Figure Drawing Improvement

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Sanne 7 years ago.

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    Hey all! I've been practicing figure drawing for a while now, and while I have improved, I still don't think I'm quite grasping some of the main concepts. When I practice it sometimes feels like I'm just sort of stabbing in the dark and hoping for a good outcome, rather than "knowing" what I'm shooting for and coming up short. That would be totally fine, but practicing something wrong over and over again isn't going to help me out nearly as fast as practicing it correctly will.

    Here are some 30 second pictures from a few months ago

    versus Some that I did today

    The only real improvement that I can see is my lines have become a bit cleaner (which only happened a few days ago to be honest, when I stopped doing scratchy lines in favor of smooth strokes....)

    but when I'm drawing the lines for the figures, a lot of the time I don't feel like I'm "seeing" the correct "rhythms" the way most artists and tutorials describe it. Aren't I supposed to know which lines to place on the paper in what order, just by looking? A lot of the time, I find myself staring cluelessly at the model after I draw a head for about 5 seconds and then placing a line through their body that I assume is the "line of action" just because I only have 25 seconds left. Then I desperately place lines around that line to try and "describe" the body? I don't know...

    Clearly I could use some help here hahaha...even if its just someone telling me that I actually AM on the right track. Its a little frustrating to practice for months and still feel like you're in the exact same place.

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    Hey Arvel!

    I think you're definitely heading in the right direction with your works. :) You seem to have the idea of capturing motion with smooth lines down really well, but by the sound of it you're not really understanding the basic build of a human figure. (Think of where the hips start, proportions etc.)

    You're doing 30 second gestures now, have you considered starting with 60 or 90 second gestures instead, and following the tutorial here?

    This article is also very helpful and sounds like it applies in your situation:

    Let me know if any of this helps. :) I'm looking forward to more sketches!


    Sanne said it all! You are capturing the essential "flow" of the body, and in my mind, that's what a 30-second gesture drawing should do. I think alternating between 30-second poses and longer poses might be a way to go, and I look forward to seeing more of your drawings.


    Oh wow, that looks really good! Your 30 second gestures were very flow and movement based. These also capture the flow, but also show a clearer understanding of the underlying anatomy. So I consider this really good!

    How do you feel about these 1 minute gestures, yourself?


    To be honest, at the moment I'm currently watching an excellent lesson by Glenn Vilppu, and it seems like I was (and still sort of am) missing the point of the gesture.

    I was very concentrated on making the gesture look "pretty" or "beautiful" kind of like a completed, or even half completed sketch, but it seems like that isn't really the main idea behind the gesture. It isn't even the first level of a sketch at all, it's not meant to look "pretty", its just supposed to capture the movement of the subject so that the first step can be applied over it.

    I feel like a lot of the drawings capture the flow of the subjects, but I think I did that more by accident? Rather than out of understanding.

    Hahahaha I've been practicing for so long, will it always feel like you're a beginner? Seems like for the past few years all the art I've been drawing was sort of a waste, and I'm just now learning the basic stuff


    I think the issue comes from different examples. When you search for "Gesture drawings" or "Life drawings" Sometimes you'll get examples like this, and other times you'll get something like these or these. All of these examples are sold as "finished gesture drawings", so to a beginner, it feels like obviously I should be shooting for something resembling the second and third examples in thirty seconds or a minute, because they're more complex and seem more "finished".

    But that isn't really the case. The first example is gesture, the idea of capturing flow and describing to the viewer what the subject is doing. The second and third examples are further steps in gesture, adding the contours and volume of anatomy and shading.

    When doing 30 second gesture you should be concentrating only on that first step. I think I was torn between trying to describe both gesture AND form all in 30 seconds or a minute, at the same time. So I am getting a little bit of gesture inside my drawings, but because I'm rushing to try and shove volume in too, I'm not concentrating on the flow and interconnection of the body as much as I could and should.

    Eventually with practice I'm sure you can capture this essential first step of gesture in 10-15 seconds and THATS when you can start adding form into your 30 second drawings.


    I'm very impressed with your personal reflections and thought process, Arvel. I think you hit the nail on the head with that.

    You also have to keep in mind that gestures aim to help you develop your own ability to recognize flow, action, proportions etc. Every artist does them slightly different enough that there is no real 'right or wrong' in terms of how they should look. As long as you are learning from them and notice a steady improvement (even if slow), you're achieving the desired result.

    As for feeling like a beginner, I don't think that ever really goes away. You never stop learning in art. You're always discovering interesting and new ideas, you'll always find flaws in your works and you will always be practicing. But I suppose that's at least half the reason people like myself love to draw. You never stop learning. You never stop being amazed at what you can do when you put your mind to it.

    Set goals for yourself by breaking down what gestures are about, like you did in your post. Don't worry too much about how polished and nice other artists' gestures look. They should be guidelines from which you can pick the elements you need to learn and improve, not goals to achieve perfect replicas.


    More gestures

    I've been trying to practice every day, sometimes I manage hours (when I don't have to work) and other times its just 15-30 minutes : )

    We're getting there


    Looking good Arvel! :) Keep up the good work, you're doing fantastic.


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