Thursday, June 14, 2007

Silence is Golden

You may think this is a bit random, but...this issue has come up in virtually every figure drawing class or drawing group I've ever attended. What exactly is the issue in question?

Whether or not to listen to music while everyone is drawing.

This isn't a trivial matter; folks on opposite sides of the issue can get ugly about it. And, despite the fact that I love music...and, when I'm drawing on my own at home, I usually have music, (or talk radio), playing in the is my opinion that figure drawing groups & classes should not have music playing.

Here's why: people have widely varying opinions on this issue. Even the ones who do want to have music playing, will usually have widely varying ideas on just what sort of music thay want to hear. One person may want to listen to Judas Priest. Another may want to hear Enya. Ultimately, even if everyone agrees to have music playing, there will be some portion of the group who can't stand the music choice. So, now they will be forced to be creative and be drawing to the best of their ability while music they hate is being forced upon them. Not a great situation for producing quality drawings.

And then, there's the situation where everyone wants music playing except for one person in the group. So, now that one person is put into the pressure situation of either going along with the group, or voicing their opposition and feeling the wrath of the group. Again, not a great situation for producing quality drawings. (And why should anyone have to feel that sort of pressure in a drawing group? Isn't producing quality drawings enough to be concerned with, without having to be worried about alienating the rest of the group with your musical preferences?).

I say....stop the insanity! The only fair, reasonable, and easy way to get around all this drama is to institute a no music rule in the drawing room. Trust me, you'll all be better off, and it will save a lot of drama and hurt feelings.

I know, I're screaming to yourself..."what about i-pods?". Well, that's fine, as long as you make sure the volume is low enough to not be overheard by your fellow artists. In a quiet drawing room, that tinny buzz coming from your headphones can be incredibly annoying. My advice if you're going to go the i-pod route.... before you put on the earphones, tell the artists on either side of you, "please let me know if this is loud enough to bother you, and I'll be glad to turn it down". And do it, with a smile, if they say it is!

My long-time figure drawing professor in Geneseo, Rosemary Teres, always insisted that having music playing in class was a bad idea, and that it would hinder learning. Back then, I didn't agree, but now...I can see her point. For the good of everyone, and the group as a whole... keep it silent. And, on a related note... please, for heaven's sake, turn off your freakin' cell phone before the drawing session begins!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

New Drawing - May 5th, 2007

Sorry for the lack of posts on this blog recently; I've been quite busy with my comic strip work, and though I have been doing some figure drawings, I haven't had time to post to the blog. Well, I promise I'll try to post here on a more regular & frequent basis! I started this blog to be, among other things, a teaching device, and I realize that infrequent & sporadic postings aren't great to learn from.

In any case, I went to a great drawing session today, and as you can see above, I have posted one of the drawings from it, (click on the drawing to see it at a larger size). The model was quite creative with poses... apparently, he is a yoga student, and he came up with some creative, challenging, and occasionally twisted, (in a good way!) poses. He was also a dead ringer for Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters, which made him even more interesting to draw! A good chunk of the drawing session was shorter poses, (2 minute, 5 minute, and 10 minute poses), which, as you may know, I'm not wild about. However, this did allow the model to do some of his more challenging, stretching yoga-style poses, which I doubt anyone could hold for an extended period of time. And, a side-benefit of drawing quick poses is that it gets your drawing speed up; there's no time to waste fiddling around. So, when the longer 20 minute poses and 40 minute poses begin, it seems like you have an enormous luxury of time to complete the drawing, which is nice.

My tip for today... if you are having a problem finding models to pose for your class or drawing group, try your local yoga center! People who do yoga are very limber, in touch with their bodies, and capable of some very creative poses.

Monday, March 5, 2007


It's a little disturbing sometimes to see artists who only draw "ideal" physical specimens. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a healthy, muscular body as much as anyone. In fact, for an artist, drawing a well-muscled body can be a particular treat, as you get to practice and put to use all of your anatomical studies. However... I believe it's also important to incorporate all body-types into your artwork. In a certain sense, you are finding beauty in every subject you draw. And it can be particularly relevatory to find that beauty when you draw someone who perhaps is overweight, underweight, or in some other way not the "ideal". (What is "ideal" is highly subjective, so I'm not even comfortable using that term in this context). By that same token, be sure not to rule out drawing older subjects... some of the best models I've drawn have been senior citizens. Also, by all means, don't rule out someone who is in some way "disabled", as they have just as much right to be drawn and represented as anyone else. One of the great things about most figure drawing classes is that they tend to use models with a variety of body types. Celebrate the diversity of your subjects, find the beauty in each one...and thank each one graciously for sharing their energy with you!

Friday, February 23, 2007


As someone who has had years of experience in figure drawing classes and figure drawing groups, I'm often approached by models for advice. In fact, it got to the point where I was being asked the same questions so often, that I created a page on my figure drawing website specifically to answer all of the questions I get from models. (No, I don't mind answering the questions, but I reasoned that it'd be easier to have all the info in one place, and let the models peruse it at their own convenience).

Something I didn't really cover there was shyness. I know, for a lot of newer models, it can be a nerve-shattering experience to have to get up in front of a classroom or group meeting fully nude, and hold a series of interesting, challenging, and often long poses for a demanding group. (Well, the groups usually aren't "demanding", but it may seem that way!).

I figured I'd list some basic things you can do here to overcome your shyness, and maybe help you through that first posing session:

  • Practice in advance. Before you pose for a large group or classroom situation, see if you can do a practice session with a smaller group, even a couple of friends, if you can't find anyone else. Doing several 2 or 3 hour drawing sessions with a small group will give you a huge boost of confidence to take on the larger group.
  • Work out a posing routine. Try to have an arsenal of different poses you can call upon once you're posing for the large group. This serves several purposes: 1, you won't be as nervous, knowing you don't have to improvise once you're up there on the posing stand. 2, you'll have a good idea about what works for you for longer poses and shorter poses. The last thing you want to do is get into a pose for, say, a 20 minute drawing that you realize you can't hold after 3 minutes!
  • Relax about the nudity thing. I know, easy for me to say, right? But the truth is, after about the first 5 minutes or so, almost everyone in the classroom or group meeting is usually "over" the whole nude thing, and are more focused on getting a good drawing. They're not freaking out over your exposed penis! You shouldn't be freaking out, either... it sounds cliche and a bit unbelievable, but it's true... the artists are there for the art, not for the thrill of seeing you in the nude!
  • Don't be late! It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Be on time! Arriving late at a drawing session is not only unacceptable professionally, it'll probably increase your nervousness tenfold, to have to walk into a crowded classroom full of impatient, slightly annoyed artists waiting for you...and then have to strip naked in front of them. Ugh! Avoid this situation by showing up 10 to 15 minutes early. As I always advise models, bring along a book to read, as you often spend a fair amount of time sitting around waiting for your time to pose.
  • Don't forget to BREATHE! Um, seems obvious, right? But, sometimes when you're really nervous, (like, when you're standing up naked in front of a group), you may get so focused on staying still on the platform, that you stop or severely limit your breathing, so much so that you end up gasping for air and shaking uncontrollably. As a big talk-radio listener, I refer you to Dr. Joy Browne, who advises something called "square breathing" to calm your nerves. What this is, essentially, is a 4-step process: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for count of 4, and then hold for a count of 4. Repeat this several times, and it can serve to not only calm your physical jitters, but also focus your mind on something to ease your nerves.
For more about all this posing stuff, be sure to check out my "Info For Models" page at my figure drawing website. It covers just about everything you could want to know about posing for art classes and drawing groups.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hitting the Books

For me, classroom learning was not enough. In fact, I often tell people that my figure drawing skills didn't really began to accelerate until after I graduated college.

And what was the "magic formula" that got me on the right track? It's pretty simple, really, (and it's not a "magic formula"). I hit the books!

Now before I go any further, I want to say that there are a lot of books about figure drawing out there on the market. And I don't think there's any one book that is the one, be-all and end-all figure drawing book that you need to purchase. Even in the books I do recommend, I can find faults and things lacking. However, I've chosen 6 of what I believe are the best, most useful books to get you on the right track. (They certainly helped me).

Before I tell you about my 6 recommendations, though, I want to talk a little about books that I don't recommend. I don't mean to be callous, but, I think many of the so-called "learn to figure draw" books fall into one of the following categories:

  • The "Medical Anatomy Textbook" type: These books contain pages and pages of medical terminology, detailed visuals of body parts as if dissected by surgery, and not much helpful info for the artist trying to capture the figure on paper.
  • The "Look at My Pretty Drawings" type: These books feature page after page of the author's own gorgeous artwork, with little or no actual instructional material. It's as if the author is saying, "look at my artwork, and good luck trying to match this".
  • The "Wow, How Did This Person Get a Book Deal?" type: This is the sort of book where you look at the artwork and think to yourself, "why would I want to learn from a person whose artwork makes me uncomfortable?".
As I said, even in the books I do approve of, I don't think any one, alone, has everything you need to learn. But if you combine what you learn in all of these books, it's a good foundation to get your technique on track. Also, the books can only teach you just so much; you need to be drawing, drawing, drawing on your own, to improve your skills and develop confidence.

With all of that said, here are the 6 books I recommend, with a little review of the first one, and in the weeks and months to come, I'll give detailed reviews of each of the other 5 books in separate posts, as well as include any new books that come to my attention that I find to be worthy.

Figure Drawing Step-By-Step by Wendon Blake: This is a very solid, learn-to-draw-the- figure-for-beginners-type-book, (and could probably be of use to some intermediates, too). Blake shows a straighforward, sensible approach to capturing the figure, and I kind of wish I had this book around when I was first starting out. I'm not crazy about his rendering of the figure, which is done in a somewhat heavy-handed charcoal style, but he's got all the basics right here to get you started on the road to mastery.

Dynamic Figure Drawing by Burne Hogarth

Drawing the Male Nude by Giovanni Civardi

Drawing the Head & Figure by Jack Hamm

Realistic Figure Drawing by Joseph Sheppard

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema (this one probably has some folks scratching their heads, but...I'll explain in a future post).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Most figure drawing groups and classes begin with the model doing a series of short, 1 or 2 minute poses, that the artists use as a warm-up. There are some great things about is a good chance to warm up, and get your pencil, (or charcoal, or whatever your utensil of choice might be), flowing. It's also an opportunity for the model to warm up, and to strike some more challenging, "action-style" poses, (due to the short-length of time for each pose; a model could never hold these sorts of poses for the long, 20 minute or 40 minute poses).

Depending on your drawing style, you can sometimes get some great drawings out of these short poses. Yes, they are usually more "roughs" than fully-realized drawings, but there's a rawness and energy in these types of drawings that some carefully-created, long-term drawings can't quite match.

However...for me, personally, I'm not a huge fan of the short poses, simply because I tend to do my better drawings with long, 20 to 40 minute poses. I don't work in charcoal, either, which lends itself to quicker drawings. I know, at one of the drawing groups I attend, some of the artists working in charcoal get some amazing, gorgeous drawings done in 2 minutes, using charcoal. Some of the artists there using watercolor get similar results. For me, working in pencil, it can be a real race against time to create anything of quality. In the drawing I posted above, (which features 4 separate 2-minute drawings), you'll see I focused on various sections of the body, instead of full figures. I usually do a page of full figures, and they are very rough. In the drawing above, I was able to capture some amount of detail in each body part. I always try to do 1 or 2 drawings of the model's face, this can be helpful when the group moves on to longer poses, and I don't have a lot of time to spend on the face in a particular drawing. My earlier, 2 minute drawing of the face can give me some reference to short-cut in that area.

If you're just starting out in figure drawing, don't be intimidated by the 1 or 2 minute warm-up drawings. You may feel frustrated that you're not getting much more done here than stick figures. That's I said, this is just warm-up. As the session progresses and you move on to 5, 10, 20 minute and longer poses, you'll be able to do more refined drawings with each time extension. (A tip...unless you really feel you're getting high-quality drawings done in the warm-up poses, don't bother using high-quality paper for this. Use newsprint, or at the very least, do several drawings on one sheet, and use the back & front of your standard paper).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Semi-Clothed vs. Fully Nude

A nice variation on the traditional nude figure is to add a piece of clothing to the mix. Not only does it give a fun alternative to the classic nude we've seen so much, it also gives you a variety of textures to draw. And, in addition, you get to learn more about how clothing hangs on, and is affected by, the various muscles and joints.

If you're in a drawing group, this is something to consider for future meetings. You may want to discuss it with the moderator, or, if you are the moderator, you may want to run it by the whole group, to see how they feel about it. If you have a group that meets for 3 hours, you could possibly have the model pose for 1 or 2 poses semi-clothed. If the group agrees, let the model know in advance that they'll be asked to pose semi-clothed for one or 2 poses. That way, if you have a particular item of clothing in mind for them to wear, they can bring it. It's best that they bring their own, instead of having them wear something you bring for them. They may not feel comfortable putting on someone else's used clothing, (would you?).

Some items to consider having the model wear:
  • Collared dress shirt (as shown in the drawing above): One of my favorites... a collared dress shirt always provides lots of folds and ripples, and can be positioned well to still allow ample viewing of the model's body. It also adds a certain elegance to the figure.
  • Jock strap
  • Socks
  • Tank Top
  • Baseball Cap
  • Sweater
  • Sneakers
You could use one of these items or a combination of them. Or, come up with your own. There are so many options to consider. I was at a drawing group once where the model brought a spiked leather harness to pose in for the last pose of the day! Great to draw, added a lot of intrigue to the drawing, but remember....a detailed item like that can add on a lot more time to the drawing itself, so allow some extra minutes to complete the drawing!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Drawing On Colored Paper

I drew this the summer before last, when I was still in the beginning stages of using colored paper with pencil & white charcoal for highlights. (Prior to this, my figure drawings were either pencil or ink on white paper only). I think this drawing shows a little more adeptness with the white charcoal than when I started using it. However, I think at this point I was still tentative about it and used the white charcoal pretty sparingly, (it's not too visible here; click on the drawing for a larger view, and you can see it a little better). I'm actually still learning how to use it; as with many aspects of figure drawing, I don't know that we ever reach a level where we feel "OK, I know it all now, nothing left to learn here". Every drawing offers us an opportunity to experiment, to incorporate new elements or techniques, to surprise yourself, and to improve.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Why do a blog about Figure Drawing? Why not just shut up & draw?

OH, 'cause there's a lot to talk about.

I have a whole other career in the comics industry, but my figure drawing is certainly one of the core elements that got me there. I go to figure drawing sessions regularly, and I took a whole mess of figure drawing classes in college, too. (So many, in fact, that they had to invent new classes for me to take, such as "Independent Study in Figure Drawing III". I kid you not).

I'm excited by a lot of the current figure drawing I see, and turned off by a lot of it, too. I have a whole bunch of things to say, advice to give, and some random observations about the art of figure drawing. And I certainly plan to include all of that here in this blog in the coming days, weeks, and months. And of course, showcase a fair amount of my figure drawings, too.

I take figure drawing seriously, and I think as you read through what's here, you'll get a good primer in how to get the most out of your own figure drawing experience. And as far as posing for figure drawing classes, groups, or individual artists...I know a whole lot about that, too. So, by all means, if you are a figure drawing model, there's going to be a lot here for you to learn from.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you'll make this a regular stop on your journeys!