Formal portraiture and figurative drawings that are the direct subject matter in a painting or sketch are a study unto themselves. Learning to draw people can be undertaken sooner than we think in our artistic development. However both beginner students and more experienced artists often shy away from this, either lacking confidence and believing that they have to have advanced skills, or hesitating in whether the landscape or scene that they are developing really needs the presence of man.
Drawing the human form and head is one of the best ways to learn to draw anything. Balance, form, scale, value, proportion – it’s all there. All of these skills lie beneath landscapes, still life, abstract pieces, florals, etc.
Introducing the human form as an expression or essence within a scene can add interest and tell a story. A certain emotional vibrancy takes place, as we study the scene and allow our imaginations to interact. I know that for myself, if I hesitate or am slightly reluctant in my brush strokes, that lack of confidence shows. Better to make the decision, practice a few bold strokes on a scrap piece of paper and then dive in! Seen here are sample close-ups of paintings where I planned ahead of time to add to the story of the scene. Start out with soft graphite or vine charcoal (my favorite) and do several sheets of practice gestures. Avoid “stick like” stiff lines. Press down with the drawing tool, make a full pressure stroke and “lift off” at the end of your stroke. The blurry edges, soft and broken, give a feeling of movement. Now try with paint and see the results. You’d be surprised at the wonderful little beings you can create, the quicker your movements are. Remember, we’re capturing the “essence”, not labored copies.