Drawing the figure - figure drawings.


Figure Drawing

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Figure drawingFigure drawing is a challenging and exacting art. But, it is lots of FUN too!

I've taken quite a few figure drawing classes through the years. (It's also called Life Drawing - I don't know if there is a distinction between the terms.) I have had so many excellent life drawing teachers, but perhaps the most famous was the late Burne Hogarth, who has written several extremely popular figure drawing books.

Actually, I discovered his book "Dynamic Figure Drawing" before I ever took his class. I loved that book, it helped me so much. So imagine my elation one year when I was looking through my school's upcoming schedule, and saw his name among the list of teachers! I hit the ceiling! (I was so effusive, many of my classmates who had never heard of him signed up for his class too - just to find out what I was fussing about!)

I was able to take Mr. Hogarth's class a few times, and I have to admit, a lot of my core beliefs and practices in drawing and Life Drawing are strongly influenced by him. He was a fabulous teacher, and taught all of us so much.


An overview of Figure Drawing:

Through figure drawing, an artist hones their drawing skills to an amazing degree. Drawing the human form is considered one of the most difficult subjects to master. The body is alive, and capable of being in a multitude of positions. And, we all are more critical of drawings of people. We know what people should look like, and can instinctively tell when something isn't right.

But don't be discouraged or scared off by the idea of figure drawing. The more you draw figures, the better you will get! Artists from all experience levels take Life Drawing classes. (But a beginning drawing class is usually a prerequisite for Life Drawing.) Not only will you learn how to draw the figure, you will learn more about the face and head, too.

Most areas have figure drawing classes available at local community centers, and local colleges. Sometimes, artists' groups will gather together to have Life Drawing sessions, and share the cost of the model's fee.

Them "nekked people."

There is a misconception among some people about Life Drawing and nude models. Some people are morally uncomfortable with the idea of drawing naked people. Other people think that Life Drawing will be like a peep show in an academic setting. Neither of these impressions are correct.

Life Drawing is a serious business—no goofing around, no time to think too hard about the "nekked people" who are posing. Drawing is work. The atmosphere in a typical Life Drawing class is serious and studious, as all students are busy just trying to get their drawings right. No inappropriate behavior is tolerated.

Also, the concept of nakedness takes on a different meaning in a Life Drawing class. Students are there to learn, and study. They are not there to gawk. Just like a medical student will not gawk at a nude patient, an art student will not gawk at a model. It doesn't even cross most of their minds. (And if it does, they take pains to keep their feelings secret! There is a strong stigma against gawking in all Life Drawing classes.)

Also consider that Life Drawing is considered a classic part an artist's training and education. It has been this way for many years. For instance, the famous American illustrator Norman Rockwell took Life Drawing classes from George Bridgman. In his autobiography, Rockwell described his experiences in the figure drawing classes. They were similar to my own, and many other artists. Life Drawing is serious work, nothing more.

The quality of an artists' model.

Another thing to remember in Life Drawing is that not all models are young, with perfect bodies. Some of the best models are older or even elderly. They may be a bit on the skinny or the stocky side. The body type varies, which is a good thing. It is good for students to draw all kinds of figures.


Not all models have the same personality. It takes a lot to be a good artists' model. Some models know what kinds of poses are attractive and "fluid." Such poses make the whole Life Drawing session a joy for the students. A good artists' model is incredibly patient, can stand still for long poses, is accommodating and agreeable. On the other hand, some models are not so good. (Though to be fair, a bad model doesn't usually get asked back to pose. I can't remember having to draw a whole lot of bad models!)

The personality of an artist's model is more important than the appearance of their body. Most artists would prefer a good artists' model who has a less than "ideal" body, over a bad artists' model who has a perfect figure.

It is important to respect the model. Many of them are artists themselves, who do a little modeling on the side. For the most part, models are interesting, articulate people. Their skills and talents are much appreciated by the artistic community.

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