus Advice From A Disney Artist
I want to show you a video with you from an artist who works for Disney and creates figure drawings for that huge corporation. He has some valuable tips to share that are especially for beginners extremely useful.
You can try the things he teaches in the video right away parallel to watching. It's basically pretty simple what he says but the greatest improvement tips are most often the simplest ones, wouldn't you agree?
Finally, we've reached the end of this article and before you directly get into your next or maybe very first figure drawing session I will summarize the most important things for you now.
1. Everybody is differently comfortable with every tool. Find the tool that suits you most by trying different ones. Experiment for example with pencils, charcoal, crayons or digitally on your computer or tablet.
Don't forget that coming out of your comfort zone boosts your progress extremely. So, when you find the perfect tool for your figure drawings, don't stick with it forever. Try new things permanently to improve and advance.
2. Real models you draw from actual life are the best option for learning and improving figure drawing at any stage. Here are the real-life options listed above in Tip #2:
- Drawing sessions
The best alternative is to google search for reference pictures of models that pose especially for figure drawing purposes. Drawing from life is always better because it leads to better and faster achievements.
3. The optimal time to use for your figure drawings depends on what stage you are at on the learning curve right now and how long you can effectively concentrate at once. If you're a beginner you should focus on many, roughly sketched figure drawings in a certain amount of time.
As a more advanced artist, you should concentrate on fewer drawings in one session that are more detailed or even just one drawing per session that will be one finished and precisely detailed piece of art in the end.
Don't be frustrated if it takes a very long time. Progress is progress no matter how small.
Are you willing to put the necessary time, effort and hard work into your passion to reach your goals?
Will you start now to achieve your dreams?