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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Baker, MA

Figuring out Figures

When you want to draw (or paint) a figure, don't just start drawing head, shoulders, etc... We look at people all day long but when it comes to drawing them, we need a system to help lay down what's really there and truly see.

In order to draw or paint a figure we want to begin by laying down the axis of the body to create a "grid."  Axis are: imaginary lines that help divide the body into planes and help explain orientation. 

In this lesson we drew in axis for the spine, the shoulders and hips. Then we measured the ribs to get an approximate forearm length, drew in lines for the arms and added in an approximate head. 

Once you have the axis grid, it's time to draw in basic shapes like circles and ovals to give the body shape and mass.

  • Modify and adjust your lines in relation to each other until your drawing looks proportionally correct. (*remember, this is when someone else's eye can be incredibly helpful!*)

  • The negative space is also a helpful reference for proportions and composition. 

  • Outline the subject, creating a contour line drawing. 

You can see how much work goes into mapping out the figure before we ever get into the details. This ensures you have correct proportions and a good composition before honing in on smaller details.

Feeling inspired?!! This is part of a lesson for our Acrylic Painting class. You also might like to visit our Getting Started page where we can help match your personality to a medium!

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