I love figure drawing, but I’m sure you will agree with me when I say
Figure drawing is arguably one of the most difficult subjects you can take on as an artist.
However, the skills you gain from drawing the human body can be applied throughout many other forms of art.
Below, I have put together a collection of amazing figure drawings from both well-known masters and undiscovered talent around the internet.
At the end of the article, I've also included some great tools, tips, and resources to help you improve your skills at drawing the human figure.
In essence, figure drawing is capturing the human form. It’s observing and drawing the shapes, posture and anatomy of the human body.
To be blunt, you are sitting down and drawing people.
Sounds easy, right? Not so.
It is about refining your attention to detail and training your hand to draw what your brain sees.
You are looking at a figure, and capturing their gesture, the light, and shadows on the body. You are searching for the details that give an expression or convey an emotion.
You can spend hours on a single figure drawing, or you can do a series of quick sketches to capture an imprint of the person’s gesture.
A drawing can be highly detailed and anatomically correct (Figure Study), or a series of quick, loosely drawn images that capture an expression, and the flow of the body (Gesture Drawings).
Continue below to see some excellent examples of figure drawing.
Life drawing often includes studies of nude models. The following images may be inappropriate for work or school. If you want to get a copy of the images to study later, click here and I will email them to you.
Life drawing is when you draw from observation from a live model.
The model can either be clothed or not clothed. Many people prefer minimal clothing to study and draw the human anatomy.
The benefit of life drawing over a picture, is you don’t have the distortion of the camera impacting what you see.
In real life, a model is right there allowing you to develop the skillset to draw an object without relying on a still image.
A life drawing can be a complete work of art, or it can be a study of the human body.
If you have the opportunity, seek out your local life drawing class. Regularly drawing from life is an excellent practice to take on.
Gesture drawing is a type of figure drawing aimed at quickly capturing the gesture of the human body (Hence the name).
A gesture drawing is often quick sketches laying out the form, actions, and pose of a model. This can be done with a photo reference or with a live model.
The time spent on each pose can range from 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, to 20 minutes. The aim is to capture what you can in that time.
For shorter periods, it can often be a series of lines to capture the flow of the model. Typically, it involves and artists drawing a series of poses in a short amount of time.
Gesture drawing can often be used as a warm up before a longer life drawing session. It is unquestionably a skill to cultivate.
What I love about quick sketching, is you don't even have to go to a studio or have an image in front of you. It's something you can do anywhere.
Sitting at a café, waiting for your bus. You can use these opportunities to quick sketch actions and gestures people present to you at that moment.
Whenever there is a moment in time that enables to capture a person's expression, it's an awesome opportunity to practice your gesture drawing skills.
Get out of the house, get away from the screen and get out into reality.
It can be a pleasant exercise to do with friends. Go out have a cup of coffee and draw the people and world around you.
The primary purpose of figure drawing is to facilitate the study of the human form in motion. People should be able to look at it and articulate what the figure is trying to do.
Can you see whether the model is running, twisting, grab something up higher, or swinging a bat?
Gesture drawing not only helps capture a motion in time but also the expression of emotion. Does the pose you have drawn capture the emotion present?
This quick sketch of someone's gesture is an excellent method of training your hand to capture what the brain already see. It is different to figure study which is done over a longer period.
A figure study is a drawing or painting, of a human body, made usually over a longer period of time for the purpose of studying the human form.
This could be capturing the anatomy of the entire body or a part of the body.
It can be an exploration of how light reflects of particular muscle groups. Or it could be how the body looks when it is held in a particular form. What you choose to study is up to you.
Figure studies are often made in preparation for a more composed and completed work.
By preference, figure studies are usually done with a live model. However, you can also use images a reference. If you want a challenge you can go off your imagination and memory.
Reference models can be clothed; however, many artists prefer nude models so they can accurately capture the anatomy of the figure.
Nude is preferred as it allows the student to see the muscle groups. They aren’t hindered by clothing or fabric.
It's no secret; practice is the key to drawing figures.
You aren’t going to create a masterpiece in you first, second or even third sitting.
I highly recommend going and trying it your local life drawing class.
Every life drawing class I’ve been to has been super friendly and welcoming. All you need is your sketchbook and pencil.
If you don’t want to go to a life drawing class, or there is not one available in your town, then there are plenty of websites that provide high-quality images to use as a reference. Many come with some great tools to help you practice.
They also have free to use drawing tools, that allows you to set a timer. Perfect for quick sketching and gesture drawing.
If you want to take it a step further, New Masters Academy has over 10,000+ high-quality images with thousands of different poses and models.
It also has a fantastic 3D content program that allows you to pick a 3D model, rotate it, and adjust the lighting to where you want it. It's excellent if you want to practice figure drawing with a light source coming in from a particular angle.
It is a paid resource; however, it is awesome if you need a reference for a specific pose with a specific light source.
If you are drawing a scene, and your character is in a particular pose, you will likely be able to find that pose in their library, and then move the lighting to where you need it. You will then have a great high-quality reference to go from when you are completing your piece.
My attempt at figure drawing
There are thousands of free and paid resources out there.
My favourite is Proko’s figure drawing bundle. He has created a great collection of easy to follow step-by-step tutorials that will accelerate your figure drawing skills.
If you are thinking of signing up to New Master Academy’s image library and 3D content then for a few dollars more you can also access their video library of amazing tutorials by some of the world's top artists.
While they don't go into as much detail as Proko or New Masters Academy, they still an awesome resource for beginners.
Figure drawing is an incredible skill to have. There is always something further you can delve into, master, and experiment with.
No matter how many times you draw the human figure, there is always something new to discover, try and explore.
Got any tips and tricks when it comes to figure drawing? What do you love about it? Share in the comment below.