Here are a number of drawing exercises that will allow you to loosen up, relax, and enjoy beginning to draw the human figure. These exercises and examples will suggest both new ways of drawing and new ways of looking.
You will need:
Patterned clothes or fabrics
A watch or clock to keep time
To the Teacher
From around eleven years of age learners frequently want to be able to draw things “as they are”. They may therefore enjoy these drawing exercises, which are challenging but encourage the development of observation skills.
However, drawing from observation is only one way of creating art. Artists also create images from the imagination.
They may not be concerned with how realistic or accurate their drawing of something looks.
As a teacher, remember that it is important to make art from different starting points: sometimes from observation, sometimes from memory; at times drawing on emotion, at times on imagination.
At certain early developmental stages, children develop “schema” in their drawing. When we use schema, we use what we think we “know” about what things look like, rather than drawing what we actually see. Some learners continue to use schema, or drawing conventions, or visual stereotypes, even as adults. Schema represent what we know – or what we think we “know” – about what things look like, rather than what we actually see.
In this activity, the student must look carefully, and observe the unique details of the subject – and then draw what he or she actually sees. The students should avoid using schema, or old drawing conventions.
However, the resulting images will not necessarily be “accurate”, or “correct”, or like a photograph! This is important to remember: focus on the process of looking, observing and putting down on paper what you see, in your own way.
Stand far enough away from the model that the entire figure can be seen easily. Spend just one minute – no more – drawing the model. Try to capture the general form, rather than going into detail. Work quite freely and expressively, if possible with charcoal, as this medium will help you not to be too precious about your marks.
Now look really carefully at your subject, taking time to notice details. Draw with care, noticing specifics of line, pattern, tone (light and shadow), and observing negative spaces. You might focus on particular details to begin with, in order to understand their structure and form. Depict what you actually see (not what you think you “know”!), as accurately as you can: check your drawing by looking again at the subject/sitter. Spend more time looking the subject in front of you than looking at your drawing.
“Blind contour” drawing
In this activity you should not look at your drawing until it is finished. Position yourself so that you cannot see the page easily – only the model. Draw in pen, using one continuous line. Do not lift your pen from the paper until the end!
Negative space drawing
Here the model takes up a pose inspired by a letter of the alphabet. (The pose should be easy enough for the model to hold it for some time.) Look for the “negative spaces” – for example, the shapes between the legs or arms and the body itself: the gaps. While drawing, focus on these gaps, these negative shapes, and draw them, rather than the body.
Try to see the figure just in terms of light and dark. Half-close your eyes when you look at the model, in order to blur all details. Note only lightness and darkness. Using the side of the charcoal, lay in areas of darker tone, and leave out areas of light. Rub out with an eraser where necessary to bring back lighter tone. Notice how this begins to create a sense of “solid” three-dimensionality: that is because when light hits a solid form, it causes a shadow to appear on the opposite side of that form.
Drawing with the other hand
While still looking carefully at your model, draw with the hand you DON’T usually use. Don’t be tempted to change hands!