How to Draw People Sitting

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A favorite subject of artists is to draw people in repose--that is, sitting, lounging or laying about on a chair, sofa, or, occasionally, outdoors. The human body is full of interesting proportions and angles, and that is the reason artists like to have people model or "sit" for them. Part of the challenge of drawing figures is getting the contours and proportions right and mastering the art of drawing muscles, clothing, shading.

Things You'll Need

  • Sketchbook
  • A soft pencil
  • Charcoal
  • Conte crayon
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Drawing papers with different textures

Instructions

  • Keep a sketchbook. Before you begin drawing a subject in earnest, develop a "library" of interesting poses of people seated in various postures. Pull out your sketchbook on the bus, at the coffee shop, on campus, or at home and make quick, loose sketches of the way people are sitting--slouched, upright, attentive, bored, etc. Life is your best teacher for ideas on how to pose your seated subject.

  • Collect your model and choose a pose from your sketchbook. Make sure the pose is something your model can comfortably hold for the amount of time you intend to devote to your drawing.

  • Walk around your model looking for the most dynamic angle. The idea here is to observe the "lines" your posed figure makes and imagine the lines as a composition. For instance, the lines connecting the top of the head to each of the hands make a triangular composition. Arms joined around the knee might create a circle which includes the arms, elbows and face.

  • Start by doing some contour drawings of your subject to help you coordinate your eye and hand. Close one eye and focus on an edge or line of your model. Move your eye slowly along the contour of that line and simultaneously move your hand at the same rate of speed on the paper. Keep your eye on the model, not on the paper, which you should only be aware of out of the edge of your eye.

  • Keep drawing the contours of your model until you've covered the entire figure. When done, your drawing might seem sloppy or out of proportion, but different portions will be perfectly detailed.

  • Repeat the process using the same pose, but begin to refine your drawing by paying more attention to proportions: close one eye and hold your pencil at arms length. Mark off the length of the head with your thumb along the pencil. Now use the size of the head on your pencil to measure the overall length and height of the figure.

  • Finalize your sketch by checking your drawing proportions against the measurements you've made and making adjustments. Pay special attention to the measurements of foreshortened objects like forearms and thighs, the proportions of which will change depending on your viewing angle.

Tips & Warnings

  • After you feel comfortable drawing seated figures, move on to the study of shading and texture--how the angle of the light affects the values of your drawings.
  • Practice makes perfect. Learning to draw is learning to train the eye. Consider joining a local life drawing group to make lots of drawings of human figures in a short period of time.

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