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Learn to Draw the Human Figure - Gesture and Proportion

Figure Drawing Lessons - Part 1

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The complex human form can sometimes seem like a huge challenge for the artist. Like any task, it becomes much more manageable if you break it up into 'bite-size' chunks instead of trying to 'swallow it whole'. To tackle figure drawing - sometimes called 'life drawing' - we will sometimes take an overview looking at aspects of drawing the whole figure, and sometimes look at drawing parts of the body. Over time, practice in all these areas will come together and you'll find yourself able to tackle any pose with confidence.

Learning to draw a nude model in a life drawing class is obviously the ideal, but if this isn't possible, don't despair. You can still learn to draw the figure very well without a model. You'll find that friends or family may be happy to model wearing close-fitting sportswear, and any drawing problem (observation, foreshortening, proportion) that you find on a nude model can equally be explored drawing arms and legs.

For best results, work consistently, practicing drawing daily. When reading, make notes in your sketchbook to remind you what to work on. When you are ready to move on, come back and takle the next exercise. Remember, you won't learn to draw by just reading about it! You have to put it into practice.

First, let's look at the basic proportions of the head and body, and practice sketching them.

Looking At Proportions
Find out the standard proportions of the human figure. The first page describes traditional proportions, while the second page shows you how to measure the model with the 'thumb-and-pencil' method.

Homework:
Once you've read the article carefully, ask a friend to 'pose' for you - clothed is just fine! - and do a sketch, using the thumb-and-pencil method to find how many heads tall they are, and marking key points on the figure. You could use a mirror, holding your sketchbook in one arm, if everyone is too busy! Try sketching some simple stick-figures using circles and ovals, using the proportions described.

Gestural Drawing
Practice capturing the essential qualities of the figure using gestural drawing. The examples in this article focus on strongly directional lines, but you can also try using loose oval forms to describe the body. Try a variety of energetic poses.

Next: Drawing Parts of the Body

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