Thoughts about how to approach drawing the human body

Contrary to what many have stated, the human body is one of the most complex subjects to create in art. Many experienced artists may say that it’s simple, but being able to draw the body is an achievement on its own. The reason why it is so complex is the fact that when others critique your work, everyone has a concept of what the human body should look like. It becomes easy to see what works, and what doesn’t work.

First of all, one must decide what medium to work with, and another thing to consider is where you will be drawing. Although figure drawing classes are available at many art classes, some prefer drawing people they see everyday. Sometimes, while sitting on the subway, or sitting at the park, you might be inspired by individuals you see.

Favorite mediums to work in are charcoal, conte crayon, and graphite. A great exercise in drawing the human body, or any subject for that matter, is to focus strictly on shadow shapes. It may take some getting used to not relying on lines to draw out your subject. If you simply focus on drawing shadow shapes, the form becomes a bit more evident. Compared to line drawing you don’t see the harsh contours that exist in the real subject.

Alternatively, if you have a piece of black construction paper and white conte, it would also work to draw only the light shapes.

As an artist, you are a student of the world, and there is no greater lesson in art than just being able to look at people. By watching people move, interact, and rest, you are able to see the complexity that the human body is capable of. Having this deeper understanding, your art can only be better. Additionally, learning about anatomy will help as well. It will help you understand each muscle that lays beneath the skin, and also you understand the bounds of the human range of motion.

All in all, the human figure is a complex and difficult subject to draw. It has been a timeless subject since the days man drew on cave walls. It is a challenge to look introspectively and to examine each other as fellow human beings and finding every little nuance of emotion, and detail that makes drawing the human figure so complicated.

What makes the body differ than drawing a landscape, is the fact that a landscape can deviate from reality, even if you’re going for a more photo realistic style. When someone draws the human body, and just one thing is off, proportions, for instance, it can be very easy to point out.