Totally Figures

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook


Figure drawing class, day one. Although it’s definitely not obvious from today’s output, I think this class is going to help me a ton. Its most important feature is that it gets me drawing for three solid hours without distraction, something that my Internet addiction makes otherwise impossible. It’s also great to have immediate feedback from the teacher and the other students. Everyone is laid-back and encouraging, with varying skill levels, and range from a teenage boy to lady retirees. I was the only brand-new student.

The picture above was a 20-minute drawing, with a hitch: the instructor made me restart halfway through, when I got to the head (always draw the head last!) and it was partially off the top of the page. Even my re-do barely skirted it; my trouble keeping everything on the page has been well-documented on this site, and was definitely my biggest problem today. The teacher offered a helpful idea: Draw a little thumbnail in the corner to get a sense of where to place the features on the page.


This was a 5-minute drawing (in most of the timed drawings, I never got around to the head). The idea was to block out the major structure in colored chalk, then add charcoal.

I should add, we were drawing with something called “vine charcoal,” which is pretty cool, because it wipes off the paper fairly cleanly, allowing you to quickly correct mistakes or start over.


This was probably my favorite exercise, I guess because it’s essentially animation. 5 30-second poses of an action, scribbled out in ink. Once again I ran out of space and had to draw the fifth pic very tiny, under the second.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering (or considering a class like this): trust me, you immediately forget that you’re looking at a naked person. I think it’s a limitation of our brains; you can’t concentrate on a skilled task and be all “homina homina” STAMP STAMP *wolf whistle* at the same time. The model puts on a robe between poses, so there’s definitely no casual gawking.




  1. Aunt Anita

    That's interesting..draw the head last…never thought that was a rule…like I said getting the proportions is paramount, if those are off, regardless of details,  the whole piece goes clunk !  I always wince at the metal statue of  the man who is turning the wine press as the symbol to the entry into the Napa Valley. One of his legs lifted pushing on the press (thigh) is to my eye, not long enough.  It looks to my untrained eye that one leg is shorter than the other.   What you drew is pleasing. Keep up the good work.

  2. StarbucksSteph
  3. Mark M

    Yeah, the head-last rule is because we’re doing gesture drawing, rather than likenesses, so the most important thing to capture is the action. You structure it in order of importance:  First, the angle of the torso and pelvis (from this you get the curve and angle of the spine), followed by the limbs.  Usually the head’s just along for the ride.  Once you’ve got that down, you can start worrying about contours, then details.One of the cool things about this class is they also have homework assignments that focus on different things, like portraits, which the teacher critiques in class. So, I get a little more for my money than just figures. 

  4. georgiann

    I laughed at your “homina homina” comment…too cute.