Figure Drawing Without A Model

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In this chapter we shall look at a number of drawing exercises devised to help you towards your goal of good imaginative figure drawing from memory. They are aimed at consolidating the information so far presented and building on the familiarity you have gained with the human figure through your frequent use of your sketchbook. Each exercise contributes in a significant way to the development of the drawing skills you will need, and in the process will help you avoid the commoner pitfalls and weaknesses to which drawings from memory are prone.

The exercises outlined on the following pages should be regarded as steps in your learning process. Knowledge memorized as a list of facts is generally of little use in practical terms unless backed up by activities that put it to work. (That's why the contents of the chapters in this book alternate between practical and theoretical.) Carrying out these exercises will help you build a fund of knowledge and experience which you can easily and naturally call upon later.

Bone Shape Activity Skeleton

If you know where the main constituent parts of the skeleton belong you will readily understand the disposition of the body's elements in any pose from any viewpoint, and so be able to construct it convincingly from memory.

The two drawings at left both represent a simplified human skeleton. The first shows the main bone shapes, the second a matchstick figure with head, rib-cage and pelvis indicated as eggshapes. As a first step towards drawing figures from memory, doodling this elementary structure in a wide variety of action poses is an excellent way to gain familiarity with the mechanics of figure movement. Once you are confident of the position and curvature of the spine, and how and where the limbs go, you will always know that your work is at least structurally sound.

Frequent practice with matchstick versions of the human skeleton will give you an understanding of structure.

Frequent practice with matchstick versions of the human skeleton will give you an understanding of structure.

Spine Twisted Pelvis

Remember that the spine is flexible, and that in a normal upright posture it describes a shallow double-S curve. Remember, too, that the legs account for half the total height of the figure.

Try the static, standing poses first, then go on to draw more and more active poses in which the spine is bent or twisted in various ways and the limbs are flung wide.

Mind Into Space
By simplifying the figure into blocks and cylinders you build up in your mind a conception of the figure as a three-dimensional object in space.
Analytical Pose Drawing

This practice session involves your simplifying the figure into blocks and cylinders so that you build up in your mind a conception of the body as a solid object.

If you can understand these simple shapes as solid, three-dimensional cylinders and boxes, you have a means by which the very much more complex shapes that comprise the human figure can be analysed and understood. This kind of analysis can make an apparently complicated and difficult pose easy to understand. Understanding it, you will be better able to draw it.

The sketchbooks of many great artists contain analytical drawings like these. The technique provides a simple means of establishing the way the forms of limbs and torso relate to one another in space. In creating figures from your imagination, this grasp of three-dimensional form is something you will need to call upon constantly as you draw: your practice with these simplified forms will help to increase the stock of knowledge you bring to bear on the task.

Never forget that your drawing is a two-dimensional representation of a solid, three-dimensional subject, and not merely a line around the outer edges of a flat shape.

Figure Drawing SimplifiedDrawing Without Model

This exercise, derived from one used by the tutors of the famous Bauhaus School in Germany in the 1920s, is an excellent means of gaining an understanding of how a three-dimensional object is represented on a two-dimensional surface.

Find a photographic reproduction of a human figure. The most freely available nowadays are the pictures of fashion models in magazines and mail-order catalogues. Draw lines on the picture as though they were drawn on the skin of the model. Imagine that he lines are actually a part of the original photograph - in other words, drawn onto the model's real body. Cut out the figure and then along the lines you have drawn. Separate the parts and paste them down; then add finishing touches to make it appear that the model has actually been dismembered.

You can have a lot of rather macabre fun doing this! In the process you will become familiar with the intimate shapes of the body and its surface form.

This rather gruesome-seeming exercise helps you gain an understanding of surface form.

Gruesome Cutting Drawing

Fleshing out the Figure

It is a short step from drawing the simplified skeletal figures described on pages 54-5 to drawing a manikin which may serve as a basis for a fully fleshed-out human figure.

If we view the torso as a flexible tube or sausage-shape, remembering that it is capable of twists and bends in any direction - forward, sideways, and to a lesser extent backward - the exercises on pages 54-5 can now be taken further using something very similar to the gesture drawings discussed in Chapter 1 (see page 22). Although they are drawn from memory and imagination rather than from life, the approach should be the same: to establish a complete pose in a few choice lines.

Begin as before with simple standing figures and progress to active running, dancing and sports-playing poses.

Once the basic gesture is jotted down, further refinements can be made: the arms and legs can be fleshed out and the sex differences made evident. The purpose of this type of gesture drawing is to train yourself to establish the complete figure in your mind's eye: to develop the ability to visualize clearly what you want to draw.

Drawing Legs Standing Poses Figure Drawing Sexual Poses

Good drawing is a frame of mind as well as an exercise in line.

For good figure drawing from memory, the artist's identification with his or her subject is of paramount importance. By this I mean that you must feel that you're dealing with an aspect of yourself as you draw. As you draw a hand, you should be acutely aware of your own hand - its structure and proportions, the knuckles and the fingertips, etc. This state of mind will transmit itself into the drawing and so give it life.

Draw a small naked figure - as small as you like, maybe even only a couple of centimetres tall. Your first effort may well look like a rag doll, but this is quite adequate to begin with so long as you bear it in mind as you draw that this little figure is you, yourself. Try to experience the pose while you draw it. Think of your own shoulders, spine, knees and elbows as you draw them. Try to make this figure physically similar to yourself, too: if you are a bit overweight, then this little manikin should be likewise. If you are tall and lean, so should your drawn image be. All this will help you to feel more intimately involved with the figure you are drawing.

Don't be too ambitious in the early stages. Initially just try drawing your figure standing upright, then go on to show the arms raised or the knees bent. Then try depicting the manikin leaning on a stick or sitting down - always remembering as you draw what it's like to do these things yourself. If the pose you have selected is a tense one, feel the tension of it in yourself. If it is relaxed, feel the looseness and calmness of it.

Do this as often as you can - whenever you have a spare moment. It can be quite therapeutic to draw your figure doing something energetic or aggressive on the corner of the telephone directory while you're waiting for a call to be answered. But wherever you draw him or her -you —make this little figure a part of your everyday life for a while. He or she will give you a very effective and light-hearted way of gaining skill in imaginative figure drawing.

Create a little figure representing yourself. Draw it running, jumping, screaming with rage ... or even hitting someone you're annoyed with. As you draw, bear in mind that the little figure is you. Constant practice of this exercise in spare moments will rapidly increase your skill in drawing from imagination.

Drawn Figure Exercise

Exploratory Doodling

Since the shaping of the outer surface of the body is largely a result of the configurations of the muscles, time spent consolidating information about the position and function of the major muscle groups, and the subtle changes in shape they display when a limb is moved, is never wasted.

The lengths of the limbs and the sizes of the muscles and fat masses account for almost all of the differences in shape between one person and another. Of course, not all bodies have large, well rounded muscles, and individual variations can be very pronounced, but all bodies have the same number of muscles in the same places.

Your first drawings might be simply loose diagrams of a limb or joint. Even this preliminary exploration should serve to engage your imagination, and you will gain an insight that will continue to grow. Once you've grasped the basic principles, you can improvize, invent and exaggerate the shapes and structures you draw, and thereby start to explore the cross-fertilizations and insights that are the roots of creativity.

Figure Drawing Practice Sheets

As always, remember that it is in your sketchbooks and notebooks and on odd scraps of paper and practice sheets that your growing knowledge and experience are processed, your imagination is indulged and you generate new ideas. Of all drawing activities, this can be one of the most satisfying and most rewarding. Never underestimate the value of doodling - of 'thinking with a pencil'.

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  • ren mayer
    How to do cool bleach poses?
    4 years ago
    How to draw poses from your mind?
    3 years ago
  • quinn
    How to draw figures without skeletons?
    3 years ago
  • tapio
    How to do life drawing without a model?
    3 years ago
  • Frans
    How to draw figures in different poses?
    3 years ago
  • tommy
    How to draw posing models?
    3 years ago
  • Alexander
    How to improve human drawings without a model?
    3 years ago
  • matteo
    How to get better at drawing figure without model?
    2 years ago
  • marina
    How to draw a model without lines?
    12 months ago
  • daniel beyer
    How can you practise life drawing without a model?
    3 months ago
  • miriam
    How to sketch models figures step by step?
    24 days ago

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