Drawing realistic, or even stylized, figures can be a great accomplishment for an artist. You can recreate some stunning detail, or imply certain levels of detail that weren’t readily apparent in your model, but what you ultimately get from the experience is the ability to visually recreate, or even reinvent, something that exists. To an artist, that’s an important skill to build, and one that you will want to continue to sharpen throughout your lifetime.
Figure drawing isn’t always easy, however, and sometimes there are mistakes that are made by less experienced artists that think they need to be perfect overnight. The truth is that there’s more to the art than meets the eye. Here are three reasons why.
1. Less is More
A work that is overly complicated has more opportunities for error, and less room for correction. With something like figure sketching or drawing, it’s the “negative” space that really defines the realism of the work. Without that, you end up with a muddled mess that has to take so many different planes and light interactions into account that even the most seasoned artist might feel overwhelmed. The less that you draw, the more that you can say, so your goal should be to keep your steps as short in number as possible. Entire faces or figures do not need to be recreated in pencil to achieve the effect.
2. You Need Time
An early mistake that artists make is in assuming that even simple, yet masterful, drawings happen all in the same hour, or even in the same day. The truth is that it can take an artist many days to achieve the effect that they want to. While you could produce something “agreeable” in a short period of time, does it say everything that you want to say about the figure? Take your time and add the details in as you see fit. More time also gives you more opportunities for a change in thought or perspective, to correct errors or add in details.
In 1993, Malcolm Gladwell put forth the idea that it takes a person 10,000 hours of practice to achieve what he called “mastery.” In reality, that process can be shorter, or longer, than that sum. The universal constant is that practicing is necessary, no matter your level of experience. If you were a master, it’s doubtful that you would even be reading this blog, much less for the advice that it has to offer, so the reality is that everyone could use practice. This is true of practically (no pun intended) every skill, and it certainly covers figure drawing and art as a whole.
Draw less, take your time, and practice. It all sounds very reasonable when it’s lined up in that order, but you would be surprised at how many people think to draw more, work faster, and judge themselves harshly without the right amount of practice in drawing. Now you know how to avoid the same pitfalls yourself.