Beginner: Figures seem flat, advice?

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by waffleeez 2 years ago.

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  • #26977

    Hey all. Hope everyone is safe/healthy.

    I'm a total beginner trying to learn how to draw. My end goal is to be able to draw characters and environments. I'm currently going through drawabox and proko's figure drawing. It's been about 2 months since I started and I've recently made a big improvement in my gesture drawings (after watching Hampton and Vilppu), but I'm having a little trouble developing/constructing my figures and as a result they end up feeling quite flat.

    If anyone had any advice in terms of things to look out for, I would really appreciate it! I think currently that I'm going to try to look for landmarks (pit of the neck, points of the ribcage, etc.) and block out major forms after getting the gesture down. I also tend to have a lot of trouble with getting arms and legs down, so any advice regarding that would also be great!

    Here are some drawings from my most recent session for reference:

    The top two are 5 minute poses, the bottom left is 10 and the bottom right is 25. I obviously have more work to do in terms of proportion and anatomy, but any advice/critique would be greatly appreciated.


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    Practice putting organic simple 3d volumes together, similar to how Proko does it in his mannequinization section (and Hampton too in his structural studies for that matter). This will help you develop a visual library for how to design shapes that look believable in 3d space. Good luck and hope this helps!

    Deleted user

    I was in your position not too long ago (basically a complete beginner ~10-11 months ago, self studied), so I definitely know where you're coming from. I'm far from the greatest artist myself, but hopefully some of this advice helps you out. Mind, I'm not privy to the inner machinations of your mind, so you may already be aware of a good amount of this.

    Personally, the most important thing you should be working on is getting an internal sense/feeling of 3d space, depth, and perspective. Both form and shading help to build a sense of 3-dimensionality, which both heavily rely on your own internal sense of 3d space. Ultimately, the depth of your drawings is limited by your own understanding of it, and while techniques like foreshortening help establish this depth to the viewer, those techniques (at least in my experience) should come intuitively as you develop your understanding of 3d space.

    Your problem with drawing arms and legs seems to stem from this (incorrect perspective, lack of foreshortening, etc.), although these issues are also noticeable in other areas, like the torso; you seem to be focusing more on 2D contour rather than 3D form (particularly on the torso on the top right). You have started to implement some cross contours in areas like the upper thigh, which is good (shows that you're starting to understand 3D form), but that application also has to extend further down the limbs, as well as in areas of the torso.

    Not sure if you've reached it yet, but the beginning of Lesson 2 of Drawabox elaborates on "thinking in 3D"; that is, not just mimicking 3-dimensionality with 2D shapes, but actually convincing yourself that what you're putting down on the page is physically 3D. It may feel weird to think that way at first, but I've found that it definitely helps out.


    Here's a few exercises that might help you out:

    1. Do a page or two of 30s gestures with curvy stick figures (don't consider contour at all). Draw your gestural curves while being aware of how parts of those curves are aligned in 3d space (up, down, left, right, but also forwards and backwards); don't say that a line "goes down and to the right on the page," but instead that the line "comes forward in space while tilting toward your right." For reinforcement, add contour lines along areas of the gesture (e.g. near the joints). This helps build up experience with thinking in 3D without the time requirement of having to draw out the torso, limbs, etc.

    When doing this (and longer drawings), it's important to get an idea of the perspective of the scene first (eye line, camera angle, etc.), as perspective influences how 3D forms act. Drawabox should have covered this well in lesson 1, but I've found Thomas Romain's lessons on this are also very helpful.

    2. Practice Proko's bean, robo-bean, and mannequinization (3d blockouts, all iterations of the same concept). They build on the structural elements that are necessarily to consider for a completed figure drawing, and abbreviated versions of them participate in pretty much any figure drawing. Right now, instead of including finer details and shading in your longer drawings, spend that time building up the structure of the body with cross-contours. Having a proper understanding of the figure is much more important than having it look pretty.

    3. Exaggerate foreshortening, and look for images with high foreshortening. Although suddenly increasing the difficulty may seem counterintuitive, I've found that cases of high foreshortening actually make things easier, as they clearly lay out how that foreshortening is accomplished.


    Getting a grasp of 3D form will likely take a while, so don't be worried if you end up struggling with it. Learning to draw isn't just about improving line quality, learning anatomical details, etc., but also about re-learning how to observe and think (although it's more "feeling" rather than "thinking"). Just keep practicing, and you'll get there.

    Also, I greatly recommend using the full page for your longer drawings. Making your drawings larger really helps with line quality.

    • Deleted user edited this post on April 19, 2021 12:13am.

    Thank you both for your advice!

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