Are you a budding artist wanting to learn the fundamentals of figure drawing? Are you looking for high-quality demos to fine-tune your figure drawing skills? Wondering which online drawing course to go for?
Many people recommend the Proko Figure Drawing Fundamentals Course, but…
Is it worth it, you may ask?
To answer this question, I dived into the course to help you find out.
In this review, I’ll introduce you to the main instructor behind the course, Proko, and his teaching style. You’ll also find out what the course covers and what to expect in each section. You will also discover the extra features the premium course offers and how it differs from his free content.
But first, find out who is behind the course…
- Who is Proko?
- Figure Drawing Course Structure and What You’ll Learn
- Teaching Style & Course Features
- Assets & Video Quality
- Are There Any Downsides?
- Are Proko Paid Courses Worth It?
- What Are Other Artists’ Experiences?
- Final Thoughts / Conclusion
- Frequently Ask Questions(FAQ)
Who is Proko?
Stan Prokopenko is the man behind the Proko Courses.
Stan is a San Diego-based realist artist and instructor. A self-proclaimed “lifelong student of art”, Stan started studying art, in 2003, at Watts Atelier, California. By 2007, he was teaching at his alma mater long before teaching online.
The Proko courses are a result of his years of classroom teaching experience. So, you are in good hands!
In 2012, Stan published his first head drawing videos on the Proko YouTube channel. The overwhelming response these videos garnered motivated him to start the Proko online courses.
Stan loves teaching all true-to-life art forms, including figure drawing. He believes learning should be fun.
And his tutorials epitomize this!
They are educational and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed myself while learning, as I am sure you will do too. He uses graphics, animations, and over-the-shoulder demos liberally and intelligently to help you understand concepts and information clearly.
You will love Stan’s effortless teaching style and quirky sense of humour. It makes his tutorials a lot more enjoyable and engaging than many other online figure drawing courses.
Today, Proko is an established name. It is driven by a team of talented and dedicated artists working together to create awesome art instruction videos. The portrait drawing fundamentals course was their first, followed by many other drawing courses for you to learn from.
Figure Drawing Course Structure and What You’ll Learn
The course curriculum is exhaustive. It has 13 sections covering all aspects of figure drawing. You will learn about gestures, the Bean and Robo Bean drawing methods, proportions, measurements, shading, etc. – everything you need to begin drawing confidently.
The course even covers basic things, like supplies to use, how to sharpen a charcoal pencil, and how to hold your pencil. This information can be found in the shading section of the course. For a beginner, such valuable tips and suggestions from an expert can make a huge difference.
The course structure is well planned, with each succeeding lesson building on the previous lesson’s content. I had no difficulty in understanding the natural progression from gestures to lifelike poses, complete with shading. Besides, the high-quality demo and critique videos allowed me to learn at my own pace – I was able to pause or rewind at my will.
Supported by several examples, the course is perfect for a beginner looking for fundamentals and intermediate artists keen on fine-tuning their skill. I learned to convey the mood of the pose – the gesture as realists call it – without going into details of the human anatomy.
However, If you are a beginner interested in anatomy, no worries, the Proko anatomy course is an excellent place to start.
In the first section, Stan introduces gestures and follows up with a tutorial explaining the intricacies of gesture drawing. Then there are the 30-second and 2-minute quick-sketch demos.
Image caption: A 2-minute, quick-sketch video
These quick-sketch videos are very informative. They taught me to identify the line of action and how to use contour lines to show direction – towards or away from the viewer. I was introduced to the idea of exaggerating a pose. A valuable trick that’s made my drawings livelier and more eloquent. Tips like this take this course beyond your average free drawing videos.
Gesture drawing is swift and intuitive. The aim is to capture the notion – relaxed, defensive, or aggressive – not the contours.
It revolves around the ‘CSI’ principle of using the ‘c’ curve, ‘s’ curve, or a straight line. Sounds easy, but requires hours of consistent practice for it to feel natural. So, don’t linger, practise enough to understand the concept and move on. After all, you can always come back for a refresh, as I often did.
However, remember that getting the gesture right is essential. I would suggest, keep drawing whenever and wherever possible. I always have my iPad or a sketch pad within hands reach.
The Bean and Robo Bean Drawing Methods
Sections 2 to 6 explain the structure, proportion, and landmarks of the human body. It covers how to transform the free-flowing, gestural lines into realistic, lifelike shapes.
Let’s start with the Bean and Robo Bean.
‘The Bean’ is a super simplistic but powerful representation of the torso. It visualizes the ribcage and hip as two intersecting ovals.
Stan compares this to two hard balls in a sock, where the balls define the ovals and the sock represents the skin. Twisting and turning the balls demonstrates the twists, turns, sideways tilts, front-back leans, foreshortening of the torso, and the corresponding pinches and stretches of the skin. I found this analogy explained the bean concept very well..
Then there is the ‘Robo Bean’ tutorial showing how to add structure to the bean.
The Bean balls are replaced with two boxes to add perspective and depth. The top box represents the ribcage and part of the shoulder, while the bottom box represents the pelvis and butt. This one change introduces the side, top, and bottom planes. Capturing the rotations, tilting, and leaning of the torso becomes a lot easier.
I would suggest attempting the Robo Bean exercises only after being thorough with the structure and landmark exercises, which I cover below…
The structure section gives a good grounding on drawing 3D figures. Just as the ‘CSI’ lines are the foundation of gesture drawing, the underlying principles of structure drawing are the sphere, cylinder, and cube. The course teaches you to use these three-basic structural forms, or a combination of the three to build organic forms.
Every figure-drawing student must learn the prominent landmarks on the human body.
Landmarks are often the bony protrusions on the surface that act as anchor points for measurements. Knowing your landmarks is a big plus point.
This tutorial explains the landmarks of the front, back, and the limbs. It will teach you to confidently identify the front and back centre lines and lateral landmarks of any pose.
The front and back landmark demos teach you to break up the human anatomy into proportionate segments and recognize the salient features of each segment.
Mastering the landmarks is essential to a realistic artist, and I often went back to these tutorials for a quick refresh.
Mannequinization as per Stan is, “… constructing the pose from simple 3 dimensional forms that lock together all the way down the body. And when you look at all the parts they form what resembles a person.”
At this stage, you will begin to apply the principles of Robo Bean torso and 3D, structure drawing to the figure. It is like visualizing the pose as a mannequin and using imagination to add depth and volume to your figure drawings.
How does mannequinization work …
Choose a starting point, the head, or torso and continue down and across the body selecting and locking geometric blocks. For example, the ribcage is an oval, the hip a box with rounded sides, and the upper leg a cylinder, so on and so forth. The end of one block fits into the other. It is like joining the parts to form the whole.
Proportions & Measuring
The course now moves into the more concrete realms of figure drawing – body proportions, measurements, and shading. My gesture drawings began to take shape and transformed into realistic renderings.
Fortunately, human beings, unlike aliens from a popular Sci-Fi film, don’t look like clones.
Body proportions vary from person to person. So, why do realistic artists spend considerable time practising human proportions?
Average human proportions can be used as a yard-stick to compare and adjust drawings accordingly. It is useful to know, for example, on an average, how big or small the human head is to the torso. Understanding proportions will certainly improve your sketches.
Stan explains Dr. Paul Richer’s analysis of a European male as measured by Anthropologists. He also provides an interesting comparison of the proportion measurement methods of Andrew Loomis, Paul Richer, and Robert Beverly Hale.
Then there is the measurement lesson. Stan shows you how to triangulate and take measurements using a pencil.
Understanding proportions and measurements is essential. However, they are guidelines that work well only if the figure is at eye level, upright, and rigid.
If the figure is bending or twisting its proportions appear to change. To understand these changes and get your dimensions right, you will need a keen observation. One sure-shot way of improving observational skills is through the frequent study of live models – another trick of the trade I learnt.
Shading adds hard and soft shadows to show the play of light and dark. Shading helps to throw into sharp relief the plane changes on the pose. Stan has handled this complex idea brilliantly.
The tutorial will show you every aspect of shading.
You will learn about the angle of the light source and how different surfaces of the figure reflect light. You will learn to identify the planes facing the light and those facing away from the light.
Concepts such as reflected light, centerlight, and halftones are defined. You’ll find out how to shadow map and add core, cast, and occlusion shadows.
Teaching Style & Course Features
Online teaching is not easy. Online instructors have to be far more intuitive, anticipating the questions and queries likely to arise. Stan’s ample classroom teaching experience enables him to foresee doubts and address them in his online courses.
You’ll find Stan’s teaching style to be clear and engaging. Stan, like Andrew Loomis, uses structural blocks to break down a figure. Understanding perspective becomes a lot easier, especially for a beginner.
I especially liked stan’s use of boxes and cylinders, to analyze a pose.
Prior to this course, the simplest of poses put me in a tizzy. Now, instead of hyperventilating, I take a minute or two to deconstruct the pose in my mind. It helps put things into perspective.
The fundamental principles of drawing are covered in a series of sections. Each section includes the instructional video, demo videos, assignments, and critique videos.
In the instructional video, Stan explains the concept, its relevance, purpose, and usage. Using visual clues and tips, he manages to untangle knotty ideas.
After the intro, Stan moves on to the actual drawing. He demonstrates the process, handing out suggestions and bits of useful information.
The figure drawing course, like all of Proko courses, has premium and free YouTube versions. The premium course is, understandably, lengthier and extensive with extended lessons, demo videos, and examples.
The extended lessons are often a lot longer and provide artists with detailed information on a specific topic. For example, the gesture lesson in the premium figure drawing course has an extra 30-minute quick-sketch segment.
Visit the course library for a quick look into the Proko figure drawing free videos.
Drawing Demos & Examples
Demo videos are powerful teaching tools. The Proko figure drawing course is teeming with drawing demos and examples.
Stan does, not one or two, but several demos for each concept. These demos mean you can draw along and learn through imitation. I have watched these videos over and over again and will continue watching forever.
After elucidating a concept, Stan moves on to applying the principles discussed. He begins drawing. The video shifts to an over-the-shoulder, close up view, with a split-screen, one half showing the pose and the other showing Stan drawing.
Stan is never in a rush, he draws a pose from start to finish, carefully contemplating each move and explaining it as he proceeds, making it easy for you to follow along.
Figure Drawing Exercises, Assignments & Answer
There’s a whole bunch of exercise videos minus the voice-over. These videos complement the fundamental theme, for example, gesture or robo bean. You can follow Stan, step-by-step, as he completes a pose and helps demystify many aspects of drawing for you.
Just the one single Gesture section has more than 30 demo videos. Quite an extensive repertoire, right?
If you want some excellent photo references, the Proko store offers reasonably-priced, high-resolution, individual reference photo packs. Also available are “models in motion” video packs for those keen on strengthening their anatomy drawings.
You can also use the images shown in the videos for your reference. I often paused the video so I can take my time on each pose.
Stan’s commitment is total. He has published several Q&A videos addressing doubts raised by students.
Critique video recordings of experts analyzing students’ art work are integral aspects of online art courses. They help you to learn from the mistakes of other students.
The Proko figure drawing course has critique videos for most of the fundamental sections.
Fellow teacher, Marshall Vandruff, joins Stan to critique artwork of students for the gesture, the bean, robo bean, structure, landmarks, and mannequinization sections.
Two experts critiquing your work! What more can students of art ask for?
Marshall is a master illustrator and art instructor. He started his career working in advertising companies as a commercial illustrator and then moved into teaching.
The critique video setup is sophisticated with a super-advanced, pen-on-screen, Cintiq 24HD display.
Stan and Marshall do a detailed review of each artwork submitted, pointing out the negatives and positives. The digital display makes it easy to explain errors. They trace over a student’s work or draw on the side to illustrate a point. This digital analysis is super cool and useful.
Finally, there is the shading critique in the 13th section, with Stan critically appreciating a student’s Yoni drawing masterpiece. Critique videos are excellent learning resources.
Assets & Video Quality
Proko premium courses come with downloadable videos. Each video is a work of art, drawing from Stan’s extensive experience as an illustrator. You get ultimate finesse in video content and script, course structure.
Quality-wise, these videos have high-resolution clarity. The figure drawing course videos are 720p standard HD MP4 files. Personally, I have no complaints with 720p. As far as clarity goes, 1280 x 720 pixels resolution is good enough to show details.
Recent Proko courses, such as his anatomy course, use the 1080p Full HD video mode, with a 1920 x 1080 pixels display.
My premium subscription included other high-quality downloadables, like a pack of exaggeration poses, a human proportions image, a Yoni drawing image, etc.
Are There Any Downsides?
My experience with this course has been top-notch. Stan is a brilliant teacher and artist. The curriculum and content exceeded my expectations. Absolutely nothing to fuss about there.
Having said that, here are a few minor downsides …
Stan’s quirky sense of humor may put off the more serious-minded students. I think his gags are ingenious and thoroughly captivating, but they might not be for everyone.
If his humor isn’t your thing, then I suggest the figure drawing classes at New Masters Academy.
Secondly, I felt the critique videos could be a little more exhaustive. What was there was excellent and really helpful, I just wanted more of what was provided. This is a personal preference, and I’m nit-picking here. After all, the human figure is a complex subject. Learning from experts to improve on errors helps.
Finally, mid-way through, between the Landmarks and Mannequinization lessons, I began to flounder. It’s just a matter of practice and not a drawback in the course per se.
If this happens, revisit the previous lessons until they are etched in your mind. Experts will vouch about drawing being a lifetime learning process.
Free Vs. Premium Figure Drawing Courses. What is the Difference?
Selected videos from the Proko Figure Course are available for free on the Proko YouTube channel. These free videos aren’t the complete package. They provide just enough information to get you interested. Besides, some of the free example videos are censored. Which, if you ask me, is quite disappointing – but, hey, that’s YouTube.
The premium courses go above and beyond to provide in-depth knowledge. The premium courses have extended lessons and bonus sections with additional assignment examples. What’s more, the videos are uncensored.
The Proko premium courses have to be purchased. They go way beyond the free video content to provide in-depth knowledge and information. Premium courses are often 3x longer and include extended lessons, bonus sessions, additional assignment examples, and extensive critique video recordings.
On buying a premium course, you will get access to a customized dashboard on the Proko website. Videos and other materials can be launched or downloaded from here. I had no issues logging into my dashboard to download the entire course material. It just made offline studying incredibly easy.
They also get to join the Facebook group for course members to interact and peer-review.
If you want to master drawing and learn in more detail, here are some of the other courses offered at Proko.
The caricature course is taught by Court Jones, a San Diego based illustrator and caricaturist. The other three courses are taught by Stan and Marshall.
Proko also offers package deals as well, if you really master every aspect of the figure and buy multiple items.
There are also a bunch of masterpiece demos and visual art tools available for purchase as well
Are Proko Paid Courses Worth It?
For me, a novice, the Proko Figure Drawing Fundamentals Course was worth it. I especially liked the approach adopted by Stan to break down a pose into geometric, box-like pieces.
Now, having completed the course, I see a huge improvement in my drawings. My fundamentals are strong, I can easily deconstruct a pose, and my observational skills have improved.
Most importantly, I have a better appreciation of the subtle nuances of figure drawing.
Stan applies his unique teaching style and knowledge to all of his courses. And, he has an excellent team to back him in his endeavours.
In my opinion, Proko paid courses are worth every penny.
What Are Other Artists’ Experiences?
Here are some comments I found from other student’s who completed Proko’s courses
“I have dived headfirst into the Proko Anatomy Lessons. Doing something over and over again when you don’t understand it doesn’t actually teach you anything. For the first couple of Proko Lessons for Anatomy there was joint simplification which seemed absolutely possible and I think I was kinda getting the hang of it at the end. Then I started working on the simplification of the arm – just the bones – initially my drawings were really wrong but towards the end I was definitely getting a better hang of it. For me it is definitely worth pursuing and working through these lessons.”
Watch Becca narrate her Proko Mannequinization experience.
– Becca Rand – Freelance Designer and Illustrator
“And so it was I decided to invest in Stan’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals course for $79, including two pose photo packs (one male and one female) at $10 a piece (spending a total of $100). These packs are a great value considering they include 300 poses in each one. The poses are very well-lit and professionally photographed. Once purchased, the pose pack download page includes a convenient link for you to download your choice of a .zip containing high res or lower res versions of the photos, for those of us studying with tablets which benefit from smaller file sizes.”
–Angela R. Sasser – Artist, Writer, and Mask-maker
“I’ve also signed up to learn more about figure drawing with Proko. I would love to develop my drawing of the human figure and have less perspective errors in my drawings. So it’s going to be a fun year of creative exploration. There are so many great drawing tips from Stan Prokopenko on YouTube too. So if you love drawing and want to get better at it, you may want to check him out as well.”
–Selina Shapland – Creative Writer, Artist, and Animal Lover
Final Thoughts / Conclusion
Figure drawing isn’t easy. It is a challenging genre that takes a lifetime of practice to perfect. Joining a comprehensive online drawing program is the best way to start learning. The Proko figure drawing course fits the bill.
The example drawings and real-time demos help newbies to ramp up fast and have fun at the same time. I will definitely recommend it for beginners as the starting point.
But that doesn’t preclude intermediate and more advanced artists. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting to brush up on their drawing skills.
Well then, it is time to act. Stop contemplating. Click below and buy the Proko figure drawing course today!
Frequently Ask Questions(FAQ)
Is Proko good for beginners?
Definitely. In my opinion, Proko is certainly good for beginners. While there are many other more advanced drawing courses online, Proko is great place to start learning the fundamentals of drawing.
What is the Proko challenge?
The Proko challenge is the ultimate test of creativity, ingenuity, and artistic skill. Every month Stan Prokopenko sets a task for artists. To give you an idea, April 2020 challenged artists to illustrate book scenes. Take a look at the winners. Understand the process. To participate follow @prokotv on Instagram.
Will this Proko course work wonders?
I doubt if there’s any single drawing course that will make you a Norman Rockwell overnight. I believe the student’s commitment to learning plays a major role. The Proko course will give you the right launching pad: best content, brilliant teacher, and plenty of practice videos. The rest is up to you.
There are some more FAQs on the Proko website.