Those new to figure drawing may not know where to start. The human body is a wonderful thing full of many
different shapes, angles and curves, but this unfortunately translates into something that is difficult to render
on paper or canvas.
Luckily for beginners in oil painting, you don’t have to start
with start with a live model and try to figure things out all at once.
There are baby steps to be taken first, and once these are mastered, you’ll be able to attempt drawing an actual
person with more confidence. The first tip for drawing the human figure is to get a wooden mannequin of the human
Wooden Artist’s Mannequin
The wooden artist’s mannequin is one of the best things for beginners buy for their blossoming art tool box.
These mannequins are sold in almost every general arts and crafts store, though if you want a wider variety of
shapes and sizes, you’ll need to go to an art-specific store or look online.
You’ve undoubtedly seen one of these little wooden figures before—they’re the kind with bendable joints that
allow you to position them in many different poses. It is a classic visualization aid that helps artists break down
the human figure into manageable shapes and segments. Get at least one size and attempt to draw it (as it is, not
as an actual figure).
Concentrate on learning how the cylinders and spheres connect to form legs, arms, and so on. Bend it into
different shapes and keep practicing until you’re confident. Only once you’ve got the mannequin managed should you
start to try to make it look more human.
Seeing the Mannequin in People
To go from drawing a mannequin to an actual person, you’ll need to start seeing its shapes in people. Go to a
park and sit on a bench to do some quality people watching. As people walk by, superimpose the image of the
mannequin on their body.
Watch as their joints move and envision the cylinders that make up the mannequin. Try to find someone sitting
quietly on a bench reading and attempt to your first sketch (and remember to be discreet, not creepy!). Start off
by drawing them as the mannequin with light strokes that you’ll be able to erase. Now, part by part, transform the
shapes of the mannequin into what you really see.
Turn those cylinders into actual legs and arms, into the chest and pelvis, and into the head. Don’t focus
on making extremely lifelike details such as with hands or eyes yet—just try to get the shapes and proportions
down, as this is the most important thing for a beginner. Later, once you feel like you have this down, you’ll be
able to focus specifically on one part at a time.
Using this drawing technique, try to sketch as many people as
you can until you feel comfortable with the shapes that make up the human figure. You can practice at home from
photographs or with friends too. Remember, in art, practice makes perfect, so keep drawing if you want to get
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