View Full Version : So I'm at a life drawing class, but I don't know what I'm doing?

10 October 2006, 02:18 PM
Hi, sorry if theres been a similar post on here. I guess I am asking how to draw the live model infront of me.

I go to life drawing classes but the tutour doesn't say anything at all when i'm there. I'm wondering if there should be things I should be doing like how to start drawing the model in front of me, I usually start near the head and work down, but I don't know if it's right :( plus any tips on shading? again all my shading is done by using vertical 'strokes' with my pencil but it looks bad to me and feels incorrect.

I read the principals of drawing thread and I am gona try the 'draw the hips and arms first' method next time I'm at life drawing lessons.

10 October 2006, 03:12 PM
Hi gunstar,

Here are some good places to start: :)

VIDEO TUTORIALS - Drawing The Human Figure From Your Mind Video Lessons (

TUTORIALS - Bones & Muscles & Flesh - by The Bone Doctor (

Anatomy Reviews (
(particularly see the Gesture Workshop thread)

Beginners' Lounge (
(particularly see the Gesture articles at the beginning)

Hope this helps! :)



10 October 2006, 01:17 PM
Thanks Rebeccak, delete this thread if you want, silly me didn't look hard enough! :D
The Anatomy Review looks excellent! :love:

I guess I'm armed with a few things now to try out in the next class.

10 October 2006, 02:52 PM

No worries, you're welcome. :) Good luck with your studies, and feel free to post your work to a Personal Sketchbook Thread if you like:

Personal Anatomy & Sketchbook Threads (

FAQ: Can I Create My Own Sketchbook or Anatomy Thread? (

Personal Sketchbook Primer and Tutorial / Workshop Guide (



10 October 2006, 11:53 PM
I love figure drawing, I took 4 semesters of it in college, but only got credit for one.

Here is the best methodology for getting the figure in space.

What you are concerned with is the Gesture, this is sort of an illusive definition at first, but becomes more clear as you go on. The Gesture is how the body is moving in space, and the relationship of the limbs to each other and the torso. That's the technical definition to the best of my experience, but there is more to it, the gesture has feeling, but don't worry about that yet. Here's how you begin to capture the gesture:

1) Look at the whole form and blur your eyes, sounds dumb, but don't look at details, because you will probably never get around to them, figure drawing is a gestalt philosophy, you need to capture the greatest possible amount of information in the least amount of strokes.

2) Draw the longest line in the body you see, usually that goes from the head to the foot of the weight baring leg. (keep in mind while doing this that in most cases a figure's chin is centered over their weight bearing foot, if the weight is shared it will fall somewhere between the line that you can draw between the two feet, If they're not standing forget I said anything.)

3) Get the angle of the torso and the angle of the hips, just lines that intersect the spine. Again, blur your eyes, look for the clavicle in the shoulders and the crease that is formed at a person's waist or an imaginary line between the illiac crests (see anatomy book)

4) Draw the lines of the limbs. and the head, just a half cylinder for the head and rough lines. Now stop. All you should have now are singular lines making a stick figure. Check them against your model. See if they are the same, if not, draw darker lines that correct them. Find the best approximation you can, you are essentially drawing the landmarks of the skeleton here, so look for those forms, the spine (most important), the bones that make the shoulders, the pelvis, the bones of the arms and legs. As you are going through the figure at this point draw circles at the joints.

5) Anchor your figure find the plane that they are standing on and fix the figures feet to it, your feet can just be boxes on the floor or like skewed pyramids with the top most point at the ankle.

6) Find the volume of the torso and limbs following the same order you used to get this far. Draw a sort of triangular bucket at the hips that the torso sits in, the line for the hip should run through the top of the bucket. Draw a sideways cylinder at the shoulders running over the line of the shoulders you already drew. Draw a box for the ribcage. For all of these shapes you should be drawing the back and front, draw them in three dimensions. Draw tapered cylinders for your arms and legs. Boxes with a triangular box on the side for your hands, donít try to draw individual fingers, find the overall shape of all the fingers and draw that. You can draw the thumb though.

By now the figure has probably changed, but if itís a long pose:

7) Connect and soften all of your shapes. Keep the form of those basic shapes though, donít go and obliterate them with a bunch of lines, find the true line and intensify it. Hit stuff with an eraser if you feel you need to (you should not have used your eraser previous to this though.)

General tips and tricks:

-Blur your eyes.

-Draw big, use the whole page, if your not going to use the whole page define your drawing area first by drawing the area you will fill.

-Stand back from your drawing often and just compare it to your model. Find the flaw and fix it before you move on.

-In the beginning use a soft medium like vine charcoal, something that is easy to smudge out, you need to work fast not neat.

-Draw and Draw and DrawÖÖ. And Draw.

Things not to do:

Donít ever start with the details and work your way out. Most figure drawing nubies want to start with the head and more specifically the eye and work their way out. Figure drawing is about working the general to the specific. If you start with the part you find most interesting you wonít ever get the gesture right, will likely not even fit the whole model on the page and your drawings will invariably have a disproportionate amount of realization in one area and very sparse realization everywhere else. Your mantra in figure drawing is this: ďDefine and RefineĒ

Donít vary from the process, tempting though it may be to start shading or finding superficial features of the gesture (like faces), you need to get the framework down first. Ever see a really great rendering of a figure and the painting and texturing is beautiful, but the body is slightly out of proportion (thatís like half of the work on CGTalk by the way) well thatís because the artist rushed to completion and didnít observe the process. Be patient, it will pay off.

Donít draw with your board at steep angle to you, you will actually draw the figure in this perspective and then when you tilt it up to look at it you will see that it is totally f-ed up.

Donít get attached to your drawing. You will make thousands of them, donít be afraid to mess them up.

Donít take yourself too seriously. Relax, the best way to take a bad critique is to truly have no emotional attachment to your drawing. You can do this by first having thousands of other drawings, in this way no one has very much significance. And also realize that you are as an artist experimenting and learning and will make mistakes. As an artists, true artist, we learn about the world through our art, the making of the art is what should be important to us, the product is secondary. Some day you will become so involved in the process that you will forget you are making a drawing and then you will stand back and look up and you will have a successful drawing and you will be astounded by your own ability, but you will realize it had nothing to do with this product, it wasnít about the aim at all, it was all your hand and your mind and your eye.

10 October 2006, 12:05 AM

That's an awesome post - thanks for the insight! :)

10 October 2006, 12:37 PM
Wow, thans for the amazing reply lemonyfresh:thumbsup:. I'm going to my drawing class tonight so I'll try to keep the awesome wisdom in my head.:applause:

10 October 2006, 05:11 AM
In addition to the great advice from Seth above, are these basic things:

Always get to your class at least 20 minutes before time.
Prepare your space way ahead of time before the model comes into pose. You dont start scrambling around to get your paper clipped or taped to the board when the model is in pose. You will loose precious time.

If you are using pencils, sharpen a couple of them way ahead of time. Same with charcoal, make sure you have a few ready so if one gets dull or depleted you immediately switch over to a new one without loosing time or focus. One problem I have is with loosing focus. Thats when you get some a-hole coming over and yapping in your ear when you are trying to concentrate.

I usually loose focus from that time on. So now I take an mp3 player and pretend like I dont see anyone trying to talk to me until the model gets out of pose.
Asking for help (Yes you can): When you are stuck, the pose doesnt look right on paper, do call teacher. (He is probably sitting at his desk balancing his check book), thats why he is getting paid. By all means make him earn his keep. If you are in trouble, call him and let him help you.

Take a small mirror, and use it to look at the model and your work. Mistakes will jump out at you quick enough.

10 October 2006, 09:39 PM
One of the best books for basic figure drawing techniques is "How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way" by Stan Lee and John Buscema, This is one of the easiest and comprehensive books for artists new to figure drawing, and it's cheap!
"Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form" by Eliot Goldfinger This is a pretty pricy book, but it's pretty much the best one out there because it has side by side pictures of anatomy from the bones to the muscles to the skin and finally a photo.
ďDynamic AnatomyĒ by Burne Hogarth, There is a whole series of these books that are all amazing, Iíd highly recommend getting the whole collection, but this one should be first on your list,

10 October 2006, 01:29 PM
Thanks Queensoul, some great tips there. I kept in mind those tips and they worked great. Starting with the shoulders and hips really helped me get a quick guide down and the tip about not being too atached to the drawing really helped me too loosen up. :thumbsup:

Also I think I saw a small glimpse of the opposing curves :D

Just got a book by MR Bridgeman, Constructive Anatomy. That Hogarth book is also on the way!

11 November 2006, 08:13 AM
Awesome post and info, this thread is exactly what I was looking for!

I know exactly how you feel, I have the same problems starting, I find I have a hard time getting the proportions accurate enough to want to move on. The place where I attend sessions also has horrible multi-angled lighting, making for little to no shadows, very frustrating!

I see the works of others with the possabilities that my work could be like that too and I think I get too excited. I read all the tutorials and when I'm in front of the model I tend to forget everything, like it's a test. I really want to find my own personal voice and what works for me, I think that's the most exciting part. :)

11 November 2006, 08:06 PM
The place I go to has the same Lighting problem!

Thank God they moved the model from the corner, it used to be really difficult for everybody to get a good view :D

My favourite tip is not being to precious about the drawing, I think it helps you change things like proportions which I would normally leave cause it 'Kinda looked like' what I was drawing.

All these tips posted here really helped! it's ashame I'm facing a new hurdle..(Having 12 hours stolen by my job Mon-Fri motivation -100exp)

11 November 2006, 10:30 AM
I was taught life drawing on a National Diploma course and then a degree course, so was doing it for about five years. I had the good luck to have two superb teachers who offered instruction and critique throughout the lesson.

We were taught not to draw what you think you see, but what you actually do see. That may sound a bit cryptic, but what it essentially boils down two is this; many people on the course looked at the model, saw a hand, then looked back at the board and tried drawing a hand. Instead, draw the shapes you see, noting how they interact with each other as you do so. Negative space is just as important as the figure itself; eg the shape of the space between the arm and the torso, or between the models back and the chair he/she is sitting on.

When drawing a line, look constantly at the line on the model, then back at the one on your drawing. Where you see a change in direction, mark the change and continue to the next change in direction, making definite statements rather than loose sketchy lines. If you make a mistake, don't rub it out, correct it. The picture may look a little angular at first but you can refine this later, and the better you get, the better your quality of line will become.

Many people on the course also liked to use measuring systems, eg how many times does the height of the head goes into the height of the rest of the body, but this is personal preference. Personally I only used it briefly at the start for loose proportions, and then trusted my eye for the rest, sometimes checking what I'd done later.

Best of luck!

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