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Drawing the Human Form

We all struggle with the human figure because of our strong emotional attachment to it. This course is about drawing the human form to carry meaning. We will teach an open way of working which will be exciting for people and involve messing around with drawing and paint.

Starting 5th March 2018. Join our Facebook Group to take part.

This approach to drawing the human form is challenging, we focus on the essence of how human figures evolve in our art. This is about learning to draw what you really see, making marks that are recognisably human. It becomes not just a representation of the human figure but a human drawing full of story, emotion and history.

Objectives:

  • Find what makes a human form recognisable
  • Create marks that lead to human form

Exercise 1

Objective: find what makes a  human form recognisable

  • Look at Turner's painting Study of Sunlight. Copy this as a small drawing (half a standard piece of paper or smaller). As small as you like. 
  • Use charcoal or thick pencil (4B or 6B).
  • Comment on your drawing, how did you find the exercise?


Often your first attempt won’t be satisfactory, you may need to try this a few times. This is where working on a small scale is beneficial, you won’t have spent too much time on your work.

IF YOU CAN SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IS NOT RIGHT, THIS IS REALLY GOOD NEWS, BECAUSE SOMEWHERE IN YOUR MIND YOU HAVE THE CORRECT ANSWER AND THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE REACHING FOR.

Seeing that you’ve gone wrong is crucial and it gives you your way forward.

Exercise 2

Objective: find what makes a  human form recognisable

Turner's painting Wreckers, shows the essence of the human form. Turner has drawn a whole crowd of people with little more than splodges of paint.The angle of the lines hint at emotion. They are unmistakably people. Their activity is decided by the context to a degree but it is quite clear. Some of the people are in the light and some are silhouetted. It becomes not just a representation of the human figure but a human drawing full of story, emotion and history.

  • Look at Turner's painting Wreckers, copy this as a small drawing (half a standard piece of paper or smaller). As small as you like. 
  • Use charcoal or thick pencil (4B or 6B).
  • Get some distance from your work by either stepping back or taking a photo of your progress and looking at it on your phone. 
  • Compare your work with the orginal from this distance, have you captured all the light and dark areas?

 

Exercise 3

Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable

In this exercise we really want you to understand that the key to drawing dynamic and exciting human forms is not to try to draw anatomically correct people. This may sound contradictory but the viewer needs very little information to see a human form. Looking at Turner's work, the viewer fills in the details of what Turner has only hinted at. 

  • Copy this section of Wreckers
  • Try not to think of them as people think in terms of texture 
  • Have you drawn in details that are not there? Have you put in arms and legs that are not there? Have you emphasised something that is not evident in the painting? 
  • Comment on how you found this exercise.

 

Exercise 4

 

Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable, create marks that lead to human form

  • Copy one of Alessandro Casolani’s sketches, it’s important to keep your drawing small (half a standard piece of paper or smaller).
  • Focus on the looseness of the marks and the angles of the lines, use charcoal or a thick pencil (4B or 6B).
  • Look closely at which marks make the form human and how they provide a lot of information as to how the person is positioned and the emotion portrayed.
  • Once you’ve done this exercise, look closely at your drawing, have you managed to copy the angles and shapes of the sketches accurately? Have the marks you’ve made portrayed the same emotion?

Casolani was experimenting with ideas on how portray the climax of the story of Samson and Delilah. You can see the various positions of the people and how the marks and flow of the lines affect the emotion of the drawing.

Exercise 5

 Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable, create marks that lead to human form

This exercise will help you loosen up and create dynamic people like marks. Keeping in mind the flowing lines from the previous exercise, you will copy this crowd scene. However you will not look at your page while you draw. Do not check whether you've put a line or mark in the right place. Your aim is to scribble on your page with people like marks. Look at curves and angles, the more scribbles you make, the more likely you will find good figure drawing in your work. The aim is not to produce a great picture but to find strong good drawing within your work.

Exercise 6

Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable, create marks that lead to human form

  • Look at the beach scene below
  • Draw without looking at your paper, as you did in the last exercise
  • Copy the people using loose dynamic marks - don't try to draw individual body parts.
  •  Your aim is to scribble on your page with people-like marks.  

After this warm up you can then move on to drawing the scene whilst looking at your drawing.

  • Look at the general shapes without falling back on representing people with symbols. Such as drawing a circular shape for a head.
  • Stay with the loose lines you have been practicing when not looking at your paper.
  • Try not to worry about accuracy or persective, go for a people-like feel.

Exercise 7

Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable, create marks that lead to human form

  • Copy the image below by Gian Antonio Pellegrini, detail of The Body of Darius Brought before Alexander 
  • Try to follow the free flowing lines.
  • Your drawing needs to be small to avoid focusing on detail, 10 cm (8inchs) in length is a good size.
  • Try using a fine brush and thin paint (burnt umber or paynes grey or black) to make scribble marks of the same kind. You can do this by adding water to acrylic or turpentine to oil paint, you want a watercolour consistency.
  • Try not to think head, body, legs in a logical order with the head at the top. You don’t need to be drawing whole people. You want the feel of people’s bodies.
  • It’s important to use tone, subtle changes from light to dark, to create a sense of form.
  • Keep referring to this image to stay on track.

 

Exercise 8

As a warm up, practice some of the marks and loose lines of the last exercise

Now sketch your own scene with a people feel to it.

  • Do at least 2 sketches using the same technique as the previous exercise.
  • Keep referring to the previous exercise to keep yourself on track.
  • Use the same materials as the first exercise; a fine brush and thin paint or ink, charcoal, a soft pencil etc.
  • Try not to think head, body, legs in a logical order with the head at the top. You don’t need to be drawing whole people.
  • You want the feel of people’s bodies.
  • It’s important to use tone, subtle changes from light to dark, to create a sense of form.
  • This may take a number of attempts.

 

Exercise 9

Copy Tintoretto’s A nude man flying. Tintoretto aims to capture the general idea with quick marks. Notice on the arm the marks that indicate form.

  • Use charcoal or a soft pencil
  • Copy the drawing as many times as needed until you feel you have been able to achieve his dynamic style.

Exercise 10

Objectives: Find what makes a human form recognisable, create marks that lead to human form

This will be the final exercise for this course. Here you will use what we have been practicing to go out and draw people in a variety of postures. Not detailed studies. 

  • Go to a crowded area where you can comfortably watch and draw people
  • Warm up by doing a few sketches without looking at your paper
  • Draw using quick and dynamic lines trying to capture people without any details (no drawing faces).
  • Adding simple tones and shadows can be helpful (think back to Turner where a simple shadow formed a figure)