Figure Drawing (Doubtfully) Made Easy

By janelle krause on March 12, 2013

As some of you may know, figure drawing is no easy task. The human figure is oddly shaped, lumpy, knobby, and lanky. If you don’t pay attention to proportions, line, and negative space (the empty space around what you’re drawing), you could end up with something like this:

Hopefully you can read all of my little notations. If not: The neck is way to slender to support the massive head; The torso is too small and not proportional; Were this a really person the emaciated calf muscles would make it impossible to walk let alone stand, and the feet are not the same size. Were this a real person, they would have gotten every short end of the stick in the genetic lottery.

Now that I’ve probably slightly terrified you. I will happily show you some poorly drawn tricks to help you out.

First and foremost: Draw what you see, not what you think you see. Sounds like something Yoda would say, right? Wrong. My sister said it. What this means is when you’re drawing from life, try your best not to think “I am drawing a person. This is their arm.” By thinking like this, you are actually drawing what you think an arm should look like instead of drawing what the arm actually looks like. There is a big difference. Here, I have kindly drawn you an example using hands.


Admittedly, this was a little more difficult for me than I would like to admit. I’ve gotten used to only seeing lines and shapes.

What you should notice is that not only are the proportions of the fingers and thumbs better, the angles in which they are rendered are much more accurate.

How did I do this you ask? Well, it is through no act of sorcery, I can tell you that much. What I find really helps is being able to use the negative space to help see fluctuations in lines more clearly.

Just look at the outline and follow every dip, ripple, and bump. If you break everything down into basic shapes, it becomes much easier. Trust me. I was stubborn and had to learn the hard way.

Now, the best way to get better at figure drawing is to (obviously) draw people! If you feel awkward staring at strangers in public (It gets a little weird when they notice you’re drawing them) there is a great website for figure drawing. This website is wonderful because not only can you pick the type of model you want (clothed, nude, male, female), you can also set time limits so the photo will change every 30 seconds, minute, hour, etc. Just a great resource.

Another great resource is Lackadaisy. Now, the link I provided will take you directly to their “How to Draw” section, but there are many more wonderful tips on this website. As an added bonus, it’s pretty damn funny and light-hearted. I would strongly encourage you to give it a read (by that I mean go look right now).

And now, I give you squirrels. Notice that they are proportional.for Ashley



Currently I am a student at the university of Iowa. Yes, Iowa. Where they grow corn, not potatoes. Idaho does the potato thing. I am a BFA painting student with a minor in art history and a teaching certificate. I enjoy writing, painting, drawing, and making awkward facial expressions in photos.

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