1 Introduction to the course
Drawing figures is fantastically challenging and rewarding in equal measure. The key to your progress will boil down to practice, so an important ingredient to your success will be to stay disciplined and draw on a regular basis. Have a look at our article ‘Keeping your drawing muscles fit – how to stay disciplined’ for some tips on keeping your practice regular.
You can make your progress more efficient by learning about and training yourself on specific technical skills. The aim of this course is to help you do that. You probably won’t end up using everything in this course. That is fine and to be expected – every artist has their own path. However, it’s a good idea to experiment with all the techniques – you never know what will work for you, and it will all help refine your drawing skills.
You will need to try different ways of moving the drawing instrument – whether it is a stick of charcoal, pencil or whatever – across the page to create lines and tone. The way that you hold the drawing instrument and how you move it will make a huge difference to how the marks appear on the page. You will also need to train in the art of creating tone by observing light and dark and building up layers of hatching and sometimes using smudging. This is the focus of Section 2.
Often life drawing students will jump into drawing body parts in great detail without having the positioning and proportions right. Positioning and proportions are more important to getting a lifelike and natural figure than detailed rendering. Section 3 focuses on training you in the skills needed to get these things right. Specifically, we will look at simplifying the human body, using measurement techniques, negative space and alignment to help us get things in the right place and at the right size.
We will then progress onto anatomy in Section 4. This course goes through the practical essentials of anatomy and not overwhelming detail.
We will look at how to use different materials in Section 5. You are encouraged to experiment with different materials. If you are used to using pencil, then having a go with willow charcoal will help you improve how you make marks on the page. If you are used to using charcoal, then trying to add in white highlight using a white soft pastel will help your understanding of tone. Using pastels brings in consideration of colour. Using watercolour gives you a whole different approach to creating lines and tone. Slowly mixing up the materials that use will help you with all facets of your life drawing skills.
In the last section, we will tie everything together, and give you some extra exercises that will help sharpen your skills.
The purpose of all this technical focus is to help make your practice more effective, but remember that there’s no substitute for practice time. To help make practice convenient, we have provided reference photos for you to practise with while you are at home. Note that the photos include nudity, so be careful where you view them. The photos in the course articles and videos don’t have full frontal nudity, but the example drawings may have nudity so again you may like to be careful.
Reference photos are convenient and useful, but they aren’t a replacement for drawing a live model. We discuss this more in this article. If you have never tried a life drawing class before, have a look at our article ‘What you need to know for your first life drawing class‘.
In this first section, we go through broader lessons which are needed before getting into technical detail. We begin with an overview of a standard approach to the drawing process that you can use when getting started. From this baseline, you can vary things and develop your own approach. There is a note on how you should think about technical ‘correctness’, and that it isn’t everything. We go through a key part of life drawing – seeing the movement in the pose. We also show you why making your drawings bigger will be beneficial.