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Figure Drawing for Beginners

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Simple techniques to build your skill to draw and sketch people (or how NOT to give up before you even start....)



When you picture drawing figures you usually think of standing in a life drawing class with a nude or partially clothed figure, while students surround the model with easels and an instructor walks around critiquing the drawings, this can seem both overwhelming and off-putting, especially for the beginner student just learning to draw. This is NOT what our figure drawing workshops are about. That is not to demean traditional figure or life drawing instruction which both Katy and I attended daily as young art students and are equally as important.


Our thoughts are that you might like to be able to include a figure or two in your landscape to give it a sense of scale. You may want to learn the skill of drawing people in a cafe or waiting at a station or even your partner watching a game or your grandchild eating an ice cream. People are part of our world, so it makes sense one might want to be able to include them in sketches and drawings.



Henry Moore, as one of the great sculptors of the 20th century, remarked:

"The construction of the human figure, it's tremendous variety of balance, of size, of rhythm, all those things make the human form much more difficult to get right in a drawing ." Henry Moore


At the Joy of Drawing we have worked out the most fundamental steps to take to teach beginner's to draw people starting with the standing figure and moving on from there. In working with our students we found the skills that they find most difficult to grasp are:

  • Estimating proportions of a figure. We have really honed this and the recorded video lessons that we would recommend for anyone starting out is either the Proportions of the standing figure or revisiting basics with THE STICK FIGURE.

  • Being overly complex and too much concentration on details - this is covered well in our recorded workshop entitled ABSTRACTING THE HUMAN FIGURE

  • Difficulties drawing hands and feet - handled with two separate workshops, one on each.

  • Grasping how to convey foreshortening in the figure when someone is seated for example.

The Figure Drawing of Diego Rivera - an inspiration


Earlier this week I attended an exhibition of Diego Rivera at the San Francisco MOMA. Excellent exhibition and worth a visit. His main subject matter is people, and boy could he draw! Luckily there were many of his drawings in the exhibition. As a muralist he had to sketch many detailed drawings of all the figures he was going to paint. He also drew first before painted his studio canvases.


Rivera was classically trained in Mexico City before going to Europe where he lived and studied amongst the young painters in early 20th century Paris. He was inspired by Paul Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. He rejected the avant-garde art scene which was concentrated on selling to rich clientele and returned to his homeland where he began painting murals for the post revolutionary Mexican government who had a program for artists to adorn the old government buildings with art telling the story of their new goals.


The figures in Rivera's murals draw on the lessons learned in Paris. Look at how simple they are and how they capture the basic forms of the figure.




He was a master at drawing with charcoal and this image of road workers in New York was drawn by him on a 6 foot high (or more) piece of paper created on his visit to New York City. It is a perfect example of gestural drawing which is the next topic in our October Figure Drawing for Beginner Workshop Series!




The Figure Drawing for Beginners Workshop Series


Our workshops always draw on work by artists down the ages. For example, our workshop on the Reclining Figure traces paintings and drawings from the Renaissance forwards with some fascinating insights into the subject. Most of our workshops come with worksheets that you can print off and use to learn the different concepts before trying your hand at drawing from a live model. Best of all you can watch the video over and over, consult the slide show and do the exercises as many times as you want.





All of our monthly live-streamed workshops from February 2022 onwards are now available in our store, so check it out and start learning how to draw figures -- it's much easier than you might think.


Our goal is to give you so much certainty that you can draw figures in action, add figures into your landscapes and even attend those studio life drawing classes and hold your own when you do!


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1 opmerking


Just did the lesson on figure drawing for beginners - Proportions of the Standing Figure and it was amazing. Getting the proportions right started me out on the right track. Excellent class! Thanks!!! Sherryl Casella

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