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Figure Drawing From Life

Figure drawing from life is a skill that can be acquired and perfected only with constant practice.

It does not have to be an intimidating task.

There is a sequence of steps that every artist follows when drawing from life, and the illustrations to the left illustrate this process:

First of all, the main lines of the figure are sketched in with charcoal

Next, the artist models the large forms by broadly sketching them as they turn away from the light.

Then the artist checks carefully with the model before rendering.

After that, the artist uses the flat side of a small piece of charcoal when drawing the dark areas

With the large areas of dark and light determined, the artist now can concentrate on the more subtle forms within these areas.

When you do this exercise, model these areas with care, constantly checking to see that they are not overdone, that they keep their place within the large areas.


The Painter's Approach


The figure drawing studies below show the painter's approach.

Emphasis is placed on the tonal values as they would appear when painting the figure, rather than those of a line drawing.

Next, the action of the figure is shown by drawing the main lines.

Then, the shaded areas are roughly indicated with the flat side of a piece of charcoal.



The rough areas are rubbed into the paper; the fingers and a rag are used to smooth the charcoal.

The study is not one of a detailed search for form but rather one of the distribution of light and shadow.

These are examples of sketches that follow the figure drawing procedures described above.

You should sketch people waiting for a bus, shopping, walking; I make notes wherever I see people gathered.

I believe that this type of figure sketching, opportunities for which are easily available to everyone, is of immeasurable value to all painters

Back to the Main Figure Drawing Page


Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez

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