Good questions: Of whirling dervishes and sitting men

One of my favorite things about teaching is that I get asked really good questions: Questions that make me think about how I see, how I draw and how I teach. Here are a couple of recent questions that were asked on my Figure Sketching Made Simple class on Craftsy, and some sketches I did to explain the questions.

Question: How would you draw the line-of-action on a whirling dervish?
(Note: Line-of-action is a technique we discuss a lot and build our figure sketches on , in the class)
Before I answer that, a little bit of background: I almost always draw from life. It is my best shot at capturing motion and the energy of a place or a person. But I didn’t have access to a whirling dervish, so I did the second best thing: I sketched from a video, not a photograph: Photos freeze motion, they make figures look more grounded and planted on the floor. And a dervish seems to defy gravity, to almost float…


That, and the whirling motion are what I wanted to capture most in my sketch. Which meant working differently from what I usually do: With starting a sketch with a line-of-action, I often draw the line through the spine, through the legs and down to the ground. But here I focussed more on floating that body: the tilted head, the suspended arms and then the swirl of the costume for the initial line-of-action. The legs, or a suggestion of them, you can see, came later.

Question: In some poses, like a man sitting on a park bench, I end up drawing these very straight lines for the line-of-action. Is that okay?
How I draw a line-of-action in my figures really depends on what I want to say: Do I want the figure to feel very rigid and angular? If I do, then communicating that right from the first line helps. But just drawing the angles of the body when that’s not the feel you want to communicate isn’t going to help. See the two sketches below. They are similar at first glance, but look again. sitting_bench_class_notes

In the one on the left, I start with pretty rigid lines to draw a man lazily sitting on a bench. But then you can see how I have to fight those lines when I build out my sketch over them. In the figure on the right, finding that flow through the body right at the start means I need less lines to finish off my figure and all the lines flow together much more easily.


If you’re enrolled in the class and have questions, go ahead and ask them on the class platform, I’d love to hear from you.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in Figure Drawing, How to, people, teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Good questions: Of whirling dervishes and sitting men

  1. Rajiv says:

    Super….. there is so much dynamism here


  2. Your explanation about rigid lines is very helpful, thank you!


  3. Love the sketches of the Dervishes (and seated person too). I’ve seen the Dervishes in person and you really captured the motion with the curves going one way and then the other down the body! Wonderful how there is not a straight line in the whole drawing except for the hats!


  4. Emilie Heurtevent says:

    Amazing! Just a line sometimes makes all the difference 🙂


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