Basics of figure drawing and pose references
Do you ever feel stuck when you want to make a drawing? It can be frustrating to stare at a blank piece of paper and not know what to draw. But what if you had some ideas to choose from? That would make things a lot easier, right?
In this tutorial, we’re going to learn about different poses that you can use for your drawings. So get your pencils ready and let’s get started!
When you draw, it’s important to have a good reference for the pose you want to draw. You should take your time to understand the pose and how the body looks in that position. To make it look real, you need to practice drawing the body, paying attention to how the weight is distributed and balanced.
Drawing poses, it’s helpful to understand the basics of the human body. Although it’s possible to draw poses and figures without knowing the basics, it can make things more difficult, so it’s not recommended.
Many start with the head when drawing a figure. For poses, the first priority is to understand which body part is supporting the most body weight.
When someone stands, they usually have one foot planted on the ground, which we call the supporting leg. The other leg can move around and is called the free leg. Sometimes, the weight of the body is shared between both legs, and both feet are on the ground. This helps the person keep their balance.
Besides, we need to identify how the figure we want to draw is balancing its weight. If this part is not correct, our pose will not look convincing. When a standing person lifts one leg, the center of gravity in the body shifts. The foot of the supporting leg is then no longer exactly under the side of the hip but shifts below the center of the hip.
When positioning your legs in a certain way, the hips will also move. The position of the shoulders affects the collarbones and arms in the upper body.
To create a drawing of a pose that looks realistic, it’s important to take your time and draw a few sketches prior. This will help you gain a better understanding of how to draw the pose.
If you have mastered human anatomy drawing, you don’t need references anymore. If you are not there yet, then you should definitely work with references!
The best reference for drawing poses is ourselves. By standing in front of a mirror and taking the pose you want to draw, you can gain a better understanding of the pose. Try to feel which muscles are active, where your weight is shifting, and how the movement of one body part affects neighboring body parts.
Photos can also be a good reference, but especially beginners should still take the pose in front of the mirror themselves. On photos sometimes important details are lost due to image compression or color correction.
Photo from Taylor Smith on Unsplash
Poses can be divided into different categories based on how the body weight is shifted. To better illustrate this weight shift, I added a red line starting from the head to the center of gravity to the supporting leg. And a blue line whenever the body part is free to move. Try mimicking these poses to get a better understanding of the dynamics.
We can divide the poses into different categories, where the body weight is shifted differently depending on the category. To illustrate this weight shift, a red line stretches from the head to the center of gravity. A blue line appears whenever the body part could be misunderstood as carrying weight but is actually free to move. Try mimicking these poses to get a better understanding of the dynamics.
Standing poses require that at least one leg supports the body weight, whether the person is drawn from the front or the back.
Standing pose, arm pressed into hip
Standing pose, bent arm
Standing pose, looking back
Standing pose, raised arms
Standing pose, waving
In seated poses, the buttocks are the main support of the body weight. Depending on the pose, arms or legs may also carry some of the weight.
Sitting pose, leaning on one arm
Sitting pose, leaning on both elbows
For poses lying down, the body weight is shifted where the body touches the floor or ground. In these poses, there are very often many body parts that remain free to move.
Pose lying on the side, leaning on one elbow
Action poses can be dynamic poses of any activity like dancing, fighting, jumping, or more. When drawing these poses we should make sure that only parts of the body or the whole body are dynamic.
Among the dynamic poses, there are also those in which the body weight is not shifted to a specific part of the body. In this case, the blue and red lines in the reference drawings are missing.
Jumping pose, legs tightened
Jumping pose, one leg tightened