Figure Drawing Advice?

Pretty much what it says on the tin: Does anyone out there with some experience in the art of figure drawing have any advice for me? Tools/Media I can try, books I check out on it, drawing exercises, or even just as simple as a reassurance that I'm just being hard on myself and that I'm going through what many other artists have.

I'm currently a second semester freshman art student, an illustration major if it helps any in your advice giving. I have to take figure drawing classes for my major and looking at my figures and my classmates' I feel like I'm a good bit behind everyone. Y'see I come from a very tiny and isolated town where the closest art gallery or art classes was a good hours drive away(With no form of transportation to get there) and despite my high school teacher's very encouraging attitude they never really presented 'proper' training, especially not figure drawing. These are the first figure drawing classes I have ever had. But I don't know if that is what has me feeling like my art is no good, or if it is a lack of talent, or me just being hard my own art.

So far I'm not failing, but I really don't want it to get to that. Whats more I know I want to draw concept art for characters or draw comics and I know that a good knowledge in figure drawing will be one of the best things I can get.

It would be nice if I could hear from others who have also taken figure drawing classes or even a professional artist who took some classes.

I'd definitely reccommend going to Life Drawing classes! Okay, so I thought it would be a bit embarassing but in actual fact everyone was really proffessional and I didn't feel embarassed at all. It really helps you work on proportion, shapes and lighting and my drawing skills have improved a great deal since then. It also gives you more freedom to actually draw what you see - there are only so many photos you can copy from!

If you can't find any classes, maybe ask friends or family if you can sit and draw them? Clothed or not, it won't matter. It just allows you to observe and learn from any mistakes you make.

Good luck. :)

posemaniacs.com has some good figure drawing exercises. One that I've heard a lot of people swear by are the timed gesture exercises; it flashes up a randomly-generated figure and you have 30 seconds to sketch it out, which is seriously not a lot of time. It's pretty good as it encourages you to sketch out the basic lines of a figure more quickly and confidently.

That, and lots and lots of practice, as much of it from real-life as possible. Are we allowed to plug other forums here? 4chan's /ic/ subforum is a good place to get brutally honest critique, and also links and reading suggections.

What aspect of your art do you think is lagging behind at the moment, is it line quality, shading, anatomy, perspective...? If you'd like to post some examples of your work I could try to give some advice.

My undergraduate degree is in fine art (drawing), and I believe my first time doing figure drawing sessions was in life drawing class in college as well. My advice is not to treat it any differently than drawing any other subject.

It'll be to your benefit to study up on musculoskeletal anatomy and the basic rules of human proportions, especially in the beginning, to keep from developing bad habits and repeating mistakes. Identify the things you find the trickiest and do studies on them.

Practice with lots of short poses to get a feel for gesture and proportions, they're good warm-ups for longer poses. When you do a longer pose, the most important thing is still to make sure you block it in correctly, and only work on details last.

The last thing I can think of that made a difference for me is to approach how you block out your figures differently from time to time. If you usually do a lot of skeletal bases, try switching them out for block bases or shaded silhouettes, as you'll be changing your technique from a linear approach to a more volumentric one. If you switch it up, you'll learn new techniques and what not.

Overall, it's just about practice and learning from your mistakes. Try to get as much critique as you can from other artists, and make use of your classmates and professors to get feedback that will help you develop your own technique. Good luck.

I've read a few how-to guides (specifically for manga-style art) which give decent advice. Essentially what I've come to understand is that drawing a skeleton, before you draw the rest of the figure is pretty important for getting proportions right.

Apart from that, all I can say is this: PRACTICE.

I've been drawing regularly since I was like, 5... I'm still not great honestly, but I can still see improvements even from things I've done last year. Just keep drawing and it will come to you.

I, too, recommend life drawing classes. The more time you spend staring at a body and figuring out how it bends and leans and balances, the more you'll just be able to create a body that looks like it's supposed to.

I never really bother with the basic-shapes/sandbag outlines when I draw figures, I find that the only technique like that that really helps me is the one where you draw a very basic skeleton - spine, line for the pelvis, arm and leg bone-lines - because it gives a basis of posture and weight distribution, if you know what bodies look like through regular study of real bodies then it won't be too hard to put the flesh on that skeleton and make it look right.

I was an art major in undergrad who suffered nearly the exact same problem you did.

There is no substitute for working from real life. If you can find someone willing to model for you for free that would be awesome, but modeling is not easy and so if you can pay them that is better. Also, you can go to a public place and do quick sketches of people as they go about their lives. Even simple stick figures with just circles at the joints will give you a sence of people's proportions and how they move.

I highly recommend Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing. Hogarth used to illustrate Tarzan I believe so his drawings are all a little overly-muscled, but these are realistic muscles (as opposed to comic-book muscles) so the anatomy is more accurate than your typical comic book nonsense. It's a great resource for understanding what parts of the body look like from different angles.

Hmm, I do not know your art level/experience so it is hard to know if my advice will be relevant. However one thin that I have noticed when people try to draw figures is that they get the details but are not very good at depicting the details as if they are 3D. The key to making 3D things look 3D on a 2D piece of paper is curvy guidelines. If your guidelines for the figure are too straight it can result in the drawing looking out of proportion.

When I learned to draw figures I initially worked from photos. I would take a photo, draw the guidelines on the photo, trace the guidelines onto a separate piece of paper, then recreate the picture using the guidelines. This taught me about proportions and making things look 3D.

In still-life you can recreate these guidelines using your pencil as a measuring stick. If you get these lines right the rest just falls into place. Figures are hard so practicing the pencil-scaling on simple shapes initially can help. I sounds a bit silly but drawing figures is a very mathematical process.

I hope this helps

Katatori-kun:
I was an art major in undergrad who suffered nearly the exact same problem you did.

There is no substitute for working from real life. If you can find someone willing to model for you for free that would be awesome, but modeling is not easy and so if you can pay them that is better. Also, you can go to a public place and do quick sketches of people as they go about their lives. Even simple stick figures with just circles at the joints will give you a sence of people's proportions and how they move.

I highly recommend Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing. Hogarth used to illustrate Tarzan I believe so his drawings are all a little overly-muscled, but these are realistic muscles (as opposed to comic-book muscles) so the anatomy is more accurate than your typical comic book nonsense. It's a great resource for understanding what parts of the body look like from different angles.

This was going to be my suggestion, hogarth is incredible, and it's a great series of books to learn from. Also, even more heroic looking figures are from Bart Sears' "Brutes and Babes". He's excellent as well... his company (i think it's) Ominous press has free tutorials.

Gearabelle:
Pretty much what it says on the tin: Does anyone out there with some experience in the art of figure drawing have any advice for me? Tools/Media I can try, books I check out on it, drawing exercises, or even just as simple as a reassurance that I'm just being hard on myself and that I'm going through what many other artists have.

I'm currently a second semester freshman art student, an illustration major if it helps any in your advice giving. I have to take figure drawing classes for my major and looking at my figures and my classmates' I feel like I'm a good bit behind everyone. Y'see I come from a very tiny and isolated town where the closest art gallery or art classes was a good hours drive away(With no form of transportation to get there) and despite my high school teacher's very encouraging attitude they never really presented 'proper' training, especially not figure drawing. These are the first figure drawing classes I have ever had. But I don't know if that is what has me feeling like my art is no good, or if it is a lack of talent, or me just being hard my own art.

So far I'm not failing, but I really don't want it to get to that. Whats more I know I want to draw concept art for characters or draw comics and I know that a good knowledge in figure drawing will be one of the best things I can get.

It would be nice if I could hear from others who have also taken figure drawing classes or even a professional artist who took some classes.

Look up Burne Hogarth and find "Dynamic Figure Drawing." Burne Hogarth was a dynamo in the art game, his style influenced the comic trinity between Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and a literal metric boat load of comic book artists, this is real Western-style not manga(friggin' bs).

Anyway, the book teaches you foreshortening, how to piece together the figure in your head without a mannequin, differences between men and women figures, etc. An important thing to remember is his revised order of figure lesson. It basically says that instead of drawing the head first, than the body, and than all the other odds and ends; You draw the torso first(groin and chest), than the legs, arm, and than the head because the head will actually indicate the characters motion. So when the whole guy is drawn placing his head in any given direction could indicate whether he's moving left, right or anything. Fair warning, when you get to the legs around the groin you will be confused so feel free to ask me.

Books: Dynamic Figure Drawing
Dynamic Anatomy
Dynamic Folds & Wrinkles

And trust when I say it pains me to say this(seriously this is the same advice I always get and basically sounds like a big,"f*** off" to me coupled with the groin punch), draw a whole bunch. This doesn't mean crank out a sketch pad everywhere you walk, just doodle. That's all. In notes, on your napkin, binder, a buddy's cast, doodle, not even hyper accurate stuff. Also to prevent carpal tunnel draw with the whole arm, pretty sure you've been told this though.

First off, know where the spine is. Even if you're just drawing an arm, knowing what the spine is doing will help get rid of stiffness.

Also, do not fear foreshortening. Foreshortening can smell fear. Embrace it fully, because it will always be a factor in drawing the human figure. And yes, it always does look weird. But if you've drawn what you saw, you were right, and what it looks like doesn't matter.

Another matter is to not draw with outlines. Life isn't outlines, its a series of subtle gradients and colors. Try drawing just by defining volume with value.

Still, if you're a freshman art student, I feel obligated to ask you this: can you make art for eight hours a day, every day, for months on end, and be happy? Have you ever been on a +10 hour nonstop artmaking binge of your own volition?

Make 100% sure that this is what you want to do. Because then, doubt like what you're feeling now won't stop you.

Erana:
First off, know where the spine is. Even if you're just drawing an arm, knowing what the spine is doing will help get rid of stiffness.

Also, do not fear foreshortening. Foreshortening can smell fear. Embrace it fully, because it will always be a factor in drawing the human figure. And yes, it always does look weird. But if you've drawn what you saw, you were right, and what it looks like doesn't matter.

Another matter is to not draw with outlines. Life isn't outlines, its a series of subtle gradients and colors. Try drawing just by defining volume with value.

Still, if you're a freshman art student, I feel obligated to ask you this: can you make art for eight hours a day, every day, for months on end, and be happy? Have you ever been on a +10 hour nonstop artmaking binge of your own volition?

Make 100% sure that this is what you want to do. Because then, doubt like what you're feeling now won't stop you.

EDIT: What Erana said above is the best advice you'll get!

Original, generic advice below:

And as everyone said above, practice practice practice & continue at life drawing class.

Seeing as you're doing an art course, ask your TA's and lecturers for advice and criticism as well.

another tip. build up a folder - physical and on your computer - of pictures of interesting looking people and poses. Every time you see one online or in a magazine save it or cut it out. Use these as fodder while doing your practice.

And don't be afraid to just sketch people while you're just hanging around on campus, Some people even do it on the bus or train.

Figure drawing, eh...

My best advice is to buy a few issues of Ultimate Spider-Man pencilled by Mark Bagley. Yes, I know it's stylized, but the more accentuated positions of the limbs, torso etc. might help you get a basic grasp on anatomy and how it works.

And then, I dunno. Try and get some friends to pose for you. The less clothes the better.

Oh, and most important, go to a library and study some anatomy books, to know how every muscle looks, bone and do some stretches at home to know what are the limits of an average body.

I'm no artist, probably never will be, though my brother has been trying. His biggest problem, however, is the lack of will to put in the time and effort. A lot of people have mentioned it before, and I feel that the reminder you have to work hard is well put in a little webcomic I found. http://formalsweatpants.com/journal/2012/1/9/goddess-of-creativity.html

 

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