TUTORIAL: Figure drawing, book recommendations, proportions

A break from my usual paintings of portraits and cat heads! There is a “tutorials” category in this blog, and today I am using it!

I have a painting student who is interested in working more with life drawing and figure drawing. I told her that I’d make a blog post with some book recommendations and other basic tips. This is that blog post! (Book recommendations are at the bottom of this page.)

A topic we’ve been discussing is that all-too-common bugaboo for many artists—getting basic figure proportions correct. Working from life or working from photos, it can get tricky.

It’s a common error for artists to make the head too big for the figure. I remember doing this when I took my first life drawing class. All my figures looked like horrible trolls with HUGE heads! It took a while to finally overcome this bad habit.

This is often happens because we emotionally “see” the head as the most important and unconsciously make it bigger. (We do the same when drawing faces, too. The features will be too big for the rest of the head, and new artists often make the forehead too short and the back of the head too shallow, because we focus so much on the features–eyes, nose, mouth—that the rest of the head is subconsciously viewed as “less important” and drawn smaller.)

To combat this common problem, and to aid all artists in getting the proportions correct, many art teachers have been teaching the “heads high” proportion standard.

From Loomis’s popular book, “Figure Drawing for all It’s Worth.” Click on image to see larger view.

The conventional wisdom is that most people are “7-1/2 heads” high.

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Another portrait from life

I’m loving this new portrait drawing group! We meet weekly (won’t meet next week due to the holiday, alas). Each week we get a volunteer model to pose for us—three 20-minute poses. We are a diverse group, and use a variety of mediums—oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, charcoal, and good old pencil. I’m doing pencil so far, but hope to drag my oils in soon! I rarely get a chance to do a “long” (one hour being relatively so) pose.

Here’s this week’s offering:

“Karen” on 9×12″ sketch paper.

Karen was a wonderful model, very patient with us! She said it was hard to keep a smile on her face (we all understand how that is!) and so her expression ended up being more somber. She wore a lovely and colorful print dress, which I didn’t bother to capture since I was just drawing in pencil.

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Recent sketches from life (NSFW, obviously)

Time again to post some latest Life Drawing efforts.

I had two evenings of figure drawing (each night at a different place) this week. Both nights, I sucked. Oh well, it’s been a while since I was able to attend figure drawing. And next week I hopefully will be able to attend a portrait drawing group, where artists meet to do portraits only from life! I am looking forward to that.

Drawing from life is an ongoing thing. For many artists it is. We keep coming back to do it again, and again, and again. We don’t outgrow it, and we shouldn’t! Without that regular drawing practice, we get rusty (like I’ve been getting lately) and that’s bad. Don’t ever believe that you’ve had “enough” life drawing because you took a semester or two of it in college.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got to show this time.

Small portrait, drawn from life

The one above was done a few months ago. I never got around to posting it, until now. And the one below, same thing. Done a few months ago, didn’t get around to scanning it or posting it.

Figure drawn from life. On 8-1/2″x11″ sketch pad.

Below is the only sketch produced this week. I cropped the drawing to just show her head. The rest of the sketch didn’t turn out so great.

“Amy” (but it doesn’t look ANYTHING like her!). Sketch from life.

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