How to Draw the Human Form; Figure Drawing by Jill Preston – March 2015

Drawing the human form is challenging and can be very frustrating.  Yet it can be exhilarating and sublimely satisfying.  The process is the key.  Here are some pointers.

Gesture drawing to warm up and avoid inhibition.


 Figure 1

Work quickly, drawing arm outstretched, look for flow, rhythm and movement.



Figure 2

Work boldly, with the whole body.  Avoid premature attention to detail.

Use the side of the tool to block in the large areas in shadow. Charcoal is a most effective medium.Do not measure at this stage; check the half way point and use plumb lines.  


Figure 3

Squint and see the lights and darks.

Areas of light and shadow give volume and substance to the figure.


Keep exploring, avoid hard outlines, early lines wont necessarily be the best so sketch these lightly.


Figure 4

Explore the landmarks and plane breaks; – see on Figure 4 –   the shoulder, under the collar bone, down to the base of the rib cage and similarly the top plane of the knuckles of the clenched hand.


Figure 5

Even at the final stage, keep away from detail.

On this draped figure, only the big folds have been described, enhancing the underlying planes.

Charcoal is great, but soft pastels as a drawing tool, can be exhilarating!


Figure 6

Placing the figure in its context, and using colour to continue exploring the form can be a thrilling part of the process.

Life drawing needs continuing practice, and good teachers are invaluable.

“Drawing is like studying Greek and piano – you can’t speak or play in your conscious, which is clumsy.  You must get into your subconscious, which is graceful.  But that takes time. “

(Hale, R.B. 1991 Master Class in Figure Drawing  Watson – Guptill Publications/New York)

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