Why do we draw the figure?

Editor | Grace Burney

The human body holds the essence of LIFE. Its spirit can be deciphered with a soft touch, or a powerful mark, and its flesh, by a twist of the wrist. Without the exacting symmetry, so often found in man made objects, figure drawing allows for a basic human desire – freedom of expression.

Is it any wonder that artists have been attracted to its form for centuries? Whether in capturing the serenity in a child’s face, the agony in a brush with death, or the frailty in an aged hand, one thing is clear: artists explore similar methods – gesture, contour, values, and composition – yet, with their own eye.

Students enter class with varying levels of experience – and a response all their own. With the stage set  (jazz playing through the speakers, and two spotlights illuminating the model) my voice carries.  “Let your hand dance on the page, be messy, angry, joyful, and gentle! Press down, lighten up, go from the tip to the side, back to the tip again.” Invariably, students let go, take risks, and get in touch with their own very human perceptions. Individual likes, dislikes, tentativeness, boldness, empathy, and pragmatism are evident, whether they use charcoal, graphite or marker. A wall of pinned-up drawings proves that there is no one way to draw the human figure. It is by far nature’s most imperfect, dynamic, tactile, and widely interpreted subject. Students are fascinated, sometimes frustrated, but never bored.

First drawing (no instruction) by Joseph Whang


First drawing (no instruction) by Kristen Bogart


First drawing (no instruction) by Sarah Levy


First drawing (no instruction) by P. Andrew McClausland


First drawing (no instruction) by Hobin Lee


First drawing (no instruction) by Marie Obegi



One Comment so far. Comments are closed.
  1. Olya,

    Beautiful drawings! I like the squiggly first one especially. Looking through the drawings you posted reminded me of an arist I dated back in University- he liked to draw and pain women, usually naked, usually dancing, and always tried to get me to pose 🙂
    Now it’s been almost 10 years since then, and I am back to drawing figures, this time with my 2 year old daugher, who just refuses to draw anything else