What is it that makes artists love figure drawing and painting so much?


Hello all,

I am just curious as to what is it that makes artists love figure drawing and painting so much?

I hear all the time “I miss life drawing so much” and other thoughts along those lines.

I remember as a student that drawing from life was often an emotional experience - and I recall conversations with fellow students / artists who would say that life drawing nearly brought them to tears. I find doing master copies (traditionally) to be similarly moving. This sounds corny to a degree, I admit, but certainly life drawing and painting is a moving experience, and I’m curious as to others’ thoughts as to why this is.

I personally don’t have the same experience when drawing or painting digitally, although I enjoy digital painting because of the amount of detail that I am able to get, and the degree of refinement that it affords.

Looking forward to hearing others’ thoughts.

And by the way - if you really love it, don’t just talk about it, do it, here: :smiley:

Anatomy Lesson Series: Body Part 2 - The Torso

Cheers, :slight_smile:



Haven’t done any real life drawing sessions yet but to me it’s plain simple…

We’re addicted to beauty!
If we are able to create beauty ourselves from what we see in our environment or even only in our mind, we get a rush…

don’t you? :slight_smile:



That’s a great response. :slight_smile: I once read an article on aesthetics by John Dewey, and also by Kant, and a lot of things clicked for me in terms of what aesthetics are and what they mean for artists in particular.

Beauty is a great subject, and life drawing has taught me a lot about unconventional beauty. I find what society might consider to be ‘ugly’ people to be more beautiful when drawn / painted - a phenomenon I think most artists encounter. I typically find images of ‘beautiful’ women boring as subjects for art.

I think ‘beauty’ is something I often find lacking in a lot of digital art that I see. Flash and nice tricks, there are in abundance, but very rarely is there something of pure beauty. That’s only my opinion and beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder.




I think it’s because the human figure is something that is very familar to us, and there are so many ways to interpret it.

NR43 has a great point about beauty too. It seems most digital paintings I have seen have beautiful women in them or hansom men. It seems to be natural for us that when we paint the figure we try to make it ‘perfect’.

I also think, that painting the figure is challenging, and it’s something that we all want to master. They say that if you can draw the figure you can draw anything?


I agree about being familiar with the human figure! I think it’s because we can relate to it so easily that it’s most fascinating! For the same reason it is also most difficult since anyone, no matter if they can or cannot draw, can crtiticize our work easily and point out things that just don’t seem right. We see human figures from childhood on and it’s a matter of intuition partly to tell what’s wrong or right…

For me personally it’s fascinating how a figure can be boiled down to simple shapes that one wouldn’t necesarrily think of… When I fist went to a life drawing class our teacher made us draw the lines for hips and arms first - you know if one goes upwards the other one goes in another direction - every time! It’s amazing that it’s so simple. It’s always what I start from when drawing a human body nowadays… just two simple lines and it makes everything sit in place when I establish their angles + the line of action of the body… After the first class I just couldn’t believe it’s so easy LOL Shame I had only a few classes… I do not cry but I do miss them a lot!


I’ve noticed that I like drawing models that have a good vibe about them, there are a few who frequent my school that I thoroughly enjoy drawing. Not only do they pose well but they are great people to talk to and they really know how to create a comfortable atmosphere. And often (not always though) these are the same people that can display strong emotion in their poses.

When you’re there with the model, especially one like the ones I mentioned, you can almost feed directly off that energy that they are giving off… It makes your drawing really seem alive when you can transmit that right onto the paper.


For me drawing is a borderline religious experience. I call it the fuel for my soul, and there is not a day that I am not thankful for it.

Well when I draw the human figure I am humbled by the beauty and the complexity of the human body. When I draw real life people, I feel that I can capture a bit of the should of the person I draw



I like the boobs :thumbsup:


I feel that drawing a human form frees that human subject from any opinions and partisan the subject may have since being born into this world. They are freed from scrutiny and I can revert their world scathed essence back to innocence and their own ideals.

The aesthetics of a person are secondary for me when I draw someone, either in real life or a master copy. Everyone is proven innocent when they are being drawn. Even if the person is being shown as malevolent or malicious, there is TRUTH in their motives when I draw them. Hell, hitler would look right if someone painted his true essence well enough…This is of course just my experience with painting a human being…that’s why I love it. It’s as though I’m painting them before someone else has a chance to react to their reactions…and for that moment I reach absolution with them…They can be purified again by Art since Art is never wrong even if they are…I’m retarded, don’t mind me.:smiley:


I am really intrested in the human figure , Its a complex looking thing, at least to me… Its a wierd balancing mesh of things… Figures remind me of landscapes, and I enjoy trying to figure out how to capture the human figure on to a page. Its… its… like a MIND PUZZLE an AWSOME mind puzzle. Ive been really inspired by goya and nerdrum. After looking at their art i always have the urge to paint, and since moneys tight photoshop provides unlimited supplies. Drawing figures entertains my brain and It makes me happy. =)


I dont think i can explain entirely why i like drawing/painting/sculpting figures so much. if i had to answer, I’d say its the high i get while im working on a project. It starts to look really good and you realize its probably your best work so you cant put it down. its addictive. After I finish the project i usually have a brief sense of pride…but then i hate it because i know i can do better and move onto the next high :smiley: . Rinse and repeat.


Haha, right on the money man. So true for me too.:applause:


I have had that as well, but these days I’ve learned to accept my finished studies/pieces as they are and see them as a step closer to my final destination rather than hating them for their flaws 'n shortcomings

I’m not calling myself an artist (yet) but I think it’s happening to me too. I’ve caught myself finding peoples appearances less “ugly”, no matter how they look or what sexe they are; seeing beauty where I used to not see it.
I think it’s not a matter of what or whom you look at, but what you see. Society, often driven by commercial interests, tends to tell us what we have to see instead of teaching us what we can see if we really look, simply because it’s not in their (financial) interests…


Well, I could tell you it is because of the complexity of the curves and being able to depict that and my love for medical illustration. Not to mention the ability to create fantisy creatures that mimik our likeness. But the truth of the matter is, I am human… male human. Chimp couldn’t have said it better. Way to go Chimp, you speak for all red blooded males!



The reason why we like life drawing and such is because it’s all about observation. Observation is stimulating for the brain. None of this ‘I’m addicted to beauty’ nonsense. I’ve never had a good looking life drawing model! Most of em are blokes!


I have to concur. One of the last live models I used was a seventy year old lady. I have to admit that it was like anatomy lab which is my favorite art work. I guess getting that perfect model will have to come from our artistic ability, Squash! We can always dream and lie to our friends though. My friends all think when I go to live labs, I am going to the strip club. Wouldn’t they be in for a suprise if the went with me!


Yeah but if you did have a really hot model…the drawing would be so boring, and it would be so hard to get a realistic representation! The busier the body (i.e. wrinkles, pot bellies etc.) the more informative a ‘map’ you have to go from point to point to, the more chance for interesting mark making, more chance that it will look right and have accurate proportions…I could go on and on!


What a great question and something I’ve wondered myself. There’s a Jewish philosopher (Burber I think his name is) and he talks about there being two different types of relationships between a person and something external from the person.
The I-It relationship and the I-thou (or I-You) relationship, it’s a fascinating piece and one applicable to our daily lives. The I-It relationship refers to the object and subject, like a human and a pencil, we view the pencil as an object with a purpose and thats the extent of our relationship with the pencil.
The I-thou reltionship exists between two “intelligent” beings, where communication exists on a two-way basis (It must be noted I am summerising here and it’s rather late).

I think we spend alot of our time in the I-it relationship, we see the people in the towns and cities within this perspective, as objects fulfilling the purpose e.g. the shop assistant, co-worker etc.
Funnily enough, one would expect the artist-model relationship to be the climax of the I-it relationship and I think it is the subversion of that expectation that (some) people experience when drawing from life. When one draws a person, I (we) don’t really forget that persons face, it affects us, whether we realise it or not. The relationship transfers (or maybe evolves) sometimes into the I-thou relationship and we see the person as something else.

I’ve talked to models afterwards and alot of them go completely blank during the process, perhaps they are experiencing something aswell.
Anyway, a fascinating subject.


equals beauty

I could go on and on!

sounds like (at least a hint of) addiction to me :twisted:


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