There are so many artists who really excel at figure drawing that I’m always envious of their talent and the ease at which they seem to be able to capture the human figure. I’m not one of them.
For me, drawing the human figure is mostly a matter of hard work. Draw. Draw. Draw. That is my MO.
I was pulling out some notebooks in my studio this week. In a career of over 30 years, I have a lot of notebooks!
I noticed that I seem to be attracted to figures of all types and sizes, all ages and venues. I don’t concentrate on one “type” of figure. Not the big eyed children nor the beautiful sylph models, but the old and the gnarled, the fat and the thin, children doing what children do, people doing what they do when they think nobody is watching. I don’t think I have a type but others may disagree.
One thing that I noticed when I was pulling notebooks out of my flat files is that I’ve been consistent over the years with my drawing. I draw a lot. This, more than practically anything else, has probably led to my ability to capture figures. And I’ll admit right up front that not everything I’ve drawn has hit the mark. But practice is the best way to develop a skill.
I have small notebooks (4 x 6) which I can squirrel away in a purse or bag. I’ve been able to amuse myself at airports and museums, restaurants and beaches. Nearly anywhere people gather.
Some of my sketchbooks range up to 18 x 24 or larger, which are not always easy for transporting, but great for working on larger compositions.
For drawing instruments, I use everything from pencils to pastels, gel pens to markers to charcoal. Each has a special characteristic but I suggest that you try many different types of instruments.
I’ve taken life drawing classes. Yes, the models are naked but you get used to it. I’ve drawn one male model, Ron, for over thirty years. He’s not a Mr. America by any means but he’s a really great model with inventive poses which he can hold for a long time. He’s in his 70s now!
And then when I’m working from photographs, I do several preliminary drawings of the subjects. This helps me get acquainted with their shapes and postures. I can work out problems before I even begin to tackle anything in paint.
So my best advice is to get a notebook, any size but you might be more comfortable with a small one to start with, and a pen or some toned markers, and get to work. You will be surprised but most people don’t even notice that you’re drawing. I’ve drawn in restaurants and theatres, at musical venues and just along the street. I’ve even drawn while in line waiting for a theatre to open! Yes, really.