Three Figure Drawings


At the moment I have access to models through a group that meets weekly, sadly there is no teaching element just access to a model for a couple of hours. It has been extremely worthwhile to have this access as I know not everybody does, consequently I have no control over the poses or timings. The majority of these drawings are based on life models with one or two from the Croquis Cafe on You Tube. Looking through my work I can see there is not a lot of standing poses and none longer than 10 minutes. For this reason I am posting several drawings for each category.

There’s a real mixture of drawings included here to try to give a range of the suggested poses, all are done in charcoal as obviously it works well when sketching fast. Some are better executed than others but some I have chosen some for their expressiveness.

Standing Pose

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As I’ve done several shorter drawings I created a slideshow. Generally I am happy with the results, overall I have tried to focus on the stance to make it convincing, trying to convey the shift in weight.

Sometimes it’s not possible to show the whole body as you can’t always see it but I hope I have the proportions correct, not always.

All of the standing poses are short timed poses, this must be easier for the models as our sessions are a couple of hours long, fortunately I do have longer poses for sitting and lounging.

Seated Pose

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The side view of the model on the chair is a quick sketch from the Croquis Cafe which worked quite well. The second one I chose for the marks I’ve made . Five minutes was just enough to add a head too, I don’t always manage that.


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Hopefully I have been successful in drawing the two different body types, sometimes the limbs can be a little thinner or shorter than desired but the torso usually works out fine. I always start with the shoulders and I think this works best for me, if I do the legs first then they tend to be longer than the torso.


The curvy model has modelled for a long time and I think this helps, she is always relaxed and comfortable in her poses. The other model is more angular and I find it challenging to draw her without making her look too muscular or masculine, I’m not sure I am always successful.


The drawing on the left is quite a successful drawing, the model is relaxed reading her Kindle and everything appears to be in proportion for once! This is probably one of my favourites. Perhaps because she is reading it seems to display a little of her personality too, it makes her more real to me because of it.

The one of the right appears fairly accurate although I think I have given her very tensed shoulders, whilst she does tense up to hold her poses I can’t remember how tensed they were. That’s probably something to look for in future, I hadn’t appreciated that I was able to add mood to the pose!

Finally yesterday I decided to try some colour and was relatively happy with them.

I was happy to try colour, I know I can be a rigid when it comes to materials but that’s because I want to master them. These are charcoal and chalk pastels. I had real problems with foreshortening yesterday so that’s something I need to practise. Just as well I am about to study faces too as that’s an area I can improve on. Both drawings seem convincing although perhaps the one on the left has more accurately caught her posture.


Sometimes I think my quick sketches are better than the longer ones, there’s no time to think and just draw.


2 minute sketch

Some of the finer details are lacking a little shape but the overall pose is pretty plausible


5 minute sketch

.Using the croquis cafe for this 3 minute sketch I paused it for another 2 minutes trying to get the back right, it was tricky but I liked the pose so have included it.

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10 minute charcoal sketch

The proportions seem incorrect to me here, I have made her look much broader and longer in the torso. The right arm was problematic, there was a blanket on the ground which was too dark to make out the folds and ridges.


5 minute sketch

This is really a quick scribble, not focusing on accuracy just quickly trying to establish a likeness.

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15 minute sketch

The angles of this caused me a lot of problems but, it gives a fair sense of a the pose. The upper torso seems better drawn than the lower, the legs were difficult to capture.

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23 minute sketch

Even though this was a longer sketch I could not get her face right. I think I have found this model harder to draw as she is more angular. There are a few problem areas, her right leg and arm, her neck is a little too long but the lounging pose is credible.

I don’t always enjoy the longer poses as I think I overthink them and then the drawing gets overworked, some of my better pieces are the faster ones.


Artists Interested in the Underlying Structure of the Body

When we consider structural drawings of the anatomy we probably automatically think of Leonardo da Vinci but we may also consider Michelangelo, Dürer and Stubbs and maybe even Rembrandt, Géricault and Degas. More contemporary artists might be harder to name but anatomy still drives a lot of artists’ interest.

Previously some works would have classified as medical or scientific rather than art but may now be considered as works of art. Joseph Towne was known as a wax maker, making anatomical models used for the teaching of medicine. Today they would not be out of place in a contemporary museum, see Section of the Thorax at the Level of the Heart, c. 1827-79 wax. He was a sculptor and exhibited his work at the Royal Academy.

One of the first anatomists to use illustrations to teach medicine was Andreas Vesalius, he was a sixteenteenth century doctor whose illustrations and books changed how the subject was taught. He dissected bodies in order to advance surgical knowledge. Before him the Greek doctor Galen was the accepted authority on anatomy. He came to realise through his own gross anatomy work that Galen’s findings were not based on human dissections, which would have been forbidden to Romans at that time. Thus Vesalius’s work is the first really thorough investigation of the human body’s structure.

This is an engraving from his major work, a book entitled ‘De Humani Corporis Fabrica’ (‘On the Structure of the Human Body’), 1543. It was innovative, accurately illustrating anatomical structure in detail never seen before, which challenged previously held beliefs dating back centuries.

Whether or not we consider this to be art depends on your point of view but even earlier it is interesting to note that Da Vinci was also dissecting humans to investigate their structure. He made numerous notes and wrote Anatomical Manuscript A, filled with over 240 meticulous drawings and 13,000 words, his investigations were extremely detailled. His enquiries were artistically driven, in attempting to recreate human movements and twisting movements he wanted to learn what was happening underneath the skin.

He was not alone in his interest in human dissection but his observational skills and artistic talents raised him above others. Incredibly his many notes and illustrations were never published. Here is an example of his drawings, studying the shoulder.

His sketches were groundbreaking for the time, in fact his research discovered facts that were not fully understood until the twentieth century especially in relation to the heart. He did seem to have an almost macabre interest in what lay beneath the skin, he genuinely wanted to understand the function and feel of the anatomy in order to better represent human representations in art.

Another artist with a passion for anatomical accuracy was Peter Paul Rubens, he also intended to write a book about anatomical studies and studied it intently. Here’s an example of his work, Anatomical Studies: a left forearm in two positions and a right forearm,

Like da Vinci he aimed to give his figures a realistic vigour and energy, resulting in dramatic poses. See Massacre of the Innocents, an incredibly dynamic composition of struggling bodies which serves to heighten the tension and drama of the story of the slaughter of baby boys.

Rubens used a technique called écorché, where the body was shown without skin, emphasising the muscles in his piece, Anatomical Studies, understanding what lay beneath the skin clearly aided in his depictions of people.

Contemporary artist Laura Ferguson is continuing in a similar vein drawing directly from cadavers and bones, investigating what lies beneath the skin. She has learned about anatomy by observing and drawing it.

Ferguson uses drawing “to convey the body’s visceral physicality, its inherent beauty, uniqueness, and visual complexity, and its connection to the processes and patterns of nature.” Shes draws herself from the inside out, “a curving spine brings asymmetry to my core, and with it the need for a subtle effort of balancing, an engagement with the workings of my bones and muscles, nerves and senses.  This conscious inhabiting of my body is at the core of my art.  In anatomical terms, it’s the realm of proprioception: the network of inner body signals and “self”-sensors through which the body monitors its relationships with space, time, gravity, and all that is “other.”

This Visible Skeleton Series she calls a visual autobiography of her body. Diagnosed with scoliosis at an early age, enduring surgeries and treatments, she started to think of herself from the inside out and visualised what was happening inside her own body. Examining the beauty of a body that is flawed allows us to feel more connected to our physical selves and offers a more emphathetic understanding especially for medical patients.

It’s worth taking a look at this short video of a brief interview with Laura Ferguson, How to Draw a Human Heart, although be warned there are shots of a dissected cadaver.

Vanessa Ruiz is a medical illustrator behind the blog Street Anatomy, a curation of art and medical illustration. She created a place to bring medical illustration out of the textbooks and into the public eye. For Ruiz anatomy is a source of creativity.

Both Ruiz and Ferguson  are making anatomy more human and emotional, taking it beyond the level of phsyical discovery and onto a more emotional level, bringing more feeling and meaning to them.



Fremantle, Jonathan, London, Anatomy Made Simple for Artists, Capella, 2004

Kemo, Martin and Wallace, Marina, University of California Press, Hayward Gallery Publishings, Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body from Leonardo to Now, 2000

Sooke, Alastair, 28 July 2013, Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomy of an Artist, London, Daily Telegraph,

Sooke, Alastair, 21 October 2014, Leonardo da Vinci’s Groundbreaking Anatomical Sketches, London, BBC Culture,

Claudia Rousseau, “In the path of Leonardo da Vinci: Where art and science collide,”, March 13, 2013, “In the path of Leonardo da Vinci: Where art and science collide”
Hasson, Emon, 13 March 2014, How to Draw a Human Heart,

Structure of the Human Body

Every week at my life drawing session I am observing the human body and attempting to capture it on paper so, at this point, I have spent many hours looking at the naked form. Each and every time it can be challenging, some drawings are more successful than others.  It does make me question if I am actually improving my skills in life drawing, but I think I am, perhaps subtly noticing small improvements.

This week I tried to work larger as sometimes the poses affect my drawing size, e.g. when the model is sitting in a ball I drew her smaller. As a result of the classes I am definitely spending more time just looking at bodies and their individual parts and how they relate to each other. One thing I am struggling with is muscles, and fat, there are some quirky parts of our bodies that are particularly difficult to capture, for example, when the one calf is pressed against the other leg, the muscle is pushed to one side but looks really odd when you try to draw it like that.

Anyway, enough waffle! I have spent some time drawing parts of the body especially hands and feet as I find those pretty difficult. As I find it almost impossible to pose and draw myself I have used online videos and photographs.


Here are some quick one minute sketches to represent energy. I suppose the emphasis here is to try to capture the gestural line of the body. A minute is not long enough for details but I like the line of the body in all three images here.

Two more one minute sketches:

The first one seems a little elongated but I think it gives a sense of movement. The second one I like, even though the arm over the head looks a bit odd, the model had put a sheet over her head so the pose was a little odd but I like the shape of the body leaning over.

Two minute sketches:

Again, there are a few proportion issues but I like the energy here in both figures, the seated twist works quite well as does the leaning pose.

I decided to work on more abstract drawings and here are a selection:

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I really like some of these, reducing the body to just a few lines can work well in some cases.



This is one of my very first life drawings and goes some way to capturing a standing pose. The details are not great.

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2 minute charcoal

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3 minute left handed in crayon


The following sketch was done holding two crayons at the same time in my left hand, my brain was fighting me all of the way:

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3 minute left handed sketch with 2 crayon simultaneously

I think it makes quite an interesting sketch.

Today I did a couple of sessions on the You Tube Croquis Cafe which has been recommended by other people on this course. It’s not the same as having the life model right in front of you but it is nevertheless good practice.

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1 minute sketches

I don’t think these are too bad considering the time constraints. The right hand one is probably better, the figure is more solid, the weight is on the right hip.

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2 minute sketch

Here, she is leaning her weight onto her left knee, resting on a cushion. Clearly some issues here but I think I caught the pose.

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2 minute sketch

I struggled with this one, it was meant to be a one minute sketch but I paused it for a little longer as it looked so incomplete. A few errors here in details but I thnk it just about works.

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2 minute sketch

There are some problems here with the upper part of the body but the lower part doesn’t look too bad! Although I didn’t have time to add whatever it was she is leaning on so that may look a bit bizarre. I am quite happy with the overall stance though.

Even though this is a challenging exercise, especially if you are using photographs or online video, it is a really helpful one and I think regular practice will lead to an improvement.

Essential Elements

It’s quite challenging to capture proportion and the three-dimensional feel but these two sketches go some way to attempting both. I like the first pose, perhaps because I was able to get the face in a loose way although she is floating a little. I like the twisted posture, I can feel the position quite well and the proportions aren’t too far off.

The second image I also like, I think I captured the volume of the body well and the proportions look good to my eye. The head is possibly too small as she had that turned so I need to look at the head closer going further.

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10 minute sketch in charcoal

This was quite a closed posture so was tricky to draw, there was a lot of crossing of limbs which was pretty challenging to know where to start! It was a tight pose and I have drawn it too small. I should have drawn her bigger, somehow in trying to capture it I have drawn smaller without realising. I’ve made her look a bit cross too but that’s because I am not good on the details yet but I am quite happy with the overall drawing. There are a few elements of error but overall I think it works because the pose is an interesting one.


10 minute sketch

Normally I start the drawing from the head and shoulders but this time I decided to draw the legs first. As a consequence I have made them too long in length so I had to compensate by giving her a longer torso. However, I like the stance, and the turn of her head, in spite of the proportional errors I think I have captured her leaning posture, maybe the arms are not long enough but I think she looks quite elegant in my version!

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1o minute sketch in charcoal

I really like this sketch, I think I have captured a good pose, complete with foreshortened legs, which are always tricky! This model did a few yoga poses for us, she really was sitting this upright. There’s a little bit of confusion around her tummy and right arm but this paper does not erase well so there is a bit of smudging, but I don’t mind that. is her neck too long? I notice sometimes I don’t allude to the neck much so not sure if I am overcompensating or not looking properly, it’s hard to reflect on something that happened a couple of weeks ago but I should take the neck into consideration also.

I think this may give the best sense of the pose as it is quite straightforward, fairly simple but captures the essence of the pose perfectly. I didn’t overwork it either which can be a problem for me sometimes.

I missed my class this week so decided to try one of the online videos from the Croquis Cafe for a sixth pose. I was able to find a model posing for ten minutes. The first problem I found was that I needed to use a smaller pad (A4) to sketch from so I could see the screen well enough. I actually found this harder than drawing from life. I usually draw on A2 in class and I like the freedom to move, the smaller size does make me feel a little confined. I think it’s good practice though to try and draw on different sized paper from time to time.

I also chose to do a male model as I have only drawn females so far.

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10 minute pencil sketch

It takes a few quick sketches before you get the sense of the body so it took me a while to get the shape of the body here. Typically I don’t use an eraser as I am focused on finding the line, an eraser slows me down and distracts me.

The arms look different lengths, and I’ve lost his neck (this is obviously an area to think about in future, I’m only noticing it now as I’m writing up this exercise). This drawing is the one I’m least happy about it, I did find it harder than drawing from life. Before I launched into the ten minute sketch I should have done some two minute ones to get familiar with the body first.

It takes a little while to become accustomed to the models’ bodies so I think the model I have drawn most has been better represented here. I will get the opportunity to draw the male model in a few weeks’ time so I am looking forward to improving on my male figures!

Generally speaking I am happy with all of the poses, I think I have captured the movement and posture fairly well. I am enjoying this part of the course so far.



Basic Shapes

Starting with a two minute sketch of the model seating in a chair. As always with a fast sketch like this, I’m just trying to capture the basic shapes, attempting to get the proportions right. When there is a complex pose, i.e. anything with crossed limbs, it throws me off a little to begin with, and there is no time to capture detail.

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2 minute charcoal

The legs aren’t too bad, the arms not so good but I feel like I got the positioning of the legs almost right.

This next one is a seated twist posture.

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3 minute pencil sketch

The proportions are off here but the twisted posture seems ok but doesn’t flow that well. Something about the shoulder seems wrong but not too bad an attempt, I actually managed to get the head facing in a different direction which helps give the appearance of the twisted body. At a quick glance, I feel the essence of the pose is there but when you look more closely there are a lot of errors here.

Another model, another twisted position, in a four minute sketch:


4 minute sketch

This feels more realistic to me than many of the other drawings, I feel like I got the solidity of the figure with a nice twist to the side.

I got to do this again in a slightly longer, 15 minute sketch:

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15 minute charcoal sketch

I encountered some issue with the foreshortening of the legs but I am happy with the body’s posture. I feel this is a good representation of the model and the pose. I am happy with the solidity and volume here, overall I think it is a good representation of the moment.

This is an earlier sketch from my first class, a 10 minute pose:


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10 minute charcoal sketch

It is a difficult pose to capture, this is not too bad an attempt, I think maybe the proportion of the limbs is a little bit off but I like the twist in the pose.

Finally, a longer pose of 25 minutes allowed me to capture the model leaning over, whilst seated:

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25 minute sketch

In spite of all the little problem areas here, I like this pose. The legs caught me out majorly, I think I have the right knee in the wrong place and it is too straight, even though it was very straight, it does look wrong. The left thigh also looks a little odd, again the foreshortening really messed with my brain even though I was really trying to think in shapes that I could see it’s a challenging position to capture. I think you can feel the weight coming towards you as the model leans in, which I like.

There are a few areas that need working on, still need to keep an eye on proportions but foreshortening is one to work on for sure.


RESEARCH Foreshortening

The Tate Gallery defines foreshortening as “the technique of depicting an object or human body in a picture so as to produce an illusion of projection or extension in space.” Essentially it is a technique to create the illusion of depth.

We were asked to lounge on a couch with a mirror at the foot end and then attempt to draw the body. This was not an easy exercise. I don’t actually own too many mirrors and none of them were really suitable for the job at hand, being too small to see much. Anyway, I endeavoured and here is a quick sketch:

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foreshortening sketch

The mirror wasn’t big enough to get much more than the feet in so I struggled to get some context in here. The feet are obviously larger than the rest of the body, my left foot in particular seems larger then the other one, that’s because I had to bend my right foot to see into the mirror! It was a bit of a disaster but it illustrates the foreshortening effect created by looking at your feet from a distance so that they are closer and therefore larger than the rest of the body.

Afterwards I watched this short video from the Croquis Cafe website which is quite useful, see this link. This website is also useful to practice drawing models and has tips on foreshortening.

Perhaps the most useful advice I received was to focus on the negative space when drawing the difficult parts, i.e. foreshortened limbs and hands and feet. I am still working on these as they are notoriously difficult. I think these areas are especially challenging because we know what they look like but when looking at them front on they don’t look how we think they should.

Probably a better way to look at foreshortening is to look at well known examples from art history.

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Andrea Mantegna, 1490

Believed to be painted around 1490, the is a brilliant use of perspective to create the sensation that we are standing at the foot of the bed, with an incredible view of Christ’s body, so that one of the first things we see is the holes in his feet. It creates a very dramatic effect which serves to emphasise the tragedy. It was an unusual perspective for the time, but a very effective one, it makes us feel cramped as if we are in the tomb with him. Foreshortening creates depth and we can feel the physicality of the body from the feet to the face, we see the suffering and pain and are reminded of Christ’s humanity.

Luca Signorelli, Man on a Ladder, (1504-5)

This is a fragment of a much larger work of the Lamentation of Christ, this is the man who took the nails out of the body. Signorelli was clearly a master of foreshortening and the human body as he perfectly captures the man on a ladder, in a fairly complex pose.

A Supine Male Nude, Turner, The Tate, (c.1799-1805)

Turner made a few studies of foreshortening, probably as pre-sketches for paintings.

Pere Borrell del Caso, Escaping Criticism (1874)

This painter used the device of trome l’oeil to look as if the boy is climbing out of the frame. He tricks the eye to create an optical illusion that blurs the boundary between make believe and reality.

John William Waterhouse, Saint Eulalia , 1885

Eualalia was martyred for refusing to honour the Roman Gods, and her young body lies half-naked in the snow. The foreshortening technique is again used for dramatic effect, the body of Eualalia points directly towards the centre of the painting which is empty, an effect that leads the eye straight back to the stricken Eulalia. She looks pure and serene, surrounded by doves despite a rather cruel death in reality that Waterhouse did not depict.

Andre Dunoyer, Nude with a Newspaper, 1921

It gives us an intimate view of this nude with real focus given to the body, the face is covered with the newspaper. This also seems to have been a preparatory painting for another work.

Even now it is a technique used to great effect, and Jenny Saville uses it for distortion, a statement on bodies and how we see them. In Plan, the viewer looks up, the body looks large and it’s a comment how how women are made to feel enormous in today’s society. It’s interesting because she uses her own body to work from, she’s a regular sized person, she is the artist and she is the viewer. She’s purposefully moving away from the idealised nude that has dominated western art for centuries, painting women in a realistic but exaggerated way. There is no background, the emphasis is on the body, discussing beauty in a man-made world.


Andrew Wilton, ‘A Supine Male Nude, Seen Foreshortened c.1799–1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2016,, accessed 09 October 2017

Davies, Hunter, This is Jenny, Independent, 1st March 1994,


A Longer Study

In my life drawing class the longest pose available is thirty minutes so I am going to post a few that I have done.

This is a fifteen minute study, using charcoal, no erasing:


15 minute charcoal sketch

I like this pose and I think I captured its characteristics quite well, it has the volume and presence that makes it a believable study. The proportions look good to my eye. I find that in class it takes a few attempts to get anywhere near the proportions and this was done after several quick studies.

A longer study of the same model, this time 25 minutes, also in charcoal:

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25 minute charcoal sketch

Whilst I am quite satisfied with the body, I encountered a few problems, the legs don’t look right, the model’s right knee looks too low and the left upper thigh doesn’t look right, the dreaded foreshortening has caught me out here. I did have a problem getting the chin right as she was looking down so the angle was difficult to recreate accurately, but I am happy that I managed to get some facial features in at all as I have been having problems with this area too. Feet are also challenging and her left foot looks a bit awkward here so plenty of things to work on but overall I think I have given a good sense of the pose of the body.

This is my longest study so far, which was for thirty minutes. My main aim here was to focus on proportions and line. I did not use an eraser but instead used a white compressed charcoal stick to ‘erase’ errors and highlight some areas.

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30 minute sketch in compressed charcoal

This shows improvement, I couldn’t see her right foot so well so that seems a little incorrect and I’m not sure I got the size of her head in proportion but I’m not far off so am pleased with my progress so far. It is a very challenging exercise as is there a lot to think about. I have a tendency to just launch into the drawing but I am trying to take time to look first, especially in the longer studies, and also pretend to draw the figure on the paper before committing with the charcoal. I think it is helping. I also found it quite helpful to place the shoulders first for some reason, and draw the torso before I do the legs. In another drawing I did the legs first and she ended up with super long legs, where I then had to lengthen the torso to make it look realistic! I need to do a bit more reading. I got a great book from the library called Anatomy Made Simple for Artists by Jonathan Freemantle which looks ideal for this topic.