Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weird Proportions, Funny Noses, Crossed Eyes... It Isn't Easy Drawing People!

My sketchbooks are filled with pictures of flowers, landscapes, and everyday scenes from around my home. They even include quite a few sketches of our cats and dogs, but one thing that's glaringly obvious is that I don't draw people. There's a whole big part of my life that I'm afraid to draw. I can get away with inaccuracies when sketching a flower or a landscape or even a building, but when drawing figures, errors are obvious, and that makes me uncomfortable. So, for the most part, my sketches are people-free. It's just easier to leave them out than to risk messing up a perfectly good sketch by adding some weirdly proportioned guy who will only end up being a distraction.

But this bothers me. I don't like being afraid of things. So I've decided to do something about it! I'm going to tackle the problem head-on, and try to get back the skills I had years ago. When I was an art major in college, we spent hours in life drawing classes, learning to render the human form in an endless number of poses. It was time well-spent, and that familiarity with drawing people gave me the confidence to approach figure drawing without the fear and trembling that I'm feeling these days. My lines were sure and strong, rather than tentative. I'm determined to get back to that level of skill and confidence!

To start, I went online and found a website with information about proportions, then did a reference drawing in my sketchbook as a reminder of what the guidelines are for drawing a face.

(Click on any image to enlarge)

I did a couple of practice pages, filling them with faces and trying to get the proportions right. I started out using some Google images of faces to draw from, then tried sketching from some photos of my family.

9" x 12", pencil

9" x 12", pencil

These may not look too bad, but they're the end result of a lot of erasing and redrawing. I've realized that, when drawing faces, the slightest little line can turn a smile into a grimace or make a kid's nose look like a pig's nose! Getting both eyes the same size and looking in the same direction is trickier than it would seem. Sheesh! This stuff is a lot harder than drawing trees and mountains.

9" x 12", pencil

Including glasses in a portrait is challenging, because they tend to look too obvious. They need to be a suggestion, rather than the focal point. I'm working on it...

9" x 12", pencil


To loosen up and get over some of the timidity I feel when approaching a life-drawing, I periodically head over to Posemaniacs.com to practice with their 30-second poses.

9" x 12", ink

The computer-generated figures strike some incredibly contorted poses, but that keeps things interesting. And with only 30 seconds per pose, I'm sketching so quickly that it becomes intuitive. I don't have time to fuss over things. After just a few minutes of drawing, I start to get into a rhythm and begin to see improvement.

9" x 12", ink

9" x 12", ink

A quick gesture drawing is all there is time for. Some of them are flops, but some really seem to capture the essence of the pose. They're a lot of fun. The website is free - hop on over and give it a try.

9" x 12", ink


I also bought a good basic book about figure drawing, entitled The Figure, by Walt Reed. I'm reading it cover to cover, then plan to go back and work through the exercises. I'm hoping this will give me a good foundation to build on.


I guess the real key to becoming comfortable drawing people is to practice, and practice, and keep on practicing. Filling pages and pages of my sketchbook with quick sketches will do more for me than laboring over one drawing and trying to get it perfect. It may take awhile to reach my goal, but I'm going to work on it. I'll share my progress with you.

Anyone care to join me? 

3 comments:

  1. I feel the same way about figure drawing. Usually my sketches are merely the suggestion of people, not real drawings like you are doing. Maybe I'll practice a little also.....

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  2. I took a drawing classes eons ago and loved it, but time and life got in the way. I follow your blog and keep thinking "I wish I could do that" and while I will unlikely ever be as good, I realize I need to START to get to any level. So, I'm picking up a pad of drawing paper and pencils on my way home and making myself a promise to sit down every night and draw! thank you for the inspiration!

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  3. YAY!!! Suz, I'm so happy that you're beginning! That's the hardest part. Once you get started, the excitement takes over, and you'll wonder why you waited so long. Just do a little each day, and you'll progress quickly - but the main thing is to have FUN with it!

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