What can you do to improve your figure drawing?
Of course the best way to improve is simply through a lot of practice. You knew I was going to say that, didn't you? Practice is the key to improving all things, after all. However, unless you're practicing in a guided way to ensure you're not picking up bad habits, practice can do more harm than good.
If you've ever done a YouTube search on "figure drawing tutorials," you'll find a wide range of how-to videos available on the subject, not all of them are accurate or useful and if you're new to this, you might not know the difference.
A good channel I've uncovered is Love Life Drawing. Below is a tutorial on the different kinds of figure drawing techniques used by artists. For more on the fundamentals of figure drawing, subscribe to the channel.
1. YouTube is great, but so are books!
Above is an example of a great YouTube resource. However, not all of the YouTube content out there is of this quality. You know how they say you can't believe everything you read on the internet? Sometimes, you can't believe everything you watch on the internet, too. Any Joe or Jane on the street can make a YouTube account and create videos presenting themselves as subject matter experts and unless you're a subject matter expert as well, you won't know the difference one way or another.
The internet is free, you say? Well, so is the library. ;) AND, there are people on staff at the library whose job it is to make sure the information you're consuming is correct and accurate.
A couple books I've used and recommend:
2. Stay loose and light
Whether you use lines to indicate tension in your initial figure or you start with blocking in geometric shapes to indicate where the figure's mass is, relax, don't stiffen up your wrist and your shoulder and keep your lines light.
If you feel tense, put down your pencil and shake it out. This is just practice, not a piece intended for an exhibit at the MOMA. It's okay if you muck it up. In fact, muck it up! Do all of the mucking. And then, learn from your mucked up mistakes.
Keep your lines light as you lay down your initial frame of the figure. Eventually, you're going to be doing a lot of drawing over these lines. They're meant to be guidelines as you beef out the rest of the form around them. Chances are you're not going to want them to be visible in your final product.
3. Practice from life (if you can)
The truest way to get familiar with different body shapes and forms is to practice from life. Ask your friends and family to help. Ask your best friend or your sibling to strike a pose for you for 30 seconds as you try to capture as much of the form as you can in those 30 seconds. Then ask them to strike another for another 30 seconds and so on. You'll get better pretty quickly if you do this for several minutes every day.
If this isn't an option for you, another alternative is finding action shots of people online in dynamic poses, think wrestlers, MMA fighters, figure skaters, sword fighters, etc. Grab a few you like and then do 30 second studies of each. Graduate to 15 minute and then 30 minute studies to give yourself the time to practice fleshing out the figures.
Learning the fundamentals of figure drawing correctly is key. You can do this by using some of the quality resources I shared in the first section of this blog. After that, it's all in how you practice and how consistently you practice. Practice often and have fun doing it and you will begin to see the fruits of your labor.
As always, I'm available to answer any of your art- related questions through DM on Instagram @msrmcgaughey.