How to Draw People

Learn how to draw people from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


We're now going to focus on how to draw a person. What you first want to think about is a certain pose or posture of a person that would be interesting to you. What I really recommend is getting a small wooden mannequin, and you can move that around so you have something to look at.

I'm basing this drawing off of a mannequin. What I'm going to do is really focus on the basic, basic shapes of the mannequin. There's a very oval-style head. I'm going to start actually with a stick figure. People say, "I can only draw stick figures." If you can draw a stick figure, you're already a few steps ahead. I want to just capture the movement of the body. The arm comes up and out, this arm comes down, and then there are 2 legs. This allows us to create a little bit of a skeleton of the drawing. I'm using just a regular drawing pencil; this is a 6B, which is quite dark. It's my preference, I love this pencil, but there are all sorts of other pencils you can use or any other drawing material.

I'm looking at the mannequin, and I want to just start and focus on the top part of the body. What's great about working from a mannequin is you really start to learn the proportions of a human figure and the way that everything fits together. On a mannequin, you have these basic shapes: You have the ribcage, the stomach area, the hips, and that is the core of a human body. You have the neck area, and then you have the joints, which I am going to draw with circles. Those are your shoulders. This is where the legs are going to connect. Then for the arms, you are going to draw and have from the mannequin, almost rectangular cylinders.

While I'm drawing, most importantly, I want to enjoy the process of expressing myself; having time to relax, to unwind, to let go of stress and to really tap into my creativity, to enjoy the creative process. Anytime you're doing any type of artwork, the whole goal is to tap into your inner creativity and your sense of self-expression.

I'm just constantly looking at this mannequin, and basically, you're drawing a few specific shapes: Circles, a rectangle that has a cylinder so it's a little curved on top and on the bottom. Those are your basic, basic shapes that you're going to draw, perhaps an oval, as well. If you really break it down, it's much more simple than a lot of us think it is, initially. Then again, another cylinder. This figure that I'm drawing, the arm is reaching outward, so it's another cylinder, another circle. Then for the hand, I'm just going to draw a basic shape right now, almost as if this person is wearing a mitten. The other side, you have your cylinder, your rectangular cylinder, your circle which is the wrist, and again, more of a mitten shape.

When you're starting to learn how to draw the human figure, it's not important to get every detail, every eyelash, every fingernail. You really want to capture the bigger picture first, again, the movement, the essence, the life force of that which you're drawing. You can focus on details later on, but if you focus on what we're talking about here, these basics, I guarantee you that this will build a really solid foundation.

As I'm drawing this I realize that I drew these hip joints a little too far apart, which is fine. I'm just going to erase and redraw, make them a little closer together. Here we are again with the legs; cylinder rectangle shape, which may not even be a shape, but now I've made it into one. A circle for the knee, another cylinder shape for the bottom part of the leg, a little circle for the ankle. Same as with the hands, we're not going to draw every toe, we just want to suggest a shape of a foot.

This is a perfect, perfect way to start learning how to draw a figure. Again, just to walk you through; you have your stick figure literally just with lines. You're going to mark in the rib cage, the waist, and the hips. For the arms and the legs, you're going to combine circles with rectangles that are somewhat like a cylinder. Your head is going to be an oval shape. The best way to keep practicing this is to have your little wooden mannequin. Keep moving that mannequin in different arrangements and different poses, and practice for as long as you want using just the mannequin. If you practice that, I guarantee that you, you'll then be ready to practice with real figures and you'll be drawing human figures in no time.

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