Life Drawing

Art / Resources

Life Drawing

There’s much to be said about drawing the human form. In fact, there’s much artwork to be seen celebrating the beauty of the human body as well as whatever challenges the artist was trying to surmount (likeness, color, fluidity, lighting and so much more) in whatever style he or she has chosen. Even if your goal is to draw very stylistically, drawing from a model is a wonderful way to exercise how you see and how you move your hand/arm/body to translate the information you’re seeing onto paper.

 You begin with a Gesture Drawing. A Gesture Drawing is a very quick drawing wherein you have time only to get the gesture of how the model (or apple, or tree) is occupying space. I have taken classes where a gesture drawing  was 30 seconds and sometimes five seconds. In those five seconds we had only enough time to draw the line of the spine and appendages and then it’s off to a new pose. Gesture Drawings are all about loosening you up.

Then you’re ready to move on to the 1 minute, 5 minute and mega-minute drawings where you can really get into the details.

Of course, it’s so much better to draw from a live model rather than photo but below we have compiled a list of resources from which you may choose based on your time and geographic limitations.

Drawing Surface
Buy inexpensive newsprint paper but don’t work too small. 18 x 24 is a good size. 24 x 36 is better. You may want to get a cheap easel or prop the pad on your lap, but if you choose the latter, make sure the paper is angled up towards your face. Drawing on a flat surface will just make your drawings look truncated.

Try different drawing materials such as:

  1. Compressed Charcoal
  2. Soft (dark) Pencils (you’ll need a sharpener or blade to sharpen)
  3. Marker (may bleed through to next page however)
  4. Conté Crayon
  5. Pastels
  6. Crayons
  7. Kneaded Eraser
  8. Paint Brush and India Ink (Dilute slightly to varying degrees in plastic cups to get lighter grays for variation)
  9. Paint Brush and Watercolors (limit the number of colors for fast drawings)
  10. Tablet PC or iPad

There are so many options so I recommend that you take a trip to your local art store and talk to someone. Just don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Live Model Resources (Varying cost)

  1. Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. Why draw from models when you can draw from burlesque dancers and underground performers in and (mostly) out of fun costumes? Find a branch near you- they’re in over 100 cities all around the world and it’s a really good time.
  2. Also try searching for life drawing classes, sessions and open studios in your local area. Here’s one directory for the USA:

Online Model Resources (Free)

  1. Free site. All sorts of life drawing model photos. Male/ female, nude/draped, head shots, hands, color and black & white, even photos of big cats & horses. You set the timer, 10 seconds or slower, and it runs a continuous flow of images for the artist to practice figure/gesture drawing.
  2. Human Photo Reference for Artists and Game Developers
  3. Same company as above
  4. Same company as above
  5. Open this one up in Google Chrome so that you can translate the page (unless you can read Japanese). Chrome will ask you at the top of the page. This site has multiple options for types of poses but the (illustrated) models have no skin so you can see how the muscles behave. Down the right side are options for poses and male/female/child. Many poses are dramatic so this would make an excellent choice for super hero comic book illustrators. This was a favorite of mine as you can choose a pose and then drag to turn the model to get the perfect angle.
  6. Of course, you could also do a Google image search for a particular pose (man jumping towards you, for example) but there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be infringing on that photographer’s copyright which could end up costing you a lot of money in legal fees and punitive awards. We recommend you do not go this route.

Model Resources in Books (Varying cost)

  1. When I was way younger than my current 25 years, ahem, I found The Human Figure by David K. Rubins. The illustrations are gorgeous and how the muscles work together is very nicely represented. But this is more of an anatomy book.
  2. Go to Amazon (or similar) and search for human poses for artists. There are many, many options for this. Better yet, go to your local bookstore so you can flip through to make sure it’s right for you.

For those of you creating pieces to sell or display, it’s imperative that you make certain that there is a model release when drawing from photographs (basically, the model has signed a release that s/he has transferred the rights to the images to the photographer, or in some cases to the website).

Next you should see what the website allows you to do with their images. Do you need to credit or link to the photographer and/or website? Can you sell your image based on their photo? Additionally, in most cases you may NOT take the actual photo file and modify it and sell or display it.

Just find a site from our list above that you like, and then spend a couple of minutes reading on the site what are the limitations. Then start drawing!

Did we miss something? Are there further resources you would recommend? Please leave a comment and let us know!

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