I’ve been struggling with writing this post far more than I ever did with drawing actual figures.
I wasn’t sure where to start. I’ve also seen so many posts and videos explaining how to draw the 10 heads fashion figure, using a ruler (!?) and explaining literally one figure to draw. It blows my mind how limiting that is. On the other hand, I do understand that you just want to draw something and you need a win, you need to feel there is something you can do and this gives at least one option. So if you need that, I won’t repeat that process. There are plenty of them around and some that are maybe even decent. I can’t recommend any as whenever I watch them, I keep thinking “ This is a waste of time, just learn real figure drawing!!!”
But to start, I would like to give you a few pointers on this, that might be very helpful when you draw.
1. YOU decide how you want your figures to look
I prefer fashion figures that are approximately 9 heads high but feel free to decide this for yourself. Go for 5 or go for 16, whatever rings true to you (this is the most important thing!). Remember:
You are not drawing an actual person, you are drawing an idea of a person. Your idea! You get to decide how it looks!
2. Anatomy still matters a LOT
Here is the thing: you need to know the figure before you can transform it. Once you really know how to draw the figure you will be free to experiment as much as you want but you’ll still be able to keep your figures recognisable as human figures. But before that, your experiments will just be fun scribblings (which is also great, but not what we are after at the moment). So yeah you actually do need to learn how the body looks. Not all the bones in your foot level of knowledge (at least not yet), but definitely the level of knowledge where you know what connects to what where.
3. Learn to speak a drawing language
You are off course aware that drawing and photography are two very different art forms. But a lot of people, specially at the beginning, don’t have their visual language developed yet and they don’t understand that, to express the same feeling in drawing and photography, you literally need to use different “words”. Photography gives us thousands more information bits, many of whom we are completely unaware of. This often means that to say something that is obvious in photography, we need to find a different way to express it in drawing. Hence, some ideas need to be accentuated or dramatised or simplified ( Note: this doesn’t mean something can’t be subdued, it just means it needs to be very obviously subdued). Which brings us almost close to my point: the biggest problem I see with beginner figures is that they are wooden and flat and it is because people don’t realise they need to communicate their intentions much more clearly. Sometimes certain poses don’t translate well into illustration. Other times it’s because people didn’t accentuate certain movements of the body enough.
4. Human form is a balancing act
I read this somewhere, don’t remember where, but it’s super important to remember. This means that you need to remember that each part is connected with all the others and that movement of one part creates forces that impact others (I will post some good examples of this but also find ways to explore this on your own). And the most important thing: all movement is connected to the spine. Even just lifting your arm is connected to your spine. Spine is vertical to our hips and shoulders. So if the shoulders move in one direction in relation to the spine, the hips will have to move too.
5. Figures are 3D and they exist in space
You need to always keep in mind that you are drawing a three dimensional object, something that exists in space and has volume. Remembering this will actually make it easier for you, especially when you draw clothes on your figures and when you are developing different poses. Most often I will see people who kind of know this and want to show this with shade and highlights, but this is futile: if your drawing looks flat while still at sketch stage, it will almost certainly look flat after you add shadow. You can’t fix a bad drawing with shadows.
So how DO you “keep in mind figures are 3d”? Gesture drawing I talked about in this post helps a lot with this.
I really hope this was helpful. I am planning another post on this subject to elaborate on some of the points and maybe actually show how I draw the figure. I know that can sometimes be the most helpful way to really actually properly learn.