Drawing the human form, whether male or female, takes practice and attention to detail. The basic concepts of drawing and shading apply, but the way line, value and form are executed is paramount to successful figure drawing. Without proper execution the human body may not look human at all, and may appear two-dimensional or ill-proportioned. Use basic drawing techniques to create a human figure drawing that you can be proud of.
Drawing the frame of a human figure using geometric shapes allows artists to create compositions with correct proportions. Use circles and ovals to indicate the head and joints of your figures. An inverted triangle can represent the chest region, while a smaller triangle forms the pelvic region of a figure. Use rectangles and oblong shapes to create the outlines of appendages and fill in the trunk of the human form. These interlocking shapes help create a full and natural form.
The relative thickness of a line can allude to the weight of a shape. Generally, thin lines indicate lightness while thick lines suggest heaviness or darkness. Pencils and charcoal, two expressive media for figure drawing, come in different grades that indicate the their softness or hardness; use soft grades to create thick or dark lines and hard grades to create lighter, narrow lines. Experiment with the strength and scope of each pencil grade by using different degrees of pressure to create a range of strokes. The weight of a line can be used to indicate the weight and shape of each part of a human's anatomy.
A range of values provides a human form a sense of depth and realism. Shading a human figure involves filling in the outline of your figure with hatching, cross-hatching, stippling or scumbling creates varied patterns and textures within your drawing. As with lines, using hard grade pencils and light strokes suggests that light is nearby, while heavy strokes and soft pencils suggests shadows or darkness. Layering with different values creates a realistic figure that seems to jump off the medium.
The Importance of Details
While the framework, line and shading values can create a good semblance of human form, the details are what create interest in a portrait. Incorporating even small details -- such as stray, windblown hairs separated from the main hairstyle, wrinkles in the skin or other human imperfections -- gives your figure a true sense of depth. To make a figure look convincing, it is important to remember to highlight a few major imperfections rather than detailing every single line and nuance presented in the human figure. The viewer will understand the point and importance if you use a few light lines to indicate the age of a person rather than covering the entire drawing with every wrinkle you see.
- Elfwood; Figure Drawing: Basic Pose and Construction: William Li
- Computer Arts; Figure Drawing Techniques; Ron Lemen; August, 2008
- "Figure Drawing for Dummies"; Kensuke Okabayashi; 2008
- Real Color Wheel; Human Proportions; Donald A. Jusko
- "Anatomy and Perspective: The Fundamentals of Figure Drawing"; Charles Oliver; ; 2004
- "Basic Figure Drawing Techniques"; Greg Albert 1994
- "The Figure Drawing Workbook"; John Raynes 1997
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