Silly question


So, I recently got hold of Bridgman’s “complete guide to drawing from life”. I guess it’s the all in one book, but I’m having some trouble studying it. There are illustrations in just about every single page, but how do I go about practicing what I read? Do I just copy all the figures and try and understand what’s written? Reading and drawing from imagination is still a no-go as I’m finding it really difficult (is this normal?). I guess it would be due to my inexperience in drawing figures, gestures and humans in general. But anyways, how should I go about practicing this book? Any suggestions are welcomed.


Excellent silly question and that was exactly my first experience of Bridgman’s ‘Complete guide to Drawing from Life’.

I think the simple answer is yes, just start copying his drawings. Grab a pencil and pad and see if you can draw what he has drawn. You will quickly learn, through seeing, that what he is doing is explaining human anatomy concepts with pictures.

Guess it doesn’t really matter what order you go through the book, and frankly I just started sketching drawings that I liked or was curious about. But there is a section called ‘How to Draw the Figure’ at the start of the book that is the closest Bridgman comes to a step-by-step demonstration.

My recommendation is not to use Bridgman in isolation. Check out Vilppu for example ( Vilppu + Bridgman = a lot better understanding. Vilppu covers anatomy, but not as much as Bridgman. Vilppu is great for teaching how-to-draw, and Bridgman great for ‘and this is how it works’.

Alas, at the end of the day it is practice and there is no straight path.


Thanks for the reply! I do have villpu’s chapter one of the gesture drawing series. I’m finding them a bit pricey for what they offer, but his method or thinking rather certainly is impressive. All his figures looked very believable, as though they were drawn from life. I mean, he even goes on to explain a complete composition using the same method. But at [font=Arial][size=2][size=2]$24.95(!) a piece, he could have talked a bit more about proportions, anatomy etc. instead of having to get that too separately. Cause’ as of now, when I tried to replicate his method (using photographic reference), either my proportions went out of hand, or elements such as foreshortening/overlapping just didn’t come out right and my poses ended up looking awkward or wrong. I guess for now, I’ll study Bridgman’s book and get the proportions/shapes right, and then get back to villpu.

 Another problem I might face is that, while following Bridgman's book, I'll be drawing using lines, curves and contours mainly, where as villpu sort-of suggests the opposite i.e. look for the forms(?) and let the contours be the result of these forms coming together? Either way, I'll see how things work out and hopefully try to get the best of both worlds. I'll even start a sketchbook if I could get myself a scanner. 


Sorry folks for the barrage of questions, but my brain just won’t keep shut. (Arghh!)
I’ve been copying a lot from loomis/bridgman books as well as many photographic reference, just trying to get the gesture/pose and memorizing some of the anatomical landmarks.

  1. Is there any kind of substitute for life drawing? Honestly, the only reason why I ask is that I don’t seem to have any ‘life drawing workshop’ or any such thing at my area and most of my friends/family just seem to shy away when I approach them with a sketchbook! Just ‘going out there and drawing’ doesn’t seem to work at all and is proving to be very unreliable. I’ve been drawing my hands, my legs, face, but no complete figure! Just some random photographic references, although I’m trying my best to analyse the figure instead of blindly copying.

  2. Which also leads to the problem of lighting - How should I go about studying lighting?! Gee, I wouldn’t mind trying to partly render out one of these infinite sketches I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I can render out basic forms, such as sphere, cylinder, cone etc. pretty well, but I’m not sure on how to approach a complete figure. Most of my photographs has some bounce light or multiple light sources, making it very difficult to even analyse.

Oh well, I guess that’s it for now :hmm:


Hi Moon-Dog,

Great to hear you are looking at multiply sources on figure drawing. Bridgman, Loomis and Vilppu are all great ‘masters’ on the subject.

This probably isn’t a helpful comment, but I have a girlfriend who is usually more than happy to pose for me. Wouldn’t recommend asking a girl to pose for life drawing on a first date or anything, but is definitely a quality I appreciate in a woman :wink:

I believe the only substitute for life drawing is in fact what you are already doing. Copying directly from a photograph can be a little dangerous, as the camera often mis-represents the human form through lens distortion. For example check out these two articles:

That’s not to say that photographs aren’t useful, just that they are really only good for ‘reminding’ the artist about the complexity of the human form - therefore serving as reference.

Another idea perhaps is to think 3D. Check out:

Again, I’m making you spend money. Many years ago I did lash out and buy an Anatomy figure and yes, financially I seriously questioned the decision at the time. No regrets though and having a physical 3D model of anatomy was the missing link between 2D anatomy books and the life drawing model. Perhaps look for any good sculpture that you can set up a key light to and study the more simple planes of the figure. Sculpture is great because it never gets tired, nor cold, nor moves too much. Having said that, like photography, choose wisely on which sculpture you copy. A good copy of a bad sculpture is still a bad drawing.

RE: “Reading and drawing from imagination is still a no-go as I’m finding it really difficult (is this normal?)”

Yes, the truth is it’s very normal. The study of anatomy, at the end of the day, is just about developing craft. The most accurately drawn, most beautifully depicted bicep is never doing to resonate with a viewer unless it contains story! Don’t let your conscious mind stop your imagination just because your images are not anatomically correct. Take Picasso as an example. Are all of his figures anatomically correct? If you look closely, usually his placement of bony landmarks are in the right position because he did have a classical training. However as viewers, it’s the story within his pictures that resonates not matter how ‘distorted’ his figures may appear.

Anyhow, might be drifting off the point a bit. The reason for responding to your post is I’m only perhaps a couple of steps ahead of the same journey you are taking. It’s a long road, but a worthwhile one. A better grasp of anatomy will help aid drawing from the imagination, but it’s only one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Best wishes.


Hi Moon-Doog,

I purchased Bridgman’s Complete guide to drawing from life a week and a half ago, and what I’ve been doing is simply drawing the three-box-man.

Bridgman talks about how you can make a figure by using some lath and wire…
While I have not done that yet, I’ve tried drawing different poses using just those three boxes connected with wires. As reference I’ve used posemaniacs and sometimes random pictures from news-sites.
When I’m at the airport (quite often), I pick up the sketchbook before the flight and try to capture peoples poses quickly with these boxes.
I also draw poses without reference.

I find it to be quite challenging. Some of the posemaniac poses are hard for me to get down properly, but I just take my time with them, no rush.

What I’m planning to do when I have a better grasp of the box-man, is to do a little study on the ribcage. I will use Gray’s anatomy and others as reference when doing this.
When I have done a bit of a study, I will try to incorporate a few extra lines to my box man. Bridgman does this in some of his figures as well.

Anyways, that’s my way of attacking the book for now. It might change drasticaly though :slight_smile:


Thanks for the input! Heh, atleast on the bright side, I don’t need to be too quick on getting the gestures from photographic reference. I guess becoming faster at it is a necessity, but well, since I don’t have the option of ‘moving around’ and seeing from various angles, I just take that tad bit of extra time to think of the forms in space, 3 dimensionally. I’m not sure about the ‘three-box-man’ thingy as I haven’t reached that section yet (been working on loomis books, which seems to be a bit more easier to follow along) but I certainly use ‘boxes’ to clearly definie these forms. I’m still struggling to transform these basic forms into more specific shapes defined by the muscle groups/bones/joints etc. but I guess more practice is the order of the day.


I’ve started reading some of the post in the “General Techniques” area regarding figure drawing and I’m a little worry.

What I’ve learned over 20 years of drawing (wow, I sound old) is you need to understand the simplicity and complexity of forms. It’s a lifetime of learning. Start out by practicing what you see in basic forms, NO details and NO shades, just forms. It might look, warped or distorted at first. But as you practice, you’ll gain important muscle memory and your forms will look better over time. As you get better, add one tone shade to your forms. This will teach you how to breakup the shadows.
“The Figure: The Classic Approach to Drawing & Construction” by Walt Reed. This is a good book for understanding the human figure in basic forms.


Thanks for the link! I’m not sure what is it that worries you. Forms are such a basic and necessary thing that any serious artist needs to get a grasp of.

  There is this one thing that  constantly confuses me and I'm not sure which way to go about - there are some artists who focus purely on shapes and what they see, and they achieve these 'forms' purely on a sight basis? (by just rendering light as they see in reality, from the light lights to the dark darks) and there is this school of thought which focuses purely on forms and 3-dimensional shapes such as boxes, cone, cylinder etc. Currently, whenever I get to do a live drawing, I just focus on the outlines and try to figure out where the lightest light goes and the darkest dark is, where as, when I'm drawing from imagination, I try to draw the direction of the bone first, around which I "place" the 3 dimensional form. Regardless, most of this is based on what I've learned from books and copying the works of previous great artists and I've got no clue whether what I'm doing is right or wrong, since I'm mostly on my own without any instructors.


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