Thoughts on Figure Drawing

I don’t post a lot of my life drawings from a weekly figure drawing session.  But today I thought I’d post a few and try to explain why life drawing is so important to me.

15891161684_468e0ea3c7_o10 minutes. Charcoal and watercolor on charcoal paper.

I’m often asked, as an Urban Sketcher who draws a lot of people, if figure study is necessary to drawing people into your sketches. The short answer? No. Just like technical architectural drawing is not essential to drawing buildings.

figurez-sketch_5_minutes5 minute pose. Charcoal on Newsprint.

But does it help? Immensely. Of all the things I draw, people are the hardest for me.  So I draw a lot of them. Because practicing drawing what is most outside my comfort zone means I have the confidence to draw anything.

Figure Study in a group session almost always means working alongside some pretty amazing artists, being inspired by them, and learning from them. Just seeing how a room full of people handles the same subject in so many different ways is an education. And artists are really generous sharers of all they know.

figrure_sketch15 minute pose. Soft charcoal and white charcoal on paper.

Another question I often hear: “Why draw the nude figure when most of your urban sketches will never contain a nude figure?”
I enjoy drawing nude and clothed models. To draw the nude figure is to understand structure and muscle, and the flow and mass of the human body in ways that are often complicated by clothes. Going back to my architectural analogy, it is like studying perspective, structure, plans and layouts. While they might not be WHAT you draw when you draw a building, understanding them informs and enhances your drawing.

figure_deadWatercolor, charcoal and blue colored pencil on paper. 40 minutes. 

When I draw in cafes and on the street, I most often draw people sitting, or standing, walking or bending over, and every once in a while, jogging or running. Models at figure drawing sessions offer really dynamic poses, especially for the short pose sessions. I find contrappostol poses especially amazing to learn to draw weight, balance and the ‘line of action’ of the human body.

15226196314_ea9ea63990_o15 minute pose. Ink on watercolor paper.

I draw loads and loads in 2 hours of figure study. Most of it will never make it to this blog. A lot of it makes to to my recycling bin. But it is all really valuable practice and learning towards my 10,000 hours. And that counts for a lot.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
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15 Responses to Thoughts on Figure Drawing

  1. Great post Suhita. I love seeing what you do in your class and reading about how you think about it too. It inspires me to do more short sketches. Thanks for this.

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    • Shari, I’ve been following your weekly figure drawings posts. I don’t post these often because there is so much I need to learn before I can get my figures to be more right than wrong, but I thought a post about my thoughts on it, especially about how it, sort of invisibly, informs a lot of my work would be useful.

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  2. anjali says:

    Very powerfull and strong sketches.
    This is a regular practise when in art school but fades away slowly for obvious reasons.
    But yess you are right….one needs to sketch regularly in spontanity to have control and confidence over your subject.
    Love all of them…..
    Also like that they are recycled…..how much can one store….n why…..as its the process in what you learn.
    Thanks for sharing:)

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    • Anjali, worth going back to, if you can find a place to sketch on even a semi-regular basis. I find I don;t care much about whether I save these or not, I just learn so much from doing them.

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  3. Fabio says:

    Hello Suhita! Great stuff, as always! You draw so easily and the results are always very elegant. Bravo!!! 🙂

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  4. cathyp331 says:

    Great post and great sketches, Suhita. I went to a life drawing session yesterday, for the first time in 16 years. Your words say it all. And I love, love your art!

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  5. hememd says:

    Love seeing your figure drawings – I’m so glad that you posted them.

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  6. Thanks Cathy and Hememd!

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  7. Yes, great post. If you haven’t read it already, I always recommend “The Undressed Art” by Peter Steinhart to anyone who’s interested in figure drawing. It’s a fairly thorough examination of the process, from various points of view.

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  8. sandra says:

    dear Suhita, seems we are both San Jose fanatic scribblers.. and when you did that great sketch of the band at Castillero I knew we were city buddies.. I have kids that went there.. the Palo Alto drawing marathon is done, so sad.. 6 hours of drawing at t time!.. where do you do your figure drawing?.. love the strength and power you show..and the addition of watercolor..always a pleasure to see your work.. thanks, sandra

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    • Hi Sandra, would love to meetup and sketch sometime. There’s one more sketcher near you, my friend Nina. We sketch together every once in a while. Lets be in touch. I am at suhita[at]gmail[dot]com

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  9. Andrew James says:

    Taking up life drawing scared the crap out of me. It seemed I was the only one in the room who hadn’t been to art school. Still I have learned so much from it, not just about drawing but about how insecure almost all artists are about their work.

    I blogged about my thoughts on figure drawing too. https://ajamesdraws.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/life-drawing/

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