While people often spend much time in life observing others, it's difficult to know how to transform this observation into a figure drawing. However, focusing on the anatomical shapes of a person -- and blocking out other distractions, observations, and activities -- is a first step in drawing a person step-by-step, writes Jack Hamm in the book "Drawing the Head and the Figure." To get started, observe the body form, use geometrical shapes as foundation aids, and practice sketching and transferring the sketches in order to finalize the drawing.
Gather pictures and other illustrations of a person's body from books, magazines or the Internet. Choose whether or not you'd like to draw a person's figure and adding clothes later, or simply draw the person with clothes. It is also possible to base your drawing on a person modeling for you.
Spend a few minutes simply looking at the body of the person. In your mind, draw an imaginary line around the person's bodily outline that follows the contours of the body shape against the background, popping out of the background. Continue to focus on the person. Let your focus go fuzzy and imagine the person's body to be filled by amoeba-like blobs such as long ovals, triangle-like hearts and cylinders that emphasize the major curves and shapes of the body.
Draw the shapes on your paper, using the full extent of the paper. Begin with the center of the body, drawing a central blob that will be the hips. Extend the shape up into the chest. Continue to make casual, suggestive circular blobs until you have shapes on your paper that make up the head, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, chest, stomach, pelvis, hips, thighs, knees, calves and feet.
Flicker your eyes between the paper and the model to ensure that all of the blobs are proportionately divided into the different parts of the body.
Link the shapes together with connecting lines in pencil. This line will create the outline of the silhouette of the person's body as you imagined earlier. Flicker your eyes between your paper and the model. Keep in mind that sketching is a creative, spontaneous process. Errant lines can make the sketch take on a more creative look, so don't be afraid to let your pencil fly across the page.
Focus on the areas of the model's body which are thrusting out into space. For instance, the chest may rise out and the elbows of a person may be farther back. Use the flat side of your pencil to indicate on the drawing where these shadows are.
Tape the initial sketch to a window during daylight hours. Tape another piece of drawing paper over the sketch. The light from the window will shine through the drawing and you will be able to see it on the second piece of paper. Based on these lines, trace the silhouette and transfer the shadowing only onto the second piece of paper in pencil. Carefully remove the papers from the window.
Look at your model and focus on the face, imagine how the face fits together by imagining the person's face divided in half vertically and horizontally. On the fresh sketch, lightly draw a "+" on the person's egg-shaped head. At the center horizontal line, draw the eyes, evenly spaced apart. On the central cross, draw the nose, while the mouth should be centered between the cross and the bottom of the egg-shaped head's chin. When you are finished, lightly sketch hair onto the person, and any facial hair, using the side of the pencil.
Compare the nearly finished drawing to the model. Using darkness and light as a guide, look for places on the model which are dark and use the side of the pencil to add similar shadowing to the sketch.
Reinforce the lines and shadows with ink pens. Either use an eraser to erase all pencil marks or use the tracing-transfer technique outlined in Step 7 to transfer your drawing to a fresh piece of paper.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't be afraid to try this a few different times to master figure drawing of a person. While the steps of looking at the human body are important in figure drawing, confidence in letting yourself get drawn into the artistic process is critical to producing art.
- Look through art books, take a class and/or visit art museums to learn about others' styles and techniques to develop your skills.
- Don't press too hard with the pencil or with the eraser; otherwise, you may rip the paper. Use light, deft strokes.
- "Drawing the Head and Figure"; Jack Hamm; 1983
- Bridgewater State College Design Resources: Drawing Technique: Arthur Dirks
- Elfwood - Fantasy Art Resource Project; William Li; 1999
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images