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!