Figure Drawing

Class 2/6 – May 2nd 2012-

Without any instructions we started by sketching a human figure to learn from our mistakes. After measuring the size of the head in relation to the body most of you discovered that the head was too large (aliens). This demonstrates the fact that our assumptions about reality are not always correct which illustrates the need to understand the basic proportions of the human figure.


The proportions as shown in the pictures below are based on a standard that is widely used in the arts and fashion industry: the figures are 8 heads tall. In reality figures are usually 7,5 heads tall, but 8 makes it a lot easier to draw and you won’t really see the difference.

For more examples and other techniques check these sites.


In general, male figures are more square and have wider shoulders than hips. Female figures are more rounded with fluent curves and the shoulders are slimmer than the hips.


Off coarse every individual is different and it makes sense to illustrate your characters with visible differences so you can distinguish one from the other. But in order to play with the proportions you need to understand them first. One way of doing this is by looking closely at lots of reference material and drawing people from pictures by carefully examining the positions of each part of the body in relation to the other parts.

Once you get a feel for the proportions it is time to explore different poses of the human figure. An easy and quick way of doing this is to simplify the figures. By using a square shape for the upper body and elongated triangular shapes for the limbs you can explore and develop a lot of poses very quickly. The smaller you make the sketches the faster it goes. Keep an eye on the proportions to make sure they are (approximately) correct.


Drawing Faces

Drawing the human face is maybe even more difficult then the whole figure. Because our brains are hard wired to recognize faces in a flash we also immediately notice anything out of the ordinary. Here too, getting the proportions right is crucial so we use yet another standard model to practice sketching faces. Again, in general the male face is more square and the female face is more round and all the features are bit smaller except for the eyes. Also the cheekbones are usually sharper and more pronounced in the female face.

The trick with drawing faces is to leave a lot of details out and let the audience fill in the blanks. Squint your eyes when observing a face and sketch only the most contrasting lines.

When the face is turned use a symmetry-line to define the middle and place the features correctly in relation to this line. When the face is looking up or down, make sure to shift all features accordingly.


To do for next week

Explore all topics and techniques covered in this class in a series of sketches on A3 paper. Bring at least 2 pages with studies of figures and 2 pages with studies of faces. Try out sketching with different materials like blue pencil, felt-tip or a light grey marker and figure out which medium fits best in relation to the size of the sketch.

Switch to the communication mode and highlight the best two sketches on each page.

In addition make a sketch of the same (or similar) scene that we did in the first week: the health- or nightclub. This time, first explore the poses of the different figures using all techniques covered in this weeks class. Also include on the same page a frame with a close-up of a face of one of the figures and show his or her facial expression. Finalize the sketch with backgrounds, contrast, arrows and text.

If you have a digital camera, please bring it to the next class. We will need to take pictures and also need to be able to print them, so also remember to bring your laptop and the necessary cables or card readers and your personal codes for the printers.


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