My biggest goal - realistic figure drawing

Hello everyone!

Over the last couple of years my admiration towards arts and the desire to create paintings have grown. I picked up a brush for the first time in two years ago and I have been working on some projects while absorbing information from various resources. I improved my work bit by bit, however I always had this idea in my head that I wish to be able to draw (and paint) the human figure without having to set up a reference photo of exactly what my vision would be. I have a lot of admiration towards Florent Farges for example who can create compositions and ideas on the canvas that were only in his head before.

The reason I wanted to create this thread is because I wanted to ask for opinions and recommendations on this topic. I am aware that there are hundreds of books available and I am sure there are videos on YouTube as well, however I wish to take advice before I turn my attention to any of these. I am looking for materials that would help me understand and practice the human anatomy/figure and provide a kind of methodical approach of how to construct a drawing in any orientation I would like it to be. Even though this is a very long shot and without years of academic knowledge and practice it is going to be difficult, but I want to give it a try.

Just an illustration from a book to break up the long text:
(title idea: 'me trying to learn figure drawing')



  • edited November 18
    Most useful human anatomy resource : love life drawing. They have a YouTube channel very well made. Most important : get their free pdf with all the steps of the learning process explaing what skill has to be learned at what stage, and how to cycle through them. It has been game changing for me, and it's free. This allows you to understand what are the goal at each step of the learning curve. Effective and funny. Combine with a croquis cafe online training or life drawing even better. I highly recommend.
  • Find local Life Drawing sessions. Find a classically trained teacher. Natural light would be great. 
    You have to be there to get up and look around the edges. To feel the volume and experience the different types of light.

    In art school we had at least 9 hrs a week in life drawing. Before covid I drew and painted 6 hours a week from models for 5 years. It was some of the best work I ever did.

    We can't find models now? 

  • dencaldencal -
    edited November 19

    I am looking for materials that would help me understand and practice the human anatomy/figure and provide a kind of methodical approach of how to construct a drawing in any orientation I would like it to be. 

    Drawing looks great.

    Brian Proctor guides artists in constructing anatomical human figures in a simple and efficient process.
    Brian is a comic artist but the basic h/f structure is adaptable to any style.

    For superb value creation with a pencil Darrel Tank is the man.

    A great reference book is Loomis Figure Drawing for all its Worth.

    A great online resource for h/f drawing is the Art Pose apps.

    Karl Gnass shows how effortlessly he draws h/fs.

  • @adridri Thank you! I checked out the pdf and their channel and it seems pretty useful! I like the approach they have.

    @KingstonFineArt , it would be the best method of course. I began looking up courses and workshops in Budapest where I live and I should definitely give it a go. I'm sure even a couple sessions in an environment like that would prove to be useful for me, especially as they usually have live models and experienced teachers.

    @dencal, I liked the book and Karl's video the most from what you have recommended me. Very useful stuff, thank you! I really like the idea of the ArtPose app, I was wondering why I haven't thought about something like that before.
  • tamasgodanyi

     I forgot the most important resource for learning h/f drawing is your local life drawing groups.
    Get some newsprint paper and some charcoal. Draw lots, keep and date a couple.

  • In art school we had at least 9 hrs a week in life drawing. Before covid I drew and painted 6 hours a week from models for 5 years. It was some of the best work I ever did.
    Wow. The skills you must have developed. The struggle for someone like me with intense work schedule and too many other things in my life is that a lot of teaching and advice is about doing this kind of foundational work that I simply couldn't have added to my life. The advice is correct. But I've averaged about 1 complete painting every 2-3 years. So folks like me have had to find other ways to develop that are not as good as this kind of disciplined learning. The marks that someone like you could make in a flourish I have to work on. @tamasgodanyi - I'm not giving an alternative view, I think the advice here is sound. Just aware of that other stream of us that learnt to work around that lack of foundation.
  • @Abstraction
    Drawing skill adds understanding to the process of building a painting. Drawing is not just foundation.

    The process of drafting up a painting from visualization and drawing is powerful. For this you gotta draw. And draw well enough. It's visual understanding. A process of creation. 

    Painting to me is just the frosting on a well drawn and baked cake.
  • edited November 23
    Not for me. I'm from a different school of painting where the three dimensional cake emerges from visualisation and painting rather than drawing. The 'drawing' itself emerges in the process and only as much as needed to tell the tale, and from edges not drawn lines. All the components of drawing such as perspective are within the process. I'm not belittling drawing skills, they are of immense value, but I rarely start a painting that way unless I need to. This is just my journey -
    Draw and colour in: As a child we were all taught at school to draw something as lines, then colour it in. Colouring in books were common. Lines. Lines as the starting point. So I learnt to see everything as lines. As a result, you can tend to draw each object as a separate object within the whole. It led to a way of seeing that stopped me observing certain things. My initial efforts to paint were not painterly because I was seeing objects in this separate way, defined by outlines.
    Painting tonal masses: But the dominant style I was taught when I began to paint didn't start a painting with drawing. This shifted me away from drawing and thinking in lines to seeing in large blocks of simplified value, shape and edge first. Not objects. Not outlines. If the dark tone includes part of the tree and part of the shadow on the ground it's one dark shape, initially. It has a built-in approach for correction that ends up with the drawing. This approach helped me in my journey stop seeing things as objects and making them too distinct. Initially I found this quite uncomfortable, I wanted to draw to feel in control. But I found it powerful and a correction to my way of seeing. (That uncomfortable, I-don't-have-control feeling makes us want to escape until we learn to embrace it as the feeling of learning.)
    I'm not implying drawing doesn't involve tonal masses, I'm just distinguishing two well-established and widely successful starting points for painting from my own journey.
    Use of different methods: So now I use either or both ways to start depending on the subject. I want to do a plein air soon and i would definitely 'sketch' tonal masses using wipe back method rather than lines as it gives me more control. Very quickly the main things are all there in values across the entire canvas. The drawing skills come in to correct angles, perspectives, etc - but not lines. If I'm painting something architectural that requires high degree of accuracy I will draw first as I did with current painting. But I have no desire to master life drawing or spend hours a day learning that skill with a view to some future. My life is too full, I don't have time. I can paint already. I continue to learn things almost every time I paint.
    For the goals you have, @tamasgodanyi it's important to learn drawing as @[email protected] points out. I would if that was my goal.
  • edited November 23
    I approach drawing similarly, @Abstraction. It is because I want to avoid that tight, illustrative "coloring-in' look that I don't use line drawings for my paintings. They hem me in and stop me seeing the big picture. One still has to draw with the brush - angles, perspective, shape of tonal masses all need to be right for realism, but we don't need lines to achieve this. What is the point of drawing the boundary of an object whose edge we cannot see because it is in deep shadow? Instead, we paint the shadow, the tonal mass.  But I still love fine drawings - especially where charcoal, for example, is used to create tonal masses rather than lines. And fine line drawings are beautiful, too. But, as with etching, I think of them is an art form or medium distinct from painting. 
  • I struggle with drawing. I have been drawing portraits but as @tassieguy and @Abstraction point out, defining edges where those cannot be seen is perhaps not a usefull but rather detrimental tendency for painting. When I look at my recent attempts I think they are better because I start looking at shapes and stuff as tonal masses rather than separted parts. Then again looking at old paintings of several years ago in acrylics where I would paint in short batches, these lines helped me and even defined a certain (not realistic) defined style that some people, although it has nothing to do with realism, seem to appreciate. I guess it all has to do with what kind of work you want to produce, be it modern, Cobra, realism etc... 
  • These are all very useful insights with their own truths and shows how one could achieve their vision through many different ways. It's not suprising to see a number of books, videos, guides define their own methods and ways to start a drawing or a painting and I think the key here is to know what you want to achieve exactly and what suits you and your style.

    Personally I do all kinds of different starts to an image, sometimes I measure things carefully, sometimes I just go in there and put some paint down and make few mistakes to have something to compare my goal to. Although it really depends on what kind of project I am doing and how deep of an understanding do I need for it.

    I understand your point well, @Abstraction and you really need to develop that sense of seeing those simplified shapes, values and masses, even if you're drawing only in my opinion. It just comes down to the very different nature of the mediums and techniques and the mindset and style you're after.
    In my example I really don't find the idea of thinking in lines, objects and boundaries conflicting with the so emphasised use of simple shapes and masses. As I want to achieve my desired painting in the end from imagination, I need to have an understanding of the human body, proportions, and relationships and only when I have the groundwork of those layed down can I think of form and masses, which comes so much naturally when working from a reference image and using paint as you also mentioned at the end of your comment.

    Perhaps this is why this project is so interesting to me as it will combine everything together what has been said already in this thread with the addition of concepts of composition and the freedom of working from imagination. And after all this being said, I will go back to develop my trusty little stick figures:)
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