How to Create a Figure Drawing One of the most intriguing things to create is the human form. It is so complex and astounding that it never ceases to amaze when rendered. In creating a the rendering of a person you must first chose the right medium and support for your drawing, usually a paper of adequate thickness and tooth grade. (Smith pgs. 42-51) If the drawing is to be a long kept picture the quality of the paper must be considered. An acid free base with a PH of between 7-9.
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Once you have chosen the paper you must also think about the medium, I prefer charcoal or graphite pencil for sketching. I high quality in either would be appropriate. (Smith pgs. 91-99) Each has qualities that are unique to the medium chosen. Graphite pencil can display great detail and precise markings while charcoal can result in rich depth and texture. Choosing the light source and the angle from which you will study your subject is crucial. You want to not only represent the figure but have some type of meaning in the pose and create a sense of the emotion of the figure.
The image should be intriguing and possibly give the personality of the person being portrayed. After deciding the medium and the pose start by measuring with your eye the dimensions of your subject. Use the common eight to seven head model artist measurements to get an initial layout of the figure you are drawing. Familiarize your self with the common measurements of the human form. When finally creating your representation create the lengths and foreshortening with geometric shapes to represent the parts of the body as they come together to create the full figure.
After getting the basic shapes and sizes you must then start combining the shapes to creates the legs, arms and torso and tie it all together. Once satisfied start filling in the general shading and depth of the figure, lightly add more dark and light keeping in mind where the light source is; keep adding general details and perfecting the shapes and contours of the figure. Be sure not to complete one aspect of the figure more than another, too much detail can be difficult to remove if corrections and adjustments are to be made.
Once the figure gains a tangible feel start honing the details by adding sharper shadowing and more intricate details of the finer parts of the body like the face, hands and feet. The form will start to look less like a bunch of lines bunches together on the page and actually start to look the figure before you. Keep checking proportions in relation to the rest of the body, it is easy to over exaggerate and distort the areas you are working on if you don’t keep working around the whole picture perfecting little by little.
In order to create dramatic effects of light and dark, techniques like blending and erasing must be utilized. A sharp pencil or charcoal is essential to do minute detail and a kneaded eraser helps remove excess medium to enhance highlight areas and softer glow of light. A blending tool like blending stumps and even Q-tips should be handy to blend the areas of the surface for contour effects. Once you think you are at a good spot and you feel like the rendering is complete step away and look for a while.
It is important to step back and take a look at your work because what you thought was complete sometimes could use some reworking. After taking a break and reworking areas you see then you can set the image and sign it for completion. A fixative spray will do for charcoal to make sure your hard work does not easily smudge. Graphite pencil generally does not need fixative; it adheres nicely when applied without having to preserve it. After you are done the last thing you need to do is decide how it will be displayed.
The right frame and matting makes all the difference in a piece of artwork. Where it will be displayed and how to best set of the piece without over powering it. Just because you are dealing in black and white and grey doesn’t mean the frame or matting couldn’t bring in some color. It often could help to decide the tone of the piece and the personality of the person. With a cool blue or a fiery red. A muted amber or a green hue could easily be the right choice to set the final stage of the rendering. Smith, Ray; The Artists Handbook; New York, NY; DK Publishing; 2003, 2009.