The human figure is one of the hardest things to draw accurately. When drawing a human figure, you need to be aware of technical issues such as proportions, shading and foreshortening, but you must also be able to portray the figure with emotion and sensitivity. Even if your figure drawing isn’t 100% accurate in terms of resembling real life, a drawing imbued with creative energy can create a powerful effect upon the viewer.
To better study and render the human figure, Renaissance artists dissected and studied corpses, taking detailed notes and making realistic drawings from their anatomical observations. Learning about the structure of muscles and other internal organs helped Renaissance artists create more precise artwork. These days, you don’t need to visit a morgue to brush up on your figure drawing skills. Ample books and websites focus on drawing the human form, providing countless illustrations of body parts, both externally and internally.
Figure drawing classes are invaluable for enhancing your ability to draw the human form. Most community art centers offer figure drawing classes with instructors who can critique your artwork and give you pointers. Most figure drawing classes are conducted with live nude models, which may come as a shock for people who have never been to one before, but this is standard. Drawing the nude figure helps artists gain a better grasp of the human body and how it looks in various positions.
If you are unable to attend a drawing class, you can search for free reference photos online. Many “artist community” websites offer a bank of free reference images that you can use without worrying about copyright or obtaining a model release. For specific poses, expressions or costumes, you’ll need to take your own reference photos. Hire a model or bribe a friend to do the posing for you.
If you want to draw a person is a specific pose but you do not have a model and can’t find the right reference photo, use a poseable mannequin, such as the one shown above. The poseable mannequin will give you a general idea of where to place the various body parts, but you’ll have to “invent the details”, such as facial features, clothing, etc. For this reason, a wooden mannequin is usually more ideal for gesture drawing, rather than a figure drawing that needs to be true to life.