You could be the most talented artist in the world and still struggle with life drawing. There is something about the human form that is difficult to capture on paper and life drawing is a skill many artists take years to develop.
If you want to improve your skills in this area, you’ll need to practice – a lot. While you do, keep the following tips in mind:
- Get a good look. Before you put pencil to paper, take a good hard look at your figure to fix the image in your mind. Make note of certain things like the proportions of the body and the angle of the pose. Use your pencil to measure parts of the figure’s body.
- Think about composition. Though you may just be drawing the figure in whatever pose she is in, you still need to plan the composition of your drawing. Use your pencil (without marking the paper) to create the general shapes on the page so you can get a feel for it.
- Make a quick sketch. Take just a few seconds (yes, only a few seconds) to sketch the entire figure. Don’t include any detail, just sketch in the basic shapes and then make your drawing over it. As you add detail, try to work quickly so as to avoid agonizing over one part for too long.
- Try not to erase. Try to think of your eraser as a tool for lightening dark tones instead of a way to erase a mistake. Not only do erasers tend to damage the paper, but it wastes valuable time when you could simply draw over the mistake. If the damage is irreparable, you can always start over.
- Work in shadows and highlights. Once you’ve drawn in the details, you can start adding dimension with shadows and highlights – this is what will bring your figure to life. This is also the part of the drawing that will take some time, so making your initial sketch quickly will give you more time for this stage.
- Add some background. While the figure itself should be the focus of your drawing, you can add a few details here and there to ground it. Something as simple as a line will help make it clear that your figure isn’t just floating in empty space, or you could draw a shadow below it.
- Do it again. If you have extra time with the model after you’ve completed your drawing, make another one! Try drawing it from a different angle or choose a different technique when it comes time to add dimension. The more practice you do, the better you’ll get.
Always remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Even if your life drawing doesn’t look like a spitting image of your model, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad drawing. To some degree, the act of drawing is a work of art in and of itself, so don’t be discouraged if your drawing doesn’t turn out the way you hoped. Practice makes perfect and that’s half the fun of being an artist anyway.