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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    At home <3
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    Drawing from life and anatomy...

    First of all, I hope I'm posting this the right place... I think I am, but if I'm not, please move this thread to wherever it's supposed to be... ahahaha that sounded so demanding, it seriously wasn't meant that way...

    Anyway, I have some questions about life drawing (/drawing from life). Perhaps I should've made separate threads for each question but... that'd seem a little desperate I think..
    ok, on with the q's...

    First of all, when drawing from life (for instance, a person sitting, waiting for the train)... how do you go about drawing that? - What I mean is, do you draw faint "help lines" such as the bones, then "bulid up" with muscles, skin, clothes, to get the finished shape; or do you just draw an "outline" of the person?
    - I've been lurking around various sketch books and the latter seems to be what people do - what I just don't get then is how do you get it accurate? - How do avoid one arm getting shorter than the other, the head getting too big, the torso looking distorted etcetc..?
    Is it practice/experience that eventually makes you so good that you're actually able to draw what you SEE and not what you think you see/what you think it should look like? or is there some magical secret power that suddently makes you able of drawing anything and everything (ok, I know that's not possible - I just didn't know what to write)...!?

    Another question before I throw myself completely off topic with my talk of magic secrets; is it "ok" to draw from life before you have a good (or any at all) understanding of how the bones/muscles "work", making the body look and behave the way it does?

    I'll stop my never ending stream of questions now, hope what I wrote above isn't too confusing pld:

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Thanked 349 Times in 194 Posts
    To learn anatomy, get an anatomy book and start studying, try to remember all the muscles, their shapes, locations, function etc etc.

    as for your questions, when quickly drawing people from life, speed is key, so drawing straight off is what people do generaly. drawing from life is something that you have to practice loads and loads before you even start to realise how it works... doing daily self portraits is a good start, and just drawing stuff from life. at first you will be totally lost, but after about 6-12 months you should be getting the hang of it and understanding what you are doing. it usually takes years to fully grasp it though.
    And the last question: ofcourse its ok! thats how you are going to learn!

    probobly a confusing post but I hope you learnt something, now go draw!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Montreal, QC
    Thanked 220 Times in 183 Posts
    i dont have a lot of experience in life drawing, and i still need to improve a lot, however i can say that studying construction / anatomy is one thing, one important thing, but applying it to a drawing is different from each person. Some years ago, i can say i was trying a bit too much to always follow construction steps on my sheet, whatever i was drawing... always starting with stick figures etc, and kept redrawing insanely those stick figures again and again until i was happy, i almost never finished any drawings. after a long struggle, i realised that those steps where feeling more like constraints preventing me for fully achieving what i had in mind ... with time, i still follow and understand those steps, but more in my head and less on my paper, if i really need some guides with a body part, i can mark a specific bones before i flesh it out or some middle lines on a chest to help me follow the proportions. I do think that learning these steps is really important but dont let them tell impose you anything or force you to draw in a way that is not yours.. this could become really frustrating. Find your own natural way to draw,,, please anyone correct me if im wrong. Studying anatomy , even if its not applied to a finished drawing, will help you fix things in your mind.
    i'd be happy if this could help you. GL

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Just bring a sketch book with you at all times, try not to think to much and go with the flow. Use a pen sometimes-graphite stick quick sketch followed by a pen- watercolors loose washes- pastels-charcoal.... You just have to do it and learn from your work. Look at it, transfer and improve, you could use some drawings you capture and build on new ones.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    At home <3
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    @ archipelago: your post isn't so confusing, don't worry =) Learning all the muscles, their functions etc. is what I've been doing recently, but it's so tiresome in the long run.
    About life drawing, thanks for your tips. I hope it'll take less time than 6-12 months for me to be not totally lost... Like... I'm not expecting to be an expert or anything I just hope I'll grasp the basic concepts of life drawing in a shorter span of time... hahaha...
    I'll go draw in a moment!! haha! Thanks for the encouragement!

    @ WhiteC: Man, everything you're saying... it's like it could've been taken directly from my mind! The stick figures of doom... ahaha! I know them waay too well. Often they end up as the only things on my paper, without ever even being fleshed out, because they're not "perfect"... or if I flesh them out, they end up being as 2-dimentional as a 1980s platform game... =/
    ..aaaanyway, thanks for your input, it made me realize a few important things about finding my own natural way to draw!

    @SlowandHenry: Thanks for the tips. I used to bring a sketch book with me , but then when I tried drawing stuff it would look super ugly and I'd get so discouraged, so at some point I stopped carrying it around with me... but I know I shouldn't be discouraged.. I mean, if I practice the only way I can move at this current point is forwards, so... yea, I'll bring a sketch book with me the next time I go out side!!

    Now I'm off to draw!!~

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Thanked 7 Times in 6 Posts
    I agree with the advice here.

    I'd like to add that for me, drawing from life is more about observation, and drawing what I see. As I work, I can cross-reference what I see with what I know about anatomy and mental notes of any discoveries I make along the way.

    You want to be careful not to let assumptions about proportion and where things go distract you from drawing things where they actually are. It helps to detach myself from the fact that I'm drawing a person and to see the figure in terms of measurements, shapes and alignments, even if it's a fast sketch. When I approach life drawing and sketching this way, I come away with a record of reality I can later refer to when creating from memory or my imagination.

    I think drawing people (or anything for that matter) should result from a balance of experiences/observations (drawing from life) and empirical knowledge (the stuff we find in books).

    I've also found that the best way to learn the skeleton and muscles is to sculpt them to scale using a full-size skeleton and good anaotmy book as a reference.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Thanked 22 Times in 18 Posts
    im not saying the above people are wrong but that i slightly disagree with the "need to know anatomy" bit because if your drawing a person sitting at a train station..say reading a paper or drinking coffe etc etc they arent very often naked so you dont need to know about muscles etc for that but then i do slightly agree because you need to get your proportions right and for example if someones knee is making the trousers look funny then you need ot know what to do about knee shape etc and not just draw a cirle on this guys trousers see what i mean?

    for me drawing people from life i like to sketch the clothes first very loosley like if in a suit just basic suit shape no buttons marking logos etc, and just plain trousers then i do the creases in their clothes which has no trick to it just draw lines exactly like you see that is for me the quick part spending only about 5 minutes on it then shade the clothes to make the creass and folds look more realistic and to give depth etc then the face grr the bit i hate sometime i leave the face out because im lazy....but thats bad! dont do that lol, but the faces take me ages because its hard to do good facial features on a smale scale-on a whole a4 page size face anye chould find faces pretty easy but for the face there is no tecnique i can tell you or magic spell..although i and many others wish there was lol but no- its about learning wha your comfortable drawing it takes alot of practic and good understanding of shadows, depth perception and properly shaping the features and not drawing a square nose because thats the type of nose you find easy to draw, i do that too much lol but like you said draw what you see never what you think you see or think you will see.

    only real tip is take things step by step and dont get in a muddle and give up on one thing and start on another (on the same piece, eg dont start body then try and do face before finishing body) because you will get muddled up, confused and frustrated and hate life drawing....hey its a creative process right? lol. good luck im sure youll be fine

    Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Sunshine State
    Thanked 226 Times in 174 Posts
    That's a very good thing to say to yourself, Misteh...The only way to go is up.
    Unless of course you don't draw at all. =P

    When I draw somebody, I find that subtle curves are very irritating, so I represent that as straight lines. They're much more structurally satisfying, I think. I'd do these light, and when I finish the outline and have it working for me, I'd do the more subtle curves. Most of the body can be represented by straight lines, if the person isn't morbidly obese or anything.

    Facial areas I have a hard time on, as well, but remember that the tiniest line change near the eye or the mouth or eyebrow can completely change an expression, it's so amazing. When I'm doing small scale faces, I make the main lines in the face and if it doesn't look like the persons facial expression, I'll add a little line in some random place, erase, find what makes it work. In one of my larger portraits, The model had her eyes looking down, so they looked open in her face, but they were closed in my drawing because the eyelashes were in the way and I had an even shade across the eyes. Just a black slit. I made it look open by adding just the slightest suggestion of a darker shade inside there, and it immediately read as an eyeball, and not a closed eye.

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