As a beginner artist, you might wonder if you should start with figure drawing. There are many subjects to choose from: portrait drawing, figure drawing, environments, animals, and more. Is figure drawing good for beginners? Where should you start?
Figure drawing is a good subject for beginners, especially if you intend to draw people or create your characters! Learning the human body is a must, and there are many exercises you can do, such as Gesture Drawing.
There are many ways to learn and improve Figure Drawing, so let’s see where to start and if it’s the subject for you!
Where To Start With Figure Drawing
Figure Drawing refers to any exercise where you draw the human body. It can be as simple or as detailed as you want.
If drawing characters or people, in general, is your goal, then Figure Drawing will help you immensely! But where to start?
Anatomy is a tricky subject to tackle since there’s a lot to learn, but that’s why I recommend that my students start with some Gesture Drawing first!
Gesture drawing is a beneficial exercise where you capture a subject’s form, movement (action), pose, and mood with as few strokes as possible.
We draw the subject with swift gestures, so the pose and lines can be as dynamic as possible.
These drawings are speedy and straightforward. The idea here is for you to be able to capture the whole pose and action without focusing on details.
Gesture Drawing is usually a timed exercise. I typically recommend that my students set a timer of 2 minutes per pose.
It’s enough to capture the overall feeling of a pose without getting lost in details!
At first, it’s normal to feel like you don’t have enough time, but you’ll start learning what’s important to draw to make a pose understandable, and you’ll see that even 2 minutes can be too long.
Even though learning anatomy is essential, it’s also good to get used to the idea of drawing the human body.
Gesture drawing will help you relax and uncomplicate the process of drawing people. You’ll notice more confidence as you practice several poses from one drawing to the next.
Confidence is as important as knowledge when it comes to drawing, so practice that as well!
We do go over gesture drawing on our Complete Figure Drawing Course, so if this is something you are interested in and want to learn more about, make sure to check it out.
Is Figure Drawing Good Practice?
Do you want to get better at drawing people or even create your characters? Then yes!
Figure Drawing is an excellent practice and a must. The good thing about figure drawing is that there are a lot of exercises that you can do.
You don’t need to go in and draw the whole figure right away. You can study each body part at your own pace, one at a time.
Choose a body part and learn it. It can be the head, torso, hands, legs, or feet! What matters is that you take your time to understand each body feature.
On the other hand, you might want to focus on the whole body and poses. For that, you can practice some gesture drawing, as we mentioned above.
You can start with simple drawings, using only basic shapes first. Practice those as much as you want until you feel good about them.
Once you think you got the hang of the basic shapes, you can add more details until it resembles an actual human body.
Besides drawing courses, books are an excellent way to learn more about figure drawing! There are so many great books that you can follow and learn from.
One of my favorites is Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis. I think the explanations in this book are straightforward to understand, and it’s filled with visual examples!
Suppose you’re interested in books on anatomy and figure drawing. In that case, we have a list of our 6 favorite anatomy books, so be sure to check that out.
Finally, even though I think this is not strictly necessary when learning how to draw the human body, you can also learn more about muscles and bones.
For many artists, learning how to draw these and understanding how they work makes it much easier to draw the human body.
So that’s also a good figure drawing practice if it interests you!
You can practice figure drawing in many ways, and you’re the one in charge. Experiment with different things until you find the process and exercises that are right for you.
How Can I Improve My Figure Drawing?
There are many ways you can practice and improve figure drawing. Some are more complex, while others are simpler to be more welcoming for beginner artists.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite Figure Drawing exercises:
- Practice gesture drawing at home – Some websites are perfect to practice gesture drawing. Line-of-action is one example. There are many options to choose from, so you can customize each session depending on what you want to see and practice. Another great thing about this website is that you can set how long a picture will be shown until it moves on to the next. Set up a timer that you are comfortable with; 2 minutes is a good start, and start drawing!
- Attend a figure drawing class with real models – very often than not, art classes will have people modeling for their classes. Find figure drawing classes in your area and try to attend some sessions. There’s nothing like practicing from real life! Another great thing about this is that you’ll have other students. It’s always helpful to have someone to share our art with and help each other.
- Find reference images, print them and draw on top of them – An excellent way to practice figure drawing is by finding basic shapes within the body. One of my recommendations is to find images or even take your own. Now reduce their opacity a bit, so you can see what you’re drawing. On the computer, you can just now create a new layer and find basic shapes in each image. On the other hand, if you prefer to draw traditionally, just print those images and draw on top of them! Everything can be simplified into basic shapes. Take your time breaking down the body into simpler shapes! A torso can be a square or rectangle, the head is a circle, and so on.
- Fill some sketchbook pages with just shapes – The next step of the previous exercise is to practice those shapes without the images now. Open up your sketchbook and fill a few pages with the human body, made of shapes and blocks! Practicing what you learn is essential to help you understand how to draw a subject and improve your muscle memory.
- Pick one part of the body and learn it – You don’t need to know to draw the whole body right away. If that feels too much for you now, that’s perfectly fine! Instead, choose a body part you think you need to improve at. Find reference images or take your own. You can use the shape exercise here. Focus on one part of the body instead of the whole. Start simple and add more details to your studies!
And if it wasn’t clear yet, figure drawing isn’t the same as gesture drawing!
So practice each skill at a time (and that’s why I recommend starting with gesture drawing first)
Where Can I Get Reference Photos For Figure Drawing?
You can find many reference photos online, and I always advise finding good references whenever you’re drawing.
This goes double at the beginning or whenever you’re learning something new!
Even if you’re already experienced with a subject, it’s good to have a visual helper because our memories can be faulty.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite places to find references:
- Pinterest – Pinterest is my go-to reference website. You can create boards where you can save images that you like. You can find pose references, color palettes, and photos that inspire you. Pinterest is great for keeping a visual board of likes and inspirations!
- Pexels – There are several free stock photo websites around, and Pexels is one of them. Here you can find a bit of everything, including photographs of people. The great thing about these kinds of websites is that you can download any image for free and use it for personal or commercial purposes.
- JookpubStock – If you want to find reference photos, specifically for drawing, there are stock photo models that do that! JookpubStock is one example. On their website, you’ll find many different poses from different angles portraying different actions. These models usually take very clear photos using a bodysuit, so you can see each body part without obstacles!
Finally, you can take your own photos.
Sometimes we look for a specific pose and can’t find it anywhere.
When that happens, the best course of action is to grab our phones and take a few photos!
Alternatively, you can also ask a friend and ask for them to model for you. Taking your own photographs can be very helpful since you’ll get precisely the poses you want.
You’ll also get to keep and use these references whenever you need them. They are yours, and you can do with them whatever you wish!
If you’re looking for even more great websites with free pose references, check out our article on The 7 Best Free Pose Reference Websites For Artists.