Drawing human figures might seem like an intimidating prospect for those who are not artistically inclined. In fact, there are many different methods that are used to draw figures and they are rudimentary, practical and will improve the quality of your drawing with practice and time. These techniques are used by students to hone their craft as well by masters to practice and create realistic, three-dimensional figures.
Proportions and Anatomy
The simple technique of drawing stick figures can help you learn the human form by teaching you the proper proportions and basic anatomical dimensions. Beginners start with a simple, conventional stick figure of five lines and a head, then break those five lines down to get a better look at how limbs and joints are connected and proportioned. Adding a few horizontal lines will show the proper dimensions for shoulders and hips.
Gravity and Balance
The human body is not rigid, and when it is drawn in a stiff pose it looks unnatural. The human body is fluid and responds to movement and gravity. Even a posing figure has to be drawn with these factors in mind. Bend and tilt the shoulders and hips of your figure and maintain the appearance of balance by finding the figure's center of gravity and its resting points. The center of gravity is between two resting points that begin elsewhere (for example, the feet) and meet close to the center of the figure (the hips).
Observational and Formulaic Figure Drawing
For the artist who wants to move on to more complex illustrated subjects, there are two main types of figure drawing techniques used to train aspiring professionals and serious hobbyists. Observational drawing, as the name suggests, trains the hand to accurately copy what is observed by the eye using a focal point and basic shapes. Formulaic figure drawing builds on design concepts. The spaces between interlocking shapes are filled in to complete a single figure. This technique is intended to help students memorize certain shapes and forms so they can create figures from their imagination rather than needing an actual object or figure to copy.
Frank Reilly's Method
Frank Reilly was an artist and illustrator who developed a figure drawing technique specifically to instruct his students. This technique was intended to capture figures in action and was based on a number of other notable illustrators. His technique was very fashionable in the mid-20th century. The process was a linear one that started students with the very simple structure of the figure, starting with the torso, and then moved on to basic anatomy, shading and then adding the final details.
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