- Lesson details
This is where the real fun begins! The figure is the most difficult and intimidating subject matter that an artist can tackle. As scary as this sounds, Steve Huston is here to help.
Steve is a world-renowned artist specializing in drawing and painting the figure. Despite his impressive bona fides Steve specializes in making complex information easy to understand for everybody. In the first installment of a new series, Steve demystifies the relationship between Gesture & Structure with a series of lectures and demonstrations. You’ll learn to conceptualize the forms of the body using simple shapes, see how the Old Masters used these techniques, and do a practice drawing session (then Steve will draw from the same images!).
Beginning Figure Drawing represents the culmination of decades of instruction to studios and professionals around the world where Steve has honed his teaching philosophy down to a fun and efficient experience.
We will assume you know nothing about figure drawing at all. Even if you’ve been drawing the figure for years this gives you a great starting point to clarify each idea and build each concept on top of another.
- Sharpie Markers
- Conté à Paris Pencils
Discuss this video in the forums!Discuss
We're going to take the most difficult subject in the world, drawing the figure, and make
sense out of it.
We're going to take all the anatomy, all of the structures, and we're going to make it
Then we're going to give it life.
How do we make something feel solid and sit in space, yet feel like it's fluid and active
I'm going to give you lectures on this material.
I'm going to demonstrate by drawing in front of you how I would do it.
We're going to look at old masters and see how they did it.
You'll draw from the reference, and then I'll draw and show you how I do the same thing.
I hope you'll join me, and I'll see you there.
There are specifically two ideas: Structure and gesture.
We’re going to see what those ideas are and how they create a great figure.
Let’s get started.
Alright, here we go with the figure.
Let’s get started.
I’m going to show you some basic ideas on how to get that figure working on the page.
First, I want to talk about a couple of terms to make sure we’re clear on what we’re
trying to get out of this because that’s going to be key.
What I want to do is start with the idea that art is just an idea, and an artist is someone
that has an idea about the world.
For most of artists, it’s an aesthetic idea, but it doesn’t even have to be that.
Just an idea.
With that in mind, we’re going to have two ideas.
We’re going to have what in drawing we call structure and what in drawing we call gesture.
Let me get that G in there, gesture.
Structure and gesture, those are the two ideas.
All structure means is the parts, the pieces.
Just like a tree will have roots, trunk, branches, leaves, whatever else on top of that tree,
those are the parts.
We’re going to break the figure down or whatever we want to draw down, the automobile
down into simple parts.
In the figure it’s going to be the jointed parts.
From wrist to elbow we’re going to call that the forearm.
From elbow to shoulder, we’re going to call that the upper arm, and so on.
We’re going to want to get some control and hopefully a lot of control
of those jointed pieces.
Then those parts have to fit together.
The gesture is just how things connect or relate or fit.
All we’re doing is we’re looking for the parts and the connection between the parts.
If we understand where root is and a trunk is and a branch is, we still don’t have
The tree is going to be how the roots flow up into the trunk, how the trunk then becomes
the branches, the branches the leaves, the leaves the fruit.
It’s a complex of forms.
It’s really an ecosystem.
Every part is in relationship to every other, and critical to the health, wellbeing or just
the look of each other.
That’s what we need to do.
We need to make sure that our pieces are coordinated, are fit, are composed.
It’s really the secret of composition, in fact.
Gesture is kind of the—I won’t say the dirty little secret because it’s a lovely
secret, but gesture is that secret sauce that nobody ever tells you about, and frankly a
lot of people don’t understand or even know about.
When you hear gesture, oftentimes it’s in hushed terms.
If it’s in a how-to course or a how-to book, they say just a paragraph or a page on it,
and then they never talk about it again, we can’t do that.
What we need to do is make sure that every part has a gesture to it.
No matter whether I’m working with the biggest parts or the smallest parts, they each have
a gesture that’s integrated into the whole.
What we’re going to do is really a two-step process here, a two-step process of teaching,
and then a two-step process of actually drawing.
We’re going to talk a little bit about structure, then we’ll talk a little bit about gesture.
Then we’ll talk a little bit more about structure, a little bit more about gesture.
In structure, structure is the easiest concept to understand, the easiest idea.
Gesture is by far the most difficult.
It’s really like chasing smoke.
You can’t see a gesture line anywhere here.
We think of it as the lifeline, the energy, the fluidity, that aesthetic beauty that says
it’s alive and not dead.
What does that mean exactly?
It’s sometimes hard to tell.
We’re going to have to bring that down to earth and demystify and it makes it much harder.
Unfortunately for us, gesture is not only harder than structure, it’s more important.
In fact, it’s crucial.
If I don’t get my structure just right—I make it a little too square rather than a
little too round or a little too flat or more volumetric, or a little too big or small.
None of those matter near as much as if I miss the gesture.
If I don’t get that fluid idea, that true gestural movement, the whole thing falls apart.
We have to be careful how we define this, and we’re going to have to be careful to
What we’re going to do then is take our two-step process from the simplest beginnings
of the drawing to a well-constructed solid lay-in of the drawing, to an incredible finish
in value and even a finish in paint or a finish in sculpture.
We’re going to make sure that gesture is always there in forming each step of the process,
from the barest beginnings to that fantastic moldy figure, bigger than life mural you’ve
been commissioned to do of great cities of the world or some such.
So, structure and gesture.
Let’s go back here.
Structure is the parts.
It’s the pieces.
It’s the jointed parts.
It can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional.
We’re going to deal with the three-dimensional just because it’s a bigger idea, and it
actually has more application.
You can apply this same concept if you want to do very flat or very modernist riffs on
So, three-dimensional parts, we can call it the forms, the mass, the volume.
There are lots of names for it.
We don’t care too much about the names.
We’ll just call it this.
The gesture is the connection, how they fit, compose, relate.
It’s a relationship between the parts.
Here is the interesting thing.
When we talk about doing drawing, the artist, to be a successful draftsman, has to be able
to take the parts and relate them well to the next part to compose and complete that
We have the structure and the gesture in drawing, the parts and how they connect, how they come
It doesn’t just work that way in drawing.
In painting you have the colors.
You have not just a color, but you have several colors, and so the light colors have to relate
to the shadow colors.
The foreground colors have to relate to the background colors.
The costume colors have to relate to the flesh colors.
In painting we have the same problem of getting each part, each color in relationship and
usually harmony with the other colors.
The problem in painting is not getting a particular color, just the problem in drawing is not
getting a particular part.
That’s the least of it.
What we need to do is get this in relationship to that, and the blue, just the right blue
in relationship to the orange.
Notice in drawing the most important, the most difficult part is the gesture.
In painting it’s the same thing.
It’s connecting those colors.
In the gesture we call it the color harmonies.
It’s the same idea of the parts in relationship to a composed whole.
We wouldn’t have to look at just painting and drawing.
We can think of dance.
It’s the step and then all the step that put together.
I can get—if you can see feet, I can get into a couple of ballet positions, but I’m
a lousy ballet dancer because I can’t move beautifully and correctly from one step to
And I can’t, I may not be a good storyteller because is in writing you’ve got to get
one character in relationship to the all the characters.
One character in relationship to the magical world or that dynamic plot line.
And so in writing, it’s the characters and it’s the plot.
In dance it’s the steps and it’s the dance.
In music it’s the notes and it’s the song.
Notice in every single art form it works on the same binary system of the individual elements
that make up that art form and then how they relate, how they connect together.
Oftentimes, even the terms are the same.
You can talk about the gesture as an arcing curve, and you have an arcing curve to a character
as he or she moves through that plotline, through that dramatic story.
You have the harmonies of color, and you have the harmonies of sound.
You have a pallet of sound and you have a pallet of colors.
Those terminologies are even the same.
You have a structure to a story and a structure to a story and a structure to a musical composition,
and a structure to what’s going to come up behind us.
Every art form works on that same binary system.
The reason for that is art is really trying to inform our lives.
It’s a reflection of a commentary on, and hopefully a teaching tool on how to live our
That’s one of the great functions of art.
In our life that’s our experience, isn’t it?
I am me somehow in this aging flesh, and yet I’ve got to relate and fit in, connect with,
relate to the whole world.
How do I achieve that balancing act in my life where I get what I need to be happy,
and yet I give the community around me what it needs to accept me and make me feel like
Oftentimes, when life doesn’t go well it’s because you haven’t found that balance.
You’ve given up too much of yourself to those around you, and you’re miserable for
You’ve been too selfish and taken and taken and taken, and no one wants to connect with
That’s the same way in color theory.
If you don’t put enough of the other colors into a color, that single color will seem
harsh, shocking, dissonant with the colors around it.
If you make that color relate, harmonize too much with the other colors, it gets muddy,
dirty, which just means it’s lost its personality.
It’s lost the individual beauty that it had.
That luscious green is no longer green.
It’s a dirty green-brown.
It gets sucked into the group and loses its personality.
The balancing act that we try to achieve in art is a reflection of the balancing act that
we must achieve in our lives.
Art then becomes a wonderful visual metaphor for those things and can lead us into all
sorts of wonderful adventures in terms of content and theme as we do art for our enjoyment
or for our career.
Anyway, when we say ideas then, it’s working on many levels, firing on many cylinders.
But for now, we’re just going to deal with the ideas of craftsmanship.
That just means structure and gesture in the simplest form.
Then we’ll touch on some of those more romantic and exciting ideas as we move through here,
For now, let’s try and make it simple and get this stuff under control.
So, gesture/structure, structure/gesture are a two-step process.
We are going to have a process to make our work unfold here, to make our craft be realized.
A process needs to be a couple of things.
It doesn’t have to be my process, but whatever process you find that you like or you invent
on your own, it has to be fairly simple, an easy, smooth, intuitive movement from one
step to the next as you go along.
If you get in trouble, some later place down the road, it should be fairly easy to move
back to a time when you were in control.
Then you can begin again and try and correct it.
If I’m painting, maybe the colors look terrific and the values look terrific and I get into
the rendering it gets dirty.
Well, let me take that back to that simpler statement.
Get rid of some of that rendering and lay in nice, simple colors.
If my structure as I render on top it starts to get distorted or flat, I can take that
rendering, simplify it, and take it back to that simple structural idea or simple gestural
idea that was working 3 or 4 or six steps back.
That’s what we want.
What I want to teach you is not a style.
I have the way I work, and I’m influenced by the people I’m influenced by, and some
of those you may share with me.
Many you won’t share with me.
But, what we want is some foundational truth, some universal truth that’s underneath all
If you want to draw like Picasso this is going to work great.
If you want to draw like Rubens it’s going to work great.
If you want to be the next Giorgione or David Hockney or whoever it is, this can work for
All of those Mondriaan, Modigliani, Post-Impressionists, Modernists, they’re all Franz Kline, the
abstract painters; they’re all dealing with these issues on some level.
Sometimes they’re sticking right with them like the high Renaissance and Baroque and
Rococo artists would do.
Sometimes they’re subverting them like the Post-Impressionists would do.
Sometimes they’re rebelling against them and going completely the other direction like
say a Jackson Pollack, American Abstract Expressionist might do.
But, in any case, they’re informed, and this is the yardstick for what they’re doing.
It behooves us to understand it and understand it well, and then the whole world of art and
what starts as a process becomes a foundational style that you may spend your long illustrious
career or many hours of entertaining hobby pursuing.
So, that’s what we’re after.
Let’s see if we can take it into some specifics rather than just generalities.
Structure is the parts, the three-dimensional forms, as opposed to two-dimensional shapes,
where it’s both those.
We’re going to work with this.
The volume, the mass, the solids, the architecture, all that kind of stuff.
What we want to do then is start with a catalog of shapes.
These might be familiar with you, but we’re going to take it farther, and then we’re
going to put it in with gesture.
What we’re going to do is we’re just going to start with simple shapes.
The premise here is if we come up with three basic shapes, we can draw just about anything
in the world.
Boxes, balls, and tubes—in no particular order.
Some things will seem very squarish.
Some will seem more egg-like, and some will seem more tubular.
We can mix and match them in all sorts of creative ways.
If I’m Rubens or working like Rubens, I might use a lot of eggs.
If I’m Puvis de Chavannes, I might use a lot of tubes.
If I’m Cambiaso or Leyendecker or Dean Cornwell, I might well use a lot of boxes.
We can use, we can heavily stylize toward one direction, or we can mix and match and use.
But, out of this we can get literally a whole world of things.
Now, the problem with this is there is always structure and then that nagging idea of perspective
that people think, oh my God, that’s not a real drawing, that’s math pretending to
Well, perspective is more than that.
It’s a wonderful thing.
It’s something you need, but for the figure you don’t need hardly any of that for now.
We’re going to talk a little bit about this, but I’ll demystify.
I’ll make it easy for you, I promise.
If you hate math you’re not going to hate this kind of perspective.
Let’s talk about that.
We can start with an egg.
As I draw that, that looks two-dimensional.
It looks flat.
It looks like a shadow on the wall.
We can do a tube.
When I draw that, that starts to suggest the three-dimensional idea, doesn’t it?
What’s the difference between—here’s the difference.
We’re going to define, structure actually several ways just so we can understand it
One of the ways we’re going to think of it—it’s a three-dimensional part or form.
But really, simply speaking, structure is the movement over the form.
And so if I do this, you’re going around the form, aren’t you, like a shadow on the wall.
Until I get you to move this way.
What we’re doing when we say that, in effect, is we’re saying that every time we draw
a line it’s a visual arrow that’s telling the audience how to move.
That cue, that subconscious cue.
When they move one way they see it two-dimensionally.
When they move a different way they’ll see it three-dimensionally.
In other words, if I can get you to move over the form—in fact, let’s paint stripes
They can even be pretty badly done, can’t they, and still get the idea going across.
Movement over the form.
Notice any of these things where the line breaks inside the silhouette we start to get
the arrows that move you in all the important directions, and you feel the volume.
So, movement over the form.
Structure is not movement around the form, movement over the form.
Look at the problem we have when we work with the figure as opposed to a box of cookies
or something like that.
When we do something that is this sophisticated and this complicated, notice that most of
the outline, most of the contour takes us around the form.
Very seldom, sometimes with costuming, sometimes with wrinkled, pinching flesh,
something like that.
Every once in a while, we move over the form.
Most of the marks, most of the apparent detail that we see is moving around the form.
And so, our impulse then, as we begin this without careful consideration or without a
little help—we all need a little help—is we start to see this stuff on the outside,
and we work harder and harder to get the outside right.
Then we don’t really know what to do with the inside, so we kind of copy details and
try to pack it in.
What I want to do in the very beginning of my structure is I want to get a simple shape
and then turn it into a form by putting movement over that form.
Look, then, what happens when we have a construction style or a lay-in style.
When we think like sculptors, is really what it comes down to.
We’re thinking of solids.
Right off the bat when we put something down on the page, if we do it with any kind of
correct understanding, we’re going to get instant structure, instant volume, instant form.
Then it’s just a matter of refinement, getting that refined.
Here’s what we’re doing, then.
We are not drawing a forearm.
You are not allowed to draw a forearm when you’re working with me.
In fact, even if you turn me off, you can’t draw a forearm.
All you can do is draw your idea about a forearm.
Now, is your idea pointillism?
Is it contour line?
Is it full-color rendering?
Is it slapping clay on an armature?
All we’re doing is we’re being more conscious.
We’re being aware of the fact that art is an idea.
When we start making marks, every mark is an idea that’s reinforcing or subverting
the truth of what we’re trying to get at.
In other words, we can’t get the portrait on the page.
We can’t get the face on the page.
We can only get our idea.
We’ll get our idea of the forearm rather than the forearm itself.
What that means is, instead of trying to draw a forearm, which doesn’t mean anything,
we’ll draw a simple structure instead.
We’ll draw a tube.
I’m not doing to draw a forearm.
I’m going to draw a tube.
I’m not going to draw a head.
I’m going to draw an egg.
It can be a very simple idea, or it can be incredibly sophisticated, so let’s think
about that for a second.
Simple is great because simple is easier.
What I want to do then is I want to create a criteria here.
When I choose a structure to replace whatever object in the world I want to draw, in this
case, whatever jointed part.
When I come up with an idea, I want that idea to be as simple as possible.
For obvious reasons.
It’s just easier.
If I’m under a deadline it’s quicker.
It’s going to be easier to redesign if I want to make it a heroic snowman or a villainous
snowman or a sad snowman, I can start to design
those simple structures in a way that reinforce that.
Evil villains have sharp features and pointed teeth and pointy, spikey hair and that kind
I’ll make it simple.
It allows it to be quicker.
It allows us to more easily redesign.
It allows us to animate.
If we want to do animation, almost every animation style in the world is based on very simple
shapes like this because if you’re going to move Mickey Mouse’s head this way, if
you’re trying to move zygomatic arches and glabellas, good luck with that.
But, if you’re just having to move a little egg shape or a couple of egg shapes or a little
spaghetti tube limb, that’s pretty easy.
You can draw that 300,000 times for an animated feature or however many numbers of times you
have to do it.
In terms of animation, it’s the only way to practically animate, putting a series of
still drawings together that slowly, incrementally move from one action to the next.
You’ve got to break it into simple two-dimensional or three-dimensional shapes.
Animation, especially classical animation, as Walt-Disney kind of invented in a sense.
He didn’t exactly but made popular.
That’s the only way to do that practically.
There is another kind of animation: If you’ve got a model posed like this because he’s
going to stay there for eight weeks as you sculpt him, it would be very nice if you could
take that and make that more dynamic.
He has to be like this, but maybe you’ll push him forward.
You’ll twist and you’ll twist him more.
You can take that position, that limited position that the model can hold, and you can make
it more dynamic by forcing those components into a more dynamic situation as Rubens would
do or Michelangelo would do.
Animate as well.
We want to make it as simple as possible.
If we were to make it just as simple as possible, we’d end up with snowman drawings all the time.
This would be my head.
This would be my rib cage.
This would be my pelvis.
Now, imagine if this is Michelangelo’s David, and he had to pick out three pieces of marble
to sculpt those three massive shapes.
Look at how much work he would have to do to chip away to get to the final result.
Notice that he can’t tell how they connect very well, whether he’s got the right size
or right position, one ball in relationship to the next.
If they just make it simple we’re never going to be sure how it connects.
We’re never going to be able to get to that gesture idea with any confidence.
We have a tremendous amount of work to do to finish it off.
That means if we don’t have a ton of time, we can’t get the idea across to our audience,
and we can’t make sure our idea is correct on the page of the canvas as we start to build
on top of that our rendered technique.
What we want is something a little more sophisticated.
We want to make sure that we pick simple structures, but simple, yet characteristic.
Simple, yet characteristic.
They have to be both.
I want to get it as simple as I possibly can, but also balance that with making that as
characteristic of what I see as I possibly can.
So, for example, maybe I will do this for a simple shape for the head and maybe I’ll
even do two or three simple shapes depending on what I need.
That’s still going to be quite simple, but look at how characteristic it is to that final
version of that portrait or that dynamic figure, or that design for the next Hollywood Blockbuster,
whatever it is.
So, simple, yet characteristic.
We’re going to balance that, but there is going to be a learning curve that we go through.
In fact, you’ll spend your whole career getting ever more refined, every more characteristic
simple shapes to put down as ideas to replace the body parts or the parts of the whole world.
The alien ship, the fantastic sunset.
You’ll notice if I have to draw a bunch of trees for a landscape they can be simple,
yet characteristic shapes there too.
Again, they can be three-dimensional or two-dimensional.
That’s going to be our yardstick for structure.
What we’re trying to do is get enough information that we have a very simple statement, easy
to get down to understand, and yet characteristic enough that we can feel confident that it
represents well that part we’re trying to talk about in our work and is going to fit
well with the next part that comes up, the next structure.
So, let’s take an example here.
If we were to do a forearm, we could say that forearm is a simple tube.
That make sense.
As I look at that simple tube, it’s a simple tube that tapers towards the wrist.
It’s a simple tube that tapers toward the wrist, but also kind of tends to bow and have
a curved quality to it.
That would be the most characteristic.
There would be other choices.
I can actually break it into two or three simple parts if I though that was important.
Maybe I’ll make the end a 2 x 4 and the top a tube, or the end a 2 x 4 and the top
and egg and have those shapes on top of the tube.
I can use all three of simple ideas to get one basic shape, a boxy wrist, a bulbist upper
arm, and a tubular middle arm.
That’s the simplest and most characteristic choice I make.
Notice that my simple, yet characteristic choice might well be quite different than yours.
You might well might want to make it too boxy or all egg-like or whatever.
That’s what we’re going for.
Simple, yet characteristic.
We’re going to practice that, drawing simple, yet characteristic shapes to replace whatever
we want to talk about.
That’ll be our idea so that we can have a way to converse to our audience and say
what we want to say.
They’ll be a learning curve on that.
Also notice that this is not horribly difficult is it?
If you’ve never picked up a pencil or a marker—I’m using Sharpies here and oftentimes
drawing out Sharpies.
I like to draw with those.
With a little bit of practice, a semester at a college, watching this and practicing
the lessons six or eight times.
You won’t be a master at it.
You’re not going to be a Michelangelo probably, unless you’re just a total savant.
You will get quite good at it quite quickly.
In fact, we could teach our 12 year olds how to draw this and do a very good job.
Maybe even our 8 year olds.
It’s not that difficult to get it really incredibly mastered, yes.
You’re going to spend your career getting ever more refined choices here and an ever-bigger
catalog of shapes to work from, but to get pleasant results and meaningful results that
can take you farther in the process of doing a rendering or a painting or a beautifully
constructed sculpture, you don’t need a lot of practice with this.
It comes quickly.
That’s the easiest part, and that’s why we started with it.
There is a lot more to be said about this, but let’s stop there for a second because
our idea is a two-step process.
We’re going to learn a little bit about structure and a little bit about gesture.
But it’s not unmanageable.
Let’s talk about it and demystify it.
You’ll see that the concept is actually really easy.
The execution is subtler, in that sense harder.
It’s actually not—none of this is complicated.
It’s just juggling the things together.
Gesture then is the connection, the relationship between the parts.
How it fits, how it comes together.
That means we’re going to think of gesture as the movement.
Remember, structure is the movement over the form.
Gesture is going to be the movement between the forms, but in a very special way that
we’ll have to talk about.
There are two parts to gesture.
We’re going to find that later there are two parts to structure too.
Two parts to gesture.
Everything seems to work in binaries in the thinking of these things.
We need to make sure that each part has a gesture line to be defined momentarily.
Each part must have a gesture.
If you think of the forearm, there is probably going to be a gesture line to that, almost
assuredly there will be a gesture line.
Then when the forearm fits into the hand or fits into the upper arm, it also will have
a gestural connection.
It’s going to move from forearm to upper arm and from forearm
to hand along that gesture line. It’s two parts.
Each part has a gesture, and then when they come together that is also gestural.
Let’s make it simpler yet.
What that really means is gesture is the long axis.
The long axis of any form.
Let’s draw that tube again.
How do we usually draw a tube?
I don’t know about you, but I do the long axis first.
That’s the length.
Then I do the width.
Then I do the ends.
I like to paint stripes over those ends so I’m very clear on the three-dimensional
quality in the movement over the form.
If I have to draw some detail here, say the sleeve on the shirt, the short-sleeve shirt,
I know how to curve it.
Length, width, and depth.
So really, in terms of structure, the sides are two-dimensional.
When I get the ends on, that’s when it becomes three-dimensional.
When I draw those sides, any particular side, I’m really drawing the gesture.
It’s the long axis.
Here is the rub on this.
When I say gesture, what it’s really referring to—you think of a skyscraper has a long
axis, doesn’t it, but we don’t think of that having a gesture.
The gesture is a part of living forms.
It’s associated with something that is alive, with something that is complex, something
that is organic, alive and organic.
Not every organic thing has a gesture, but every living thing does.
Here is what that means.
The long axis, if whatever we’re looking at is alive, it’s mainly water.
Anything that’s alive is mainly water.
We’re looking at Mars and these other planets.
There is no chance there was any life there if there wasn’t water.
Anything that’s alive is mainly water.
That means it has a fluid design.
When I say gesture, the long axis, what I’m saying is that long axis to be alive must
be fluid, watery, graceful, and what that just means is it must be curved.
If you want that part to seem alive, it’s got to have a curved design.
Notice my arm.
Think of the spine.
It’s flowing down the long axis in a curve or series of curves, depending.
Each particular part like the forearm will have its own curve.
Then it will connect however it’s going to connect to the upper arm, and that upper
arm will have a curve.
If the upper arm and the forearm tend to go in the same or similar direction then they’ll
group together and we’ll get two curves, or they’ll oppose against, and we’ll get
The head, the neck, the rib cage, the waist, the pelvis.
Notice there in opposition, so each one swings to the left to the right.
It becomes concave or convex as you go down the body.
What we’re looking for is that long axis curve.
The long axis curve, and the more curved we make that long axis the more alive.
Let’s draw a tube again.
We just want to draw the tube this way.
Notice that I’m drawing several lines for that because it want to get that curve right.
Also, I want to make sure I’m taking in the whole structure because the gesture is
going to help me find the structure.
More on that in a moment.
As I draw this now, I’m going to think over on this other side, and I’m going to draw this.
As I draw this, I’m going to look back and make sure it relates to that and plan on how
I’m going to add this.
Adding several lines oftentimes is an excellent way to get a completed, constructed idea down,
the idea for the forearm is a tapering tube that’s curved in its long axis.
That’s going to be that lifeline.
Notice when we think of something as lifeless, as dead, a corpse, we think of it as a stiff
Frankenstein is only partly alive.
He’s fake life so he’s this stiff character.
If we don’t want our drawings to be stiff, but graceful, we want them
to have this fluid quality.
The interesting thing, if we go back to the animation, when you look at how Mulan runs
or whatever animated character, Kung Fu Panda throws a roundhouse kick, notice that the
foot moves in a curve, or the horse’s gallop, the head of the horse is going along this
curve as it gallops across the landscape.
The actions of life are also fluid.
Think of a creek, a river going down.
Lava going down.
Smoke going up.
Organic things oftentimes have that watery design too.
Even fire and smoke that don’t—fire has no water in it.
It has this fluid quality.
We actually talk about fire as being hungry.
We give, oftentimes, in fact, in mythologies the fire was an entity.
We think of it as alive because it has a lot of the characteristics of life.
It eats and it’s fluid.
What could be more alive than that when you think about it?
Anything that’s alive is going to be fluid.
Anything that you want to impart life to, you should give that fluid long axis.
If you’re drawing whatever it is, it can be tree branches, a rive in a landscape, clouds
in the sky, a figure on the beach.
If it feels like it’s lifeless, it’s because the long axis of that form or those forms
do not have the curve they should.
It’s really a very simple idea.
We want to make sure when we draw the length of whatever we draw we curve it.
When we draw the width of whatever we draw, we move over that width with some constructed
lines or constructed rendered detail eventually.
Eventually we’ll replace these placeholders, these idea markers for real detail, a sleeve,
a cast shadow, an anatomical feature or whatever it is.
That’s what we’re after.
They’re not horribly complex ideas.
They’re quite simple, but applying them in the thick of battle when you’re desperately
looking over here and trying to get marks here can be very difficult and very intimidating,
so we’re going to go slow and careful.
But, that’s really it.
Gesture, then, is a long axis.
It’s a movement over the form.
Gesture is characterized by curve.
Not every part of the body in every position is going to have a long axis curve.
If you’ve got a guard at attention, the torso and the head can be stiff and straight.
Anything that’s symmetrical, has bilateral symmetry, is naturally stiff and straight
in that long axis.
As soon as you take that symmetrical form and turn it off axis into some dynamic position,
or you take a form that is naturally asymmetrical—what is over here is not over here.
What is over here is not over here, then any of those asymmetrical forms by design or those
asymmetrical forms by position are going to have a dynamic
long axis that’s almost always curved.
If I’m going to screw up, I’d rather have
more curve in the long axis rather than not enough.
That brings me to another point.
As an artist who wants to do good work, I need to know how to screw up well because
I know I’m going to screw up.
In fact, I hope I screw up.
If I screw up in the right way then art history will remember me as a great stylist.
The style of the artist you love, those are all mistakes they made or else it wouldn’t
be a style.
It would be perfect realism.
We think of Rembrandt or Sargent or Picasso.
They screwed up, but they screwed up consistently.
They took an idea, and rather than always messing up the idea, they made a mistake in
the same direction each time.
Caravaggio always made his shadows too dark.
That became part of his style.
Rembrandt always made that light drop off too much.
That became part of his style, that glorious, religious light that he did.
Michelangelo made his figures too heroic.
We can go on and on and on.
We want to know which way to make a mistake.
Err to the more dynamic.
Whatever your idea is, make it more dynamic.
In a way, as we said, all these art forms are working on the same two cylinders, the
In storytelling, if I’m doing a film, what’s the better mistake to make?
Should I make that horror film to scary or not scary enough?
Should I make that joke too funny or not funny enough.
It’s a pretty easy answer isn’t it?
Nobody comes out of a film saying that film was just way too funny for me.
I’ll never watch that filmmaker again.
They say that was great.
The odds are they’re not going to say there is too much life in your art.
There is too much volume in your art.
Err towards that more dynamic idea, and you’ll always be satisfied and your audience will
always be satisfied.
Knowing what the idea and which way to push the idea to make it stronger is a great idea.
If I’m going to screw up my gesture, I’m going to make it too curved.
Not too straight.
This is going to look like Frankenstein.
This is going to look like a beautiful Madonna or Odelesque or whatever I’m doing.
Err the more dynamic.
So, with gesture we can reduce it down.
If we had to say one word we would sum it up for the most part with some exceptions.
There are always exceptions to life, unfortunately, but gestures are curves.
If we go back to structure we’re going to find that structure is corners.
Curves and corners.
We’re going to spend a lot of time.
I’m going to spend a lot of time.
I’m going to probably spend eventually 150 hours talking about drawings, maybe 350 hours
talking about drawings.
You’re going to have to listen to every minute of it.
All I’m ever going to be saying over and over and over again is curves and corners,
but I’ll just be saying it in slightly different ways.
I’ll talk about it in terms of value instead of line.
I’ll talk about it in terms of anatomy instead of structure.
I’ll talk about it in terms of background in terms of background instead of foreground.
Color, all these things.
It’s all curves and corners.
That’s what we’re going to take it down to.
That’s what we’re going to build it back up from.
This is going to be our two ideas that carries through a fabulous career and a lot of fun.
Structure is corners.
That’s the simplest explanation of those two concepts.
That’s going to lead us from our beginning ideas to our finished rendering.
We’re going to find that line, tone, and color
will track these same two ideas throughout our process.
It doesn’t matter whether we draw, we paint, we sculpt.
It’s the same binary system.
We’ve talked a little bit about gesture.
Now, let’s come back to structure.
We’re going to bring them up together.
Structure is corners.
What does that mean, exactly?
Let’s take a look at that.
We also said, of course, it’s the movement over the form.
Let’s see how that tracks.
Let’s draw the sphere or a bar.
Let’s say I’ve rendered that in such a way it has wonderful volume.
It’s titanium steel.
It ways 2.6 lbs.
It is as solid as it can be.
That has a ton of form.
The way that I’m going to define structure now, and when I define these things, all my
definitions I should say are purely for convenience.
They have nothing to do dictionary definitions with science.
None of that.
It’s just designed to make us draw better.
I want definitions of the world, like art is an idea.
That’s only useful to us because it’s useful to us.
It’s not a real definition, but it’s convenient because it gets our mind working a certain
direction that I think will get you to better craftsmanship and actually eventually better
art in the biggest sense with a capital A. To me, an artist is really a visual philosopher.
You have something very specific to say about the world, how beautiful it is, how tragic it is.
How full of potential it is.
Whatever that might be, you’re communicating that through your picture making.
That means every mark you make, color, line, tone, whatever medium you’re using.
It is and should be furthering those very deep ideas.
It also should be firing on all cylinders on our simple craft ideas.
It’s really the same dialogue.
It’s just how deep do you want to dig in the conversation is all.
I’m going to now define structure in such a way that it’s more convenient.
So, for convenience sake, I’m going to say that this ball has a ton of form, but it doesn’t
have any structure.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let’s keep going.
If I drew, instead of a perfect ball I drew an egg shape, gave it plenty of volume, rendered
it into titanium steel.
It was 2.8 pounds or whatever I said this was.
That would have a little bit of structure.
What I mean by that is we’d understand it’s position in space better.
Why is that?
Well, an egg has a natural long and short axis, whereas a sphere does not.
There is no axle change there.
With the egg, now, as opposed to the sphere, we know it leans a little bit.
We’ve got one position in space.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to say structure for convenience’s sake,
is better defined by saying structure is form plus position.
Form plus position.
Let’s keep going.
If we made it a tube.
Now we know that tube also leans, but we also know because of that movement over the form
that we’ve drawn that constructed in, we know that not only it leans but it tilts back
The bottom is closer to us than the top.
Then, and maybe you’re ahead of me at this point, if we made a boxy structure, we would
know that it is leaning, tipping, and facing in a certain position.
Let’s do this again.
We saw that and that.
This we saw leaning, tilting or tipping, and the facing.
This has no corners.
Of course not.
This has actually has one corner.
It’s just an interior corner, but we feel that corner.
This has that same long and short axis.
Plus, it has the sides against the end, two corners.
This has that long to short axis, plus the sides against the ends, plus the side against
the other side, or the side against the front, however you want to say it.
This has three corners.
This only has two.
This has one.
When we say it needs to have position in space—leaning, tipping, facing; those three positions are
what we call the three dimensions.
A three-dimensional form, then, is a volume that sits in a very specific position in space.
When we can get that volume by moving our construction lines over the form and show
that position in space by making those construction lines, corners in our thinking, we get more
information to the audience.
Notice with the sphere, we don’t know anything about that in terms of its position.
We don’t know if we’re above it, below it, to the side of it.
We have to put it in relationship to something else, say a tabletop or another shape.
Before we start to get any sense of how it sits in space.
The egg, we know, at least it leans and so on throughout.
What that tells us then is the more corners, it’s really saying what we just said earlier,
but now we know why.
The more corners we add, the more structure we see.
We understand and we’re telling our audience specifically what its volume is, what its
form is, and how it sits in space.
And so if you want to get a torso that’s leaning and facing to a three-quarters in
those positions, those corners are going to become very important.
That’s our strategy.
Structure, then, is based on the form plus its position in space.
Three positions in space equals three dimensions.
Now, on top of that, let’s go back to that scary term, perspective.
Remember, I promised we’d talk about perspective, and I promised I’d make it easy on you.
We’re not going to do vanishing point, station points; that’s for another time.
Very, very valuable stuff to do.
I would encourage you to take the lessons on that.
We don’t need it for the moment, though.
We’re going to do something a little simpler instead, and that gets us started and gets
us quite far, actually.
When we say perspective, it’s that evil concept of math.
That’s scary stuff.
Even if it’s not scary, sometimes it’s just not all that fun for people.
We’re going to change that.
When I say a specific form has three positions in space, position is a simpler way of saying
It’s just a simple way of saying perspective.
Position equals perspective.
All we need to know to know perspective for now is we need to know the positions in space.
What is the positions of that form.
We’ve just gone through that.
We actually have two problems to work out.
We want to know the position of the form of the object that we’re trying to draw.
It faces towards us.
We’re on top of it.
It’s leaning to the side, whatever that is.
And we want to know our position to the form.
I can spell that.
Not just the position of the forearm, but our position to it.
Our position to something will also be the audience’s position.
If we look at it from above, the audience is looking at it from above.
If we get from below to the side, all those kinds of things.
We’re tracking together.
If we want the audience to really understand what that form is doing in space, we have
to know whether it’s leaning, tipping into the picture plane or not.
Is it going into that?
And we need to know our position to it.
Let’s figure out an easy way to work out those issues without having to do all the
stuff we don’t want to do in the name of this.
Alright, what we’re going to do is very simple.
It’s pretty darn easy, so that’s a nice combination.
We’re going to use the pencil test.
You’ve got your charcoal pencil, your graphite pencil, your marker.
Almost any of these items are packaged with nice graphics on them.
They’ll have lettering on them.
I usually have some kind of banding.
They’ll have the cap or they’ll have the eraser head or graphic stripe.
You’re basically drawing with a tube.
That tube is going to have a stripe going around.
Well, that’s convenient because that stripe going around is our perspective end.
If we’re drawing with some pencil with an eraser on it, the metal banding is going to
do that on that eraser, and that’s going to tell us that the top of the pencil is a
little closer to us then the bottom of the pencil.
It’s coming out of the picture plane this way, or it’s going into the picture plane
It’s that idea.
And so, when we do our construction lines, it’s describing that truth.
It’s explaining that truth.
That’s that movement over the form, of course, that allows us to feel the volume that we
want to feel.
Then we add our rendered detail we can actually fool you if we do it carefully enough that
it’s actually something tipping out of space.
At least we get the very clear idea, as we would in a lay-in or the real gut feeling
as we would with a nicely painted portrait or whatever.
Those constructed ends, then, we can match up whatever form we want to draw we can match
up with our pencil and put in the same position.
If I’m looking at something that’s leaning back in space, I look at that torso or that
model up in the stand leaning back in space.
I’m going to close one eye, hold my pencil out or whatever tool I’m using.
I can do it with a paintbrush.
Tilt this back at the same or similar angle.
It doesn’t have to be exactly right.
Same or similar angle.
I’m going to look at the striped end and see how it arcs.
And so when I look at it—let’s come this way—when I look at it, I’ll close one
eye and squint.
I see this curvature and I realize that the rib cage, the pit of the neck is farther from
me than say the belly button.
I can plot out then the position of that great torso in that dynamic position.
I can build all my stuff on top of it.
Turn the tube that I drew into an egg and all the other stuff that I might do.
The spare tire muscles.
All the thing that we’ll get into as we go along.
I’ll create architectural shapes as ideas to replace the difficult anatomy and tonal
map and, you know, personality of that young woman or that old man or whatever we’re
That just establishes my idea of some simple form in a specific position.
That’s the pencil test.
I can do that for all three positions if I need to.
I can close my eye and know that it’s going back into the paper.
I can close my eye and know that it’s leaning over here.
And then the facing dimension, we don’t really need the pencil test for that.
We can eyeball that.
I’ll show you a couple of tips on that in a second.
That’s generally pretty self-explanatory, but we can goof it up pretty easily.
I’ll tell you how to find that a second.
That pencil test will give us the leaning and the tipping.
Notice when you’ve got contours going all over the place it could be a little confusing
to know which way the thing is tilting.
And so when you’re dealing with something that has a natural center line like the face,
the neck, the torso, front or back—there is a natural center line there—you can just
look to that center line.
For the torso, for example, I’ll close one eye and I’ll put along the breastbone.
I’ll find it there just like that.
I’ll bring that to my paper.
What the trick on this, the easiest way to do it is you close one eye, you tilt the pencil
that the structure is tilting that you want to draw and then you bring it right down to
You’ve got your paper and board here.
You look up at the model.
You tilt your pencil.
You bring it down to your paper.
You draw that construction line, and now you’ve got the tilt.
I look up there.
I see the model leaning this way.
I put my pencil in that lean, and I just go right along the breastbone and I draw that
torso leaning this way.
Maybe it’s doing something like that.
I just get that lean right there.
I build it along.
There we have it.
The same way with the tilt.
I can do it one step.
I can lean it and tilt it back in the paper, or I can do it in two steps.
As you are learning, slow down, break down the steps more comfortably, get it leaning
Then check it again.
Get it tilting that way.
Then move right along.
Now, let’s go back to gesture for a second.
When we talk about gesture it’s a long axis curve, isn’t it?
Sometimes things get stiff and straight.
Generally, they are very fluid, and we’re usually more interested in drawing dynamic
Not always but usually.
We’ve usually got some dynamic pose.
Most of the forms are either going to be at an asymmetrical position or are going to be
asymmetrically composed structures, and so we’re going to see that natural long axis
curve, that watery design that we so want so we don’t get the Frankenstein drawings.
We’re looking for curves.
When I do my pencil test with the torso, I pick up the breast bone there maybe to get
that tilt, but the problem is, if I got any structure that I’m trying to place at a
certain leaning position, then the problem with the curve, one of the many problems with
the curves is it’s always changing directions.
How do I get that?
Because maybe it all lines up from a breastbone to crotch on a straight line, but there is
a good chance it’ll curve off that and be changing every moment into a different lean.
This is going here.
This is going here.
This is going here.
What do we do?
You can break it down incrementally.
What I’ll do is it’s leaning over this way.
I’ll close one eye.
I’ll use the breastbone.
The nice thing about the breastbone is it’s fixed bone.
From this area, the pit of the neck down, down to, two-thirds of the way down the rib
cage, it’s fixed.
It’s not going to bend.
You can say that’s doing that.
Then you can say, how about there down to the belly button while that’s doing that.
How about from the belly button to the crotch.
That’s doing that.
When I look at these leaning ideas, what I’m going to do is I’m going to compare it to
a vertical or horizontal.
This is a vertical pose so I’m going to look at that.
Maybe it goes this way.
Maybe I’m behind that pose.
I see it from the other direction.
It’s doing that.
I notice that at the hips, there is the gluteal fold, let’s say.
At the hips it gets pretty close to a vertical.
It’s just tipped a little bit.
Then in the small of the back it gets a pretty strong tilt, and then up to the shoulder blades
it tilts even more, probably more like that.
I look to the center line and not the contour that might be doing that.
This would suggest that.
That would suggest that.
None of those are particularly accurate.
Look to the inside and build out.
We’ll talk about how to find the gesture on the limbs another time.
Let’s go back to structure.
Anyway, I can use this pencil test to plot out a curve, just break it into 2 or 3 components.
Oftentimes, if you get one section, you can feel the rest pretty accurately.
The other thing I’ll do is when I look to those curves, is there some moment where that
curve is perfectly vertical or is perfectly horizontal?
Maybe the torso is doing this, the model is in some pose like that, and you see the spine
Well, at that moment the spine happens to be exactly horizontal.
As we go into the lower back and hips, it drops down.
As we go into the lower upper back and shoulders it drops down, so we can find that.
Or any curve you can track based on that gridded position.
That will be very useful to us later on.
Anyway, that’s how that applies there.
Leaning into the side, tilting into the picture plane idea.
Now let’s go to the facing dimension, the facing.
So from here to here.
That seems pretty obvious.
It’s a three-quarter view, I’ll draw a three-quarter view.
It can get complicated.
You get these dynamic poses.
Also, especially in the torso, but even as the head we’ll talk about it a little bit.
It’s real easy to miss it.
Oftentimes, we ratchet things back.
The real problem we have here is as I talk to you I’m like this.
As you brush your teeth in the morning, you’re like this.
As you come up to give your best friend a hug, you’re like this.
Then you open up your how-to book, and they go the proportioned out figures like this.
And so we learn how to see the world.
We experience the world mainly from this undynamic position.
This is how we understand best the figure with whatever information we’re working
It’s how we experience the world most of the time.
Then all of a sudden you want to draw something that’s like this, a Rubens or a superhero
or a dynamic reclining figure twisting across the cushions of a couch or whatever it is.
Now you’re out of this upright stable position, and you’re in this dynamic lovely position,
but how do you do that?
Particularly when you get into these kind of positions like this, you can now just do
it like this.
You can see that I’m in a perfect profile to you.
But what if the body does this on the model?
Then you see almost a back view of the shoulders.
Yet, we still are in the profile at the waist.
There is that torqueing going on.
The thing you might well do is you’ll end up drawing like this.
In other words, whatever dynamic position that model is in, you’re going to subconsciously
try and translate it from your understanding of this.
Instead of drawing this, you’ll be thinking this.
And so what will you do?
You’ll draw it a little less dynamic.
The twist won’t be as twisting.
It tilt won’t be as tilting.
The depth won’t be as deep, and you’ll slowly ratchet it back.
Then you’ll put muscle and bone on it in detail.
Oftentimes, it gets even stiffer.
We’re going to have to fight that when we get into the advance sections where we really
start rendering and parsing out all the details we want to put in.
How do we not take that first dynamic beginning, that lovely fluid, twisting, turning gesture
line, and not formalize it and kill the life out of it.
That’s going to be a real problem for us.
That’s one of the reasons we need to carry gesture all the way through our understanding
into the rendering, not just in the first couple of lines.
So, we see this.
We know this.
We’ll draw this.
It’s real easy to twist out of that facing dimension and muck it up.
What that means is, when we’re drawing anything, we’ll start with the head.
Let’s say it’s a three-quarter profile.
Don’t say, well, I see a lot of ear because it’s a three-quarter profile so I’m going
to draw a lot of distance here.
Instead, always go to the shortest side to measure your proportions, and go to the landmark,
the key landmark on the head, this keystone that ends the forehead, begins the nose, and
separates the eyebrows, and look right there and say how much do I see on the far cheekbone.
How much is here?
Close your eyes.
You can even bring your pencil over and block out the nose and see how much you see on this
Look to that short side.
That’s true for any kind of proportion.
If I’m drawing this kind of thing, I’m going to draw this over here, this long sweeping
I’ll get this lovely curved gesture, this wonderful simple tube in this dynamic position,
but I won’t know how long it is, what the proportion is.
I’ll draw the long, sweeping ideas based on those long, fluid lines.
Then I’ll come back on the pinching side where it’s short and bunched up.
I’ll measure the proportions there.
When I draw this, I’ll draw this to get that long gesture line, but I’ll measure
in here on the short side where it’s pinched together.
Always go to the short side to get that, and it’s going to be easier.
That’s what we’re going to do here.
In the facing dimensions go to the short side.
If you’ve got a pose like this, don’t look at the shoulders.
Go down to the waist.
Whenever you’re drawing the tube go down to the waist and see where it is.
How much is on this short side over here?
How much is on that short side?
Don’t measure on the long side or else you’ll do a lot on the long side, and you’ll do
a lot on the short side, and you’ll turn it back this way, and they’ll have gained
Look to the short side.
Go to the center line.
Wherever you’re looking, below the shoulders, though, and see how much is over here, and
then add how much is over here.
Then if you add a little too much or a little too little, then later on you can catch that
and trim them down because you gave them 10 extra pounds.
Or, fatten them up because you made them a little too lanky.
You’ll still have that facing dimension well placed.
Okay, so that’s the trick on that.
Let me show you real quick.
Here is a, we see this, the hooded cobra shape of a muscular male, those latissimus dorsi
as they call it, the superhero muscles they call them because you always want to give
the big shoulders and little waist to Captain America and all this stuff.
I’m not going to look up here.
Notice what happens.
Let’s just draw this here really simply.
That’s what we see when we’re drawing this dynamic figure.
Of course, with my stuff I’m always drawing dynamic figures.
We see that and we go, that’s the hero.
That’s what I want to see.
Look at how this looks like it’s a true there-quarter.
But, if we were to look down at the waist here, let’s say it’s like this, we might
see that it’s almost a profile or even is a profile.
I’m not going to look up here because if I do that I’ll—let me change colors—if
I do that I’ll make him, or her even, too fat and too much of a back view.
Instead, I’m going to come down and look at the waist.
At this point, I’ve probably drawn the head and the shoulder line.
We’ll go through the steps on how to draw the figure.
Usually you’ll do a top down, and I recommend that.
You won’t know exactly where the waist is, but you don’t have to.
The waist is here.
The waist is here.
It doesn’t matter.
You’re just going to draw a waist-wide tube, and then draw it straight on up.
We’ll go through this again more carefully when the time comes, but just so we understand
the concept of our position in space, part of our perspective idea.
This is what we’ll draw.
A waist-wide tube for the torso.
Then we’ll add the shoulder, what’s called the shoulder girdle.
All the muscle and bone and tissue that attaches the arms to the rib cage.
I think of that like football player’s shoulder pads.
The football player puts that on.
Those shoulder pads sit on the torso but are independent of the torso.
That’s the shoulder blades and the whole shoulder girdle for the rib cage and the waist.
The rib cage and waist are underneath that shoulder girdle.
The shoulders—notice I can move my shoulders and my arms all around and never move my rib
cage and waist.
We want to draw it that way.
I want to draw a waist-wide tube always, and then we’ll build out a lot or a little,
depending on the position and the model, the dynamics of the model.
We do it the same way on the backside as we would on the front side.
Whether it’s a back view here, it doesn’t matter.
Front view, it doesn’t matter.
Get that waist-wide tube and then add this stuff on top of it.
That’s the facing dimension.
Alright, we’ve got our pencil test that we can tell whether the form is breaking the
picture plane going into or out of the dynamic three-dimension.
Notice when we do the leaning, we’re just still on the paper.
When we do the facing, we’re still on the paper but as soon as we do the tilt I guess
we’ll call it, the tilting, now we break the picture plane.
This can fool us.
This can fool us.
We’ve talked about how we want to find the natural center line and not get seduced in
the contour and how to track a curve and ever-changing lean, basically.
We’ve now found how to deal with the problem of facing when it might be hidden by a dynamic
pose, but it’s still on the flat surface.
The real problem for most of us realist painters and draftsman and artists is to break that
Sculptors don’t have this problem.
They have other problems, but they don’t have this problem because they’re working
on a three-dimensional form.
Our problem is to take the three-dimensional world and translate it onto two-dimensional
paper or canvas and make those ideas still ring true.
It still has to feel like a nose that comes off the cheek, that a hand that reaches out
of the paper, that a landscape that goes back into the distance.
We have to create those ideas that reinforce that reality to fool the eye on some level
or to get them to agree on some level that, yes, that is miles deep or inches away or
going into the paper at the top or coming out of the canvas at the top.
That’s all having to do with that tilt, or as we say, breaking the picture plane.
When we say breaking the picture plane, what we’re saying is the paper or the canvas.
Are you doing anything to create the idea that it’s tilting into or out that.
Or, if this were our framed canvas, a window, are we looking through the window?
Are those forms touching the glass or are they coming forward from the pane of glass,
or are they going way back in the distance beyond the pane of glass?
It’s that idea.
That’s that illusion of trying to balance the three-dimensional with the two-dimensional.
That’s one of the great issues in realist art.
It’s how to get the idea of three-dimensionality, specifically this on a two-dimensional surface.
That’s why we can’t copy nature.
To copy it is to miss the point in a way.
We’ve got to translate it.
We’ve got to come up with some ideas, some conventions that the audience will agree on
that even though is a flat surface, yeah, I feel the depth there.
There are several tools we have in our tool belt to do that, and there are multiple ways
to execute with those tools, but we’re one of the first.
I would argue the most important for us to build or finished style and our stylistic
direction for our careers is that tilt.
That’s why one of the many reasons why doing a lay-in where you actually put down the idea
on the surface before you end up doing your technique and rendering over that.
You establish clearly where you’re going with that, what you’re trying to say with
that, and then you find the details, pick out the shopping list of details that reinforce
It becomes hugely important.
That tilt is the biggest problem in terms of getting a full idea across to the audience.
Getting these ends are crucial.
Notice I paint stripes all the way down.
Now, as I paint those strips down that tube or over that box, here is what I have to watch.
The box is less of an issue.
There is some perspective stuff, getting these things to work well, but basically if you
just make this end and whatever lines inside and then this end, make them parallel.
There are these vanishing perspective idea where things converge.
We don’t have to worry about that in the figure.
Everything is organic.
It’s going to be rounded off to some degree.
We’re only dealing with a few feet.
We’re not dealing with miles or the length of a car going away from us kind of stuff.
We don’t have to deal with the vanishing points.
Just make them horizontal or whatever their angle is, but make them parallel with each
Same with these.
That’s good enough.
The problem becomes when you do this and each line doesn’t track with the other lines.
This needs to be consistent with that.
There it is.
This, whatever obtuse or right angle it is, needs to be consistent with this.
This needs to be consistent with that.
This needs to be consistent with that.
Just make sure they track all the way along.
Whatever axis the line is going, you find all the other axis that reinforce that.
All the other lines that reinforce that axis.
Okay, so that’s that.
We want that three-dimensional tilt.
Alright, so having said that, that’s the basis of getting a solid three-dimensional
idea into a solid three-dimensional position.
The three dimensions translate into our three positions.
That’s our pencil test.
That’s our perspective.
We have one other aspect to deal with.
None of them is brain surgery, but there are a lot of them.
We’re talking about a lot of stuff in a lot of different ways, so it can be overwhelming
and confusing just because of the volume.
Well, you said structures and movement over the form, but now you’re saying it’s corners.
I get what you’re talking about, the balls and tubes and eggs and stuff.
Still, you’re making me think about this several different ways.
It’s a lot of stuff.
And so, you want to take your time with it and live with it.
Don’t talk about it or listen to it just once.
Don’t sketch it just once.
Do it lots of times.
This is a new language you’re learning, in effect.
Not in effect, it is.
It’s a new language.
And so, are you going to just learn that new word for love or pizza.
I guess there is only one word for pizza, but for a meal or whatever it is.
Or, are you going to go over it several times and use it different contexts and situations
with other words and other ideas.
You need to immerse yourself with it and do it over and over again.
The secret to learning anything and the secret to teaching anything is the repetition.
Showing you again and again so you remember it, and showing you again and again in different
situations so you can be nimble with it and not just where the demonstration suggested.
That takes time and commitment.
So, all this stuff, look at it more than once and sketch and try it out in different ways.
What I will say is as we get through this lecture heavy stuff, we do our assignments,
we look at how the old masters do it, you’re going to have time to practice.
You’re going to see me demonstrate it.
Not just talking about it here, but actually drawing it out from references and stuff.
That’s going to help a lot.
Then it takes the theory and puts it in practice.
Still, go back over this stuff again and again and again.
To me, you don’t really know it unless you can teach it yourself, unless you can demonstrate
it and/or talk about it.
Hopefully both, but sometimes we are not so verbal, we just want to show.
If you can put down a rib cage when you see that model and make it tilt and make it tip
and make it face as it should, and all those marks reinforce those ideas, you’ve got it.
But, that takes some time.
So, be patient with yourself and be patient with me as we plow through this.
Alright, so form plus position equals structure.
That just means I want to do a solid shape whether it’s leaning and tipping and facing.
If I can do that in whatever manner, we know now this torso is facing right towards us
because we drew the center line of it, and we see the nipples in the symmetrical position.
We know this form is facing into a three-quarters because it has that extra corner to demonstrate that.
Then it may well have other things that also reinforce that.
So, that’s what we’re after.
Remember, we said position is the position of the form, and then the position of we,
the audience/artist because it’s the same thing in terms of viewpoint.
Whatever viewpoint the artist chooses is then stuck with that viewpoint or treated with
Now, what’s the position of us?
If I’ve got a standing pose, this lovely pose; here is my lovely pose.
She’s up on the model stand, and I’m sitting down on a bench.
I’m here looking up at her.
That’s going to be a very different drawing if she’s in that lovely pose—here’s
my lovely pose again—and my buddy next to me is on a ladder and she’s looking down
drawing like this.
The model hasn’t changed position.
The lighting didn’t change position.
We changed our position to it.
We say, well, of course, if I walk around the side I’m going to draw a profile.
If I walk around back I’m going to draw a back view.
We understand that position, that kind of idea, but we forget about the eye level.
We say, well, if a wall came up and bumped into that model it would hit our belly button
before it hit her breastbone, or it hit her collarbone before it hit her hips.
We understand that, too, with a little bit of practice.
That’s that tilt idea.
We’ve just gone through that.
But, again, if you drop down below that becomes a different perspective problem, a different
tilting issue than if you’re way up high.
It becomes problematic.
She hasn’t changed her position, but your orientation changes the drawing completely.
How do we—that just sounds hard even saying that stuff.
How do we deal with that whole big mess?
Well, actually, it’s not very hard.
It just takes a little practice.
Let’s take a look, let’s go for a tourist trip.
We’re going to go to Turkey and look at some of the fantastic ruins there, the Roman ruins.
We find this—here I am, a very stylish outfit, I should add, and I’ve walked up, and I’m
standing in front of this mammoth column.
That column has been standing there for 1400 years and has never fallen over because it’s
It’s not leaning.
It’s not tilting.
It’s not falling back.
It would have been long gone if it is was falling.
Perfectly vertical, like a skyscraper.
But, I’m this little fellow.
As dapper as I am, I’m still a little fellow who’s standing way down here.
If this was broken into little pieces and stacked like poker chips to get that mighty
weight on there, we would find that if I looked at this little piece right here,
it’s perfectly vertical.
That chip looks like that, but the chip below it looks like that to me.
The chip and the chips above it look like that.
In fact, they look—and I’ll exaggerate—in even greater perspective, light that.
Notice, we can use the pencil test for that.
If I have this perfectly vertical—let me do it this way—pen and I look at this line
where green meets gray, it’s perfectly horizontal like that.
If I keep that perfectly vertical and look down on that pen, now I’m seeing a really
If I look that horizontal moment, that meeting and put it way up here, it’s still perfectly
vertical, and I’m seeing it curve like this.
What do we do with that?
Well, what we realize is our eyeline, which is again part of perspective, eyeline.
We’ll call it EL.
At our eyeline, that construction line that’s
moving over the form will just go straight across.
Now, people who haven’t practiced, young kids too young to think about depth about
stuff. They’ll just draw a soup can on the table like that.
If you get more sophisticated, you get a little bit of practice, you observe carefully, or
you’ve been taught, you’ve talked about it, taken a lesson on it.
You realize that if you’re standing over that
table you should draw the soup can like that.
You realize that if you threw that soup can up in the air or if were a hanging lantern
on the ceiling, you would see that tube idea like that.
In other words, if you’re looking at something that’s below the eyeline, that’s when
you get on top of those curves.
When you eyeline is below it, that’s when you get underneath the curves.
That’s how that happens.
The form itself can tilt, or we can be way underneath that form.
I’ll do it like this.
That will, again, give the same curvature like that.
That’s our position to it.
Position of the form, our position, our eye level to the form.
Here’s what we do, then.
If the form is in perfect verticality, it’s in our picture plane, and it’s above us.
I’m going to hold the pencil in a perfectly vertical position, too.
I’m going to close one eye, and I’m going to bring that stripe that’s going to be
my guideline up to the top—I don’t want to go over the top of the frame up to the
top of Lincoln’s big round hat, let’s say, and I see it curve a little bit, that’s
what I’ll do.
I’ll draw it a little bit.
If I were to look down at the cuffs of his pants and take this way down here, I close
one eye, site this stripe so that it lines up with the cuff of his pants.
I draw the cuff of the pants this way, like that.
That hat is in a perfectly vertical position, but because I’m underneath him, I end up
drawing it like this, likewise, with the cuff down here.
If it’s in a perfectly vertical position, and it’s way above me—let’s do it this
way so we’re together here.
If it’s a perfectly vertical position for that hat, and it’s way above me, and then
he looks up in the sky so that the hat tilts back, now it’s way above me.
I have to curve it this way.
And it’s tilting back.
It’s doubling up that underneathness.
Instead of drawing this I might have to draw this way deeper.
It went from this amount to that amount.
So, pencil test.
I close one eye—it’s way above me.
I sight up so the top of the hat meets this, and then I see as a second step that it’s
leaning back this way.
I lean it back that way.
It’s about the same.
Doesn’t have to be exactly.
I see how much more curved that is.
That’s what I draw.
Remember, we’re always going to screw up.
Whatever your idea is, err to the more dynamic.
If you want to show perspective, better to make it too deep.
I’ll say it’s something like that, but just to be safe I’ll tilt it a little bit
That’s a better mistake than backing off it and barely making it curve
Let’s stay with the underneath idea.
If it’s vertical, perfectly positioned to the picture plane, but it’s above us.
Let me get a better marker.
I’ll maybe draw it like that.
The reality is it’s perfectly vertical.
It’s not breaking the picture plane.
But, I’m way below it.
I’ll draw it like that.
The reality is I’m way below it, but it’s also tilting back in position.
It’s tilting back.
I’m way below it.
I’ll double-up that tilt and make it even deeper.
Make it go back.
Notice if it gets extreme, making it taper back adds to the illusion.
Rather than making those sides parallel, you can make those taper back a little bit.
In either case, this is the important part.
So, it’s way above me.
It’s perfectly in the picture plane.
It’s way above me and it’s already tilting into the picture plane.
What if it’s way above me and it’s tilting out of the picture plane?
What the heck do we do with that.
It’s way above me, so that’s the idea.
It’s going to curve that way.
But, it’s coming back towards me.
When it comes toward me at the top it’s doing this.
So, am I so far underneath that I still see a little underneath it, or is it tilting toward
me so much that I still see on top of it.
In other words, when I get way undeath it, it tilts toward me at the top.
This is going to start to cancel out.
Try it on your own pencil, and you’ll see it starts to cancel out.
Again, you might want to draw it like that because it’s canceled out.
If you’re not sure, you could draw like that.
I’ll tell you in a minute why you don’t want to draw it like that.
But, you could draw it like that in terms of the pencil test.
But, you’re better off saying that it’s so far above me that I’m still a little
bit underneath it.
Or, it’s tilting so far out of the picture plane that even though I’m underneath it
it’s still coming out closer to me at the top.
Either one would be okay.
It’s so close you can’t hardly tell, or you can’t tell at all.
You’re going to pick one or the other.
You’re going to make a mistake, err towards the more dynamic or
whatever the idea is you want.
Do you want to show in this drawing how far here underneath the whole figure because they’re
up on the ledge about to jump off the skyscraper?
Or, do you want to show that he’s already jumped and is swan-diving forward?
Even though he is way up there he’s coming off the ledge.
Take your pick.
Whichever idea you want to force more, the dynamic jumping out of the picture plane or
the way up above us in the picture plane.
If you did this and it was really this, it wouldn’t matter.
You actually don’t want to do this, though, I would argue, for a couple of reasons.
One, remember our eye level.
Only that one seam is perfectly flat to us.
Everything else is going to be at least a little bit above us or a little bit below us.
Even if it was perfectly flat here, we’d still have this going one way or the other.
We’d be doing something like that.
More importantly than that, that’s bad design.
You’re trying to tell me that on your flat paper this is a tube.
It has a certain position in space, and it has a certain character.
That does not say tube.
I could render it with all the tubeness I would hope to give it, but still the fundamental
design would be a flat box, so you’re much better taking a shape and tilting it slightly
into or out of the picture plane for whatever excuse you can have.
If you’re a little off by doing that, that’s quite all right because you’re reinforcing
It leads to three-dimensionality, movement over the form.
When we do this, it feels like we’re moving around the form.
We don’t feel that three-dimensional volume.
Until we break inside the contour and move our audience over that volume they’re not
going to feel the volume.
It’s going to go flat.
Push it in one direction or the other.
The good news is, if you carefully use your pencil test and close your eye, bring your
pencil up to whatever position the form is at compared to your eye level, and tilt it
in roughly the position, just roughly the position it’s in.
When in doubt, exaggerate it a little bit one way or the other.
As long as you do that, and you’re close, it’ll feel great.
If you keep things flat or are not sure, or you make everything different everywhere.
You don’t err towards your idea, and the mistakes are all over the place.
Sometimes the shadows are too dark.
Sometimes they’re too light.
Sometimes we get under a form that’s way above us.
Sometimes we get on top of it.
But in general, just push those things a little bit.
Looking down on something would be the same thing but in reverse.
It’s in flat perspective, so we would draw it like this in theory, but it’s well below
our eye level so it curves that way.
Let me turn this way now; it’s below our eye level.
Make sure it’s on the monitor there.
Below our eye level.
And now the foot step back into space so the knee was closer to use than the shoe, the
cuff would be like that.
It’s below us so we do a little bit like that.
Then it leans back into space, steps back into space.
It gets, again, even greater.
It doubles up, in effect, even greater.
Just a reverse of the top.
The pencil test will tell you.
The cuff is right there when I sight from eyeline to cuff, and the shoe is taken a cuff
back about like that.
I’m not sure how far, so I’ll make it a little bit more of a step back.
That’s what I draw.
There we go.
The cuff is below me, so I would draw it like this.
It’s stepping towards me now.
It’s stepping so far toward me that it cancels out, or am I still a little bit on top of it.
Or, is it kicking out and it’s going to bonk me in the nose so I’m way underneath it?
It’s going to be a little bit like that or a little bit like that, and you can take
I want to show that that booth is coming right at the audience to show that karate kick.
I want to show that we’re way above that character, like the helicopter going around
him, so I’ll tip it a little bit that way.
Take your pick.
That is the pencil test.
Practice that pencil test as your—I can see a roll of paper towels over here, a water
cup over here.
Bring the top of my pencil, sighted my eyeline to the top of the roll of papers to the bottom
of the roll of paper.
It’s perfectly vertical.
I draw that like that.
Oh, it’s leaning back against the stack of books.
Draw it like that.
Just practice it.
Get used to that.
For the most part, you’ll intuitively know that if you spend any amount of time, and
as you spend more and more time, you’ll just have an eye for these things.
You’ll understand how it’s facing.
You won’t have to double check.
You’ll know that leans back.
As we get to know the figure better and better, we’ll know that better and better.
If we talk about breaking down the proportions and the body parts and all that kind of stuff.
We’ll get a better feel for that.
We’ll just have a sense of it right off the bat.
We’ll just see it and intuit it without even really thinking about it.
But, when you get in trouble, because sometimes things get all convoluted and wild, and it
can throw you a little bit, then you go back to the pencil test.
Now, we want to pick the simplest, yet the most characteristic shapes we can.
Simple, yet characteristic.
For me, that means most of the time I’m going to choose a tube because it’s the
easiest one to go.
Most of the body parts are long in length and fairly smoothly aligned.
Every once in a while you get something that’s very bulbous, very bulbous.
Usually those kind of things, the egg shapes, go in the bigger tube.
That’s usually the easiest way to go.
I find that almost all the time, just draw the upper arm as a tube.
Then if there are some lumpy muscles, put those as lesser eggs in the tube.
I’m going to draw the upper arm as a tube with a little bit of gesture.
We still have to figure out all those gestures of the body.
We’ll get back to that in a second, but we’ll say that’s there.
Here is going to be the elbow.
The forearm will be over here, let’s say.
This is a muscular character.
I’m going to give him or her this nice egg for a deltoid, for a shoulder.
Put that on there.
And I’m going to give a nice egg for the biceps and triceps.
That’s a better choice, I would argue.
Let’s get our construction ends on there, construction stripes on there.
That’s a better choice than going right to the eggs.
It might seem easier to do the eggs.
Let’s see, here is an egg here too.
When we do those eggs, notice that the eggs get really lumpy.
It plays up the separation, whereas the lovely, the most important thing about the gesture,
is it groups as much as possible.
You can group a lot of little forms into one simple gesture or a couple simple gestures.
So, the gesture is the connecting, relating, it’s the grouping idea.
Eggs are all about the individual not fitting into the group, basically.
You’ve got three lumps, and it’s a bumpy right to get from one to the next.
Tubes, we can group a lot of stuff.
I prioritize the connectivity composing the figure rather than breaking and separating.
That’s always great difficulty in art on any level is the composition of how things
You don’t say it’s six peaches and an apple.
You say it’s one still life.
You don’t say it’s 42 scenes.
You say it’s one novel or one movie, whatever it is.
You don’t say it’s eight notes and 14 cords or whatever it is; it’s one song.
The job of the artist is to make things cohere, to take a world that’s a noisy place, it’s
a chaotic place that sometimes seems like a senseless place, and make some kind of sense
out of it.
If nothing else, aesthetic sense.
Aren’t these colors beautiful as they harmonize, as they work together.
Aren’t these shapes glorious in that pose as she moves gracefully from one dance step
to the other.
That becomes generally our goal.
Now, sometimes it’s an artist we just want to be dissident and show the tragedy, the
dysconnectivity of life.
Of course, that’s the case.
But in general, we’re going to want to show how things work together.
It’s just flat easier.
If I can group all of the muscle and bone and masses of the upper arm into one simple
shape, that’s a relief.
It gives me a great basis then to build all this complexity on top of it.
So, much, much better that way.
Generally, I’m going to use tubes.
Now, tubes, notice how a nice, three-dimensional tilt because they have those two corners.
They have the interior long and short axis, so we know how it’s leaning, and we have
with our pencil test the tilt so we know that the top of the tube, the shoulder, is farther
from the bottom of the tube, the elbow.
We don’t have the facing dimension though do we?
But, we don’t really need it, do we?
As soon as we add any of the secondary forms, say a lumpy bicep, or add a new connecting
form, say the forearm or the shoulder, we would know immediately that it’s facing
into almost a perfect profile.
We wouldn’t have to make it a box.
Now, we certainly could.
Notice the lovely truth is we don’t have to make a box with straight lines.
If we want to show a curved axis, a curved gesture or organic ideas, we can curve the
So, it’s a curved box.
It never draws a straight line.
We can make a box just as gestural.
Just as graceful and fluid and alive as we can the tube.
The box has that added facing dimension that is kind of nice to know and oftentimes critical
to know, say if you’re doing a head.
The box also is more work.
You’ve got to get in this pesky interior corner, and there is no true corner up there,
If you happen to have a natural center line, then that becomes the way to get that facing
dimension, which is what that last corner does for us.
We can get the detail that way.
In that case, we don’t need this corner anyway.
We just put the breast bone and the nipple or the eye sockets or whatever the corners
of the mouth, whatever we need to do to get that facing dimension, the natural center
line going down that front plane, whatever it is.
The difficulty with drawing the box is sometimes it’s quite clear where the corner would
be, if you want to simplify that in a box.
Other times it is not.
Where exactly would you put the box here?
Where exactly would you put the box there?
Sometimes you can tell.
Oftentimes you can’t.
And so, the problem then becomes, well, maybe the interior corner is there, or maybe the
interior corner is here.
Then you’ve distorted something off by trying to put that in.
So, if you’re clear where that corner is, go ahead and put it in there.
If not, use the tube.
It’s plenty good enough.
Notice that I can always come back as a secondary form and instill a boxy end to it at the elbow
or whatever is convenient at the brow ridge or wherever you want to do it.
You can always come back later and evolve this into a box,
and maybe it’s a very sophisticated box.
It’s not just a right angle/cigar box kind of thing.
I like to do tubes.
And, the great thing about it, let’s switch back over to gesture.
The tube is just a three-dimensional gesture line.
So, remember what we did.
Length, width, depth.
When we draw that length, that’s our gesture line.
When we add the width, that’s making a gesture volume, a gesture shape.
And then when we add the depth, we’ve got a three-dimensional gesture line that’s
coming out at us at the bottom here.
In fact, we can have that gestural idea, that structural idea evolve.
Notice how we can have it bulge out and back into the paper or reverse like that.
And so, if we think of that tube as a three-dimensional gesture line, then we’re never running too
far away from our gestural idea.
One of the big dangers is somebody says you’ve got to do wavy gestures, and you do that,
and then you construct the solids over the top.
You put all this rendered detail over the top of that and all these small anatomical
features on top of that, and you completely divorce yourself and forget about it, have
no idea what to do with that initial gesture line.
One of the strategies that we’re going to have to come up with is how do we keep the
gesture line, which is usually the most beautiful the first time you do it.
If I say there is a gesture for the torso, and there is the gesture line right there,
oftentimes, that’s the best it ever gets.
Then I start adding my solids and all the details and all the wobbles and
lumps and bumps and tonal things.
It completely is hidden.
And so, what started out as a great idea gets weaker and weaker and more fugitive and more
lost and completely forgotten.
So, if we can start out with our structure reinforcing our gesture by making sure that
I draw a tube whenever I can that’s a curved, long axis tube, this has constructed into
whatever perspective position, based on the pencil test, then the whole three-dimensional
solid is still solidly gestural.
It won’t matter if I make it a box because I do know where that interior corner.
That is a useful construction.
Or, I keep it a tube.
As soon as I do the eggs or balls, I start to see the lumps and lose the forest for the
trees kind of thing and get stiff.
Or, we string those balls like a pearl neckless, but all the pearls come together.
Great, but still on the surface it’s like running down a potholed street.
Again, we’re shaken out of that beautiful, glorious, graceful truth your figure should
Last thing I’ll say on this, if you’re drawing an incredibly muscular figure—let’s
say the incredible hulk, I’m still not doing to go to this.
All I’m going to do is I’m going to make a fatter tube.
And then I’ll add the lumps and bumps and secondary forms, as we’ll talk about.
But just make the tube thicker if he’s a heavy guy or he’s a muscular male or whatever
So, that’s that.
Alright, so gesture equals the fundamental design line.
We call that the FDL in the business, fundamental design line.
And t’s got to be the connecting line.
If we do both of these or are aware of both of these and have a strategy or process for
getting both of these, then we can take it, and it will carry all the way through from
our first marks to our final rendering.
That final highlight on the nose can be a fundamental design line and a connecting line.
All of our tones, all of our colors, all of our line, all of our technique, all of the
massive detail or the beautiful simplification is going to be reinforced by that structure.
If we don’t get these clearly down, and we don’t pursue this within our process,
it falls away.
We’ll say, okay, here’s the gesture of the arm.
Then we’ll do some construction or we’ll do some contour or some tonal rendering or
spots of color in our paint.
We’ll never feel it in there.
Or, if we feel it wer’e not sure why.
If we feel it with the bigger things we’ll start to miss it with the smaller things,
and it will get lost.
So, here’s what we’re going to do.
Let’s go back to the head for a second.
Remember, I said when you find that center line—if we went to a profile we can see
that it is where the forehead steps back to the nose and where the mouth steps back to
Specifically, on a profile or in any view that we see it, forehead steps back.
Nose and mouth step back.
The barrel of the mouth steps back.
The chin steps forward.
There and there.
There and there.
There are our points that we build our features on.
We use those points to draw gesture line that has some sort of curved long axis, hopefully.
That’s our gesture line.
Notice that at the final construction and hopefully in the final rendering, those moments
stay right at the surface.
That’s the connecting idea.
Now, everything that we do, how far forward do we push that forehead.
How far forward do we push what we call the muzzle.
We have a muzzle like a doggie has a muzzle.
How far do we push that chin?
Does that chin drift back?
Now we can get the character, the construction, the likeness.
We can keep the fluidity, that rhythm, that internal rhythm.
It’s like a great song or dance has a rhythm.
It’s always there.
So, if it’s in here some place, we can’t quite be sure it’s there, or if it is there
we just feel it rather than observe it and codify it, use it, build on it, and keep it
What I want is a—I want to err to the more dynamic.
I want to make my ideas, my great philosophical ideas, my fantastic craftsmanship ideas.
As I have more time to work on my art, I want to get those ideas to get better and better,
not worse and worse and worse.
Almost always, universally really, in any method of drawing we have, as we add more
and more structure, whether it’s through line or tone or color, we have less and less
gesture until it dissipates.
In the first three to five minutes, if we’re lucky, we’ve been taught how to think about
gesture, and we struggle to get it in there.
But once we get past about five minutes, and oftentimes much earlier than that, depending
on the system, we forget about gesture, we don’t know what to do with it.
We just hope and pray it’s there, or we never knew it was supposed to be there, and
we just start stacking boxes, just building stuff, copying information, rendering with
our favorite technique, using the house style, and we’re stuck with it.
So, let’s look at the arm, then.
We’re going to do a gesture line.
Now we’re going to do a structure.
I can be a two-dimensional structure, or it could be a three-dimensional structure.
Now, how did we really get that?
We used the elbow test, great.
But, how did we really get that?
First, let’s look again at what our hopes would be.
We’re going to see our shoulder contour bulge, the triceps contour bulge, and then
the elbow contour stiffen.
And then we’ll get something like that, let’s say.
Notice when we put our final rendering on, let’s say, the gesture line is right at
the surface or very, very close.
If we adjusted our gesture line it would be at the surface.
That’s what we want it to do.
What we want to do then, here’s our rule of thumb.
Whatever we’re drawing as a gesture line, to find that gesture line we go to the narrowest
parts of that form.
Whatever jointed part we’re working with, we’ll go the narrowest parts of the form:
elbow, pinch where shoulder meets the triceps, maybe where the shoulder connects into the
Maybe we start here or it goes off this way.
Or we start at that corner.
We hit as best we can in our fairly crude.
It rings true, but it’s not going to be perfectly refined and perfectly achieved.
Our gesture line is going to touch those common points throughout.
Then the structures or the rendered detail, however we conceive of it because this would
be true in any style.
This has to be there because the fundamental truth of living forms, a fluid quality, then
we’ll build out these lumpy details.
It’ll be like the surface of a lake, but it’s going to be a curve surface.
We’re looking at the whole planet.
If we could see the waves, the waves might swell or even crest, but they’re going to
come back to that overall surface.
We always go to the narrowest parts of the form.
Let’s do our leg here or thigh.
That was our conception.
Our final detail had the adductor, the interior structure was several muscle groups, quadriceps
and some of the others, hamstrings showing up at the surface potentially.
We’ll have the upper thigh.
We’ll have the knee structure again with quadricep and hamstring, tendons and such.
And so what we would do is we would draw a simplified curve that’s more or less suggesting
Maybe we’ve got to build that character out a little bit by the end of it.
Here we’re cutting off the lumps and bumps just trying to get the average
with the final solution here to it might be more chiseled, more rounded, more simplified,
more robust, whatever.
More architectural, more organic.
But, that’s what we’re going to start with, that idea.
It’s going to hit that final contour or darn close to it, as best as we can do it,
as close as we can to it.
No matter how much stuff gets added on.
Then we will feel that gesture.
So, then what’s the rule for finding a gesture.
I just told you where to look, but how’d I come up with where to look?
Well, here, here, and here, it’s taken care of for us.
It’s either on the contour, or it’s somewhere on the center there.
We use that natural center line.
Notice that the natural center line is the contour.
We’ll simplify that contour.
We’ll go pit of the neck breastbone and then it might swell here, and then we’ll
go shoot down that swelling to the belly button.
It might swell again in the tummy area.
Then we’ll shoot back down to the crotch.
Same way on the spine.
We’ll simplify that.
But, that’s going to be our gesture.
Then on the limbs, what’s our rule of thumb?
Here’s what it is.
Let’s go back over here.
I’ve got a little lump and then it’s stiff, and then a little lump and then it’s stiff.
I’ve got one big lump that goes almost the whole length.
Then it goes stiff, let’s say.
Almost the whole length of that jointed part.
Remember we’re defining the thigh problem as from hip socket to knee, the joint, joint
Within that jointed part, the hips have one long curve for the most part.
There might be subtle little wobbles in it, but overall, it’s clearly one long curve
on the inside where the crotch would be.
On the inside, we have two or more little curves.
All we’re going to do to find our gesture is look to the longest sustained curve.
Look on both contours on these limbs.
You could work with anything, but like said, torso you don’t have to do this.
Look for the longest sustained curve.
That’s longer than either of these will use that.
Let’s look at the upper arm.
We have the shoulder.
We have the triceps.
We have the shoulder.
We have the biceps.
There is how long the part is, let’s say.
That’s how long, let’s say here, how long the triceps lasts.
This is how long the biceps last.
That’s how long the shoulder lasts.
The triceps is the longest sustained curve.
It usually will be.
Not every single time, but most of the time, 85%, 90% longest sustained curve.
If we look at the forearm, here is the extensor side.
Here is the flexor side.
Longest sustained curve on that.
Less on that.
If we look at the lower leg, I’ve got the interior calf.
We’ve got the exterior calf.
I’m going to overdo this.
They squeeze down to that hourglass finish at the ankle bones.
There is a simplified food, let’s say.
The outside calf is the longest sustained curve.
That lasts most of the length.
That lasts half or less of the length.
It’s the outside.
That’s how we get the V-shape.
Longest sustained curve.
Longest sustained curve.
Little curve, little curve, little curve.
They cancel out.
On the front side, we’ve got the, here’s the front.
Here would be the crotch in here.
Let me change colors.
We’ll see this again when we do the proportions of the whole body.
We have the thigh fitting in here.
We have that full thigh pushing forward this way.
You might well see the hamstring, which is the equivalent of the biceps of the leg.
The quadriceps is the equivalent of the triceps of the leg.
The triceps side.
Again, the quadriceps lasts almost the whole distance of the leg.
The hamstring only lasts a little bit of the leg.
That’s why we use the full thigh.
On the shin, it really doesn’t matter much down below because we have the shin—let’s
do it over here so I stay on the page.
There we go.
There is our little hamstring.
This is the longest sustained curve.
Then down here this goes like this, and it’s either straight or slightly concave, but then
it goes into that nice foot.
The backside bulges out in the same way.
They both curve this way.
This curves less.
This curves more.
This curves for longer.
This curves for a little less time.
This will come down and then wobble like that.
I’ll make it bigger as it goes to make that point.
It curves that way.
You might well have a little buildup here.
That’ll be the longest sustained curve with this ski slope finish to the foot or the bulging
back of the calf.
It ends up being a reversing curve.
In fact, sometimes I’ll just do that and then add the calf on later to an hourglass
with a foot and all it reinforces.
Take your pick.
But anyway, that’s that.
So, longest sustained curve.
Use the elbow test.
Use the BS test.
The truth of it is the longest sustained curve is going to be what we see as the gestural
side because that’s taking the beginning and end to its farthest possible extreme and
giving us this nice curve.
see how they did it.
That’s where all this wisdom comes from.
Let’s go back to that source and draw from it.
We can feel the construction line right across there, and here, jointed connections, all
that good stuff.
Here you can feel it strongly under the rendering, actually.
It’s kind of a moot argument, really.
Even if we never find an old master that showed those construction lines, and generally you
don’t, you can still find the way they’ve drawn is through completion.
Look at the egg shape in these forms.
You can find that constructed truth right there.
Look at here, the eyebrow line, the front of the upper and lower lid.
The tip of the nose, the front of the lips, chin, cheekbone, hairline, back of the head.
All that stuff coheres, and then it comes this way and goes here and here.
This tone here and this alignment here.
Here it is here.
The nose here, the side of the mouth and the lips and the bottom of the chin.
You can see that box logic.
He’s working off that idea.
It’s as simple as can be.
We can feel the tube of the neck.
So anyway, to me it’s a little bit of a silly argument.
It doesn’t mean that construction style is the best way to work.
Other people can use the other methods.
But, to say that it was never used and doesn’t apply doesn’t quite work.
So anyway, that’s my defense of my life mission here.
Let’s move on to our next one and get into some of the meaty stuff.
Oh, by the way, on this it’s cropped off.
Of course, this comes all the way down to the hips.
You’ll see where our friend has redrawn certain areas.
Like here he’s working on the shoulder girdle and the shrugging muscles, all that good stuff.
He’s taken this masterpiece, and he’s moved to the side to do some analysis, to
work it out.
It’s kind of nice this side is unfinished, and this side is more or less finished, and
you can see the thinking.
You can see how he goes to kind of a simpler contour style, but it’s still with an eye
to the construction method, and he starts working out those tones, mapping those out
with ever greater fidelity.
Here you can see how he’s thought of that tone as a 2X4 to the end of the wrist and
starts working things out beautifully that way.
Anyway, it’s a great study, a great tutorial for us to take from.
Okay, here is a glorious piece by Raphael.
You can always tell Raphael by those idyllic faces, very rounded, everything is egg-shaped,
which is typical.
You can see the—I’ll come over here since this is fairly small.
You can see the face/head idea, and you can see how close he puts the ear.
The closer he puts the ear—and you can see how he did it like this, but I’m going to
do it as a slice like this.
You can see how getting the back rim of the ear it really helps us move.
It gives us a corner to move over.
Then all of this stuff here, the skull cap into the brow ridge, and then the face coming out.
There is that whistle notch idea, but it’s depressed, become very varied, instead of
this kind of thing.
It’s become very shallow.
The nose is in here, and lips, and you can see all that hides behind that corner of the face.
It moves us around here so beautifully.
These little visual clues.
The audience won’t understand what’s going on.
They’ll just feel it.
They can’t break it down, of course.
You can see how this whole bandana bit, scarf action over the hair
doubles for the top of the skull.
So, beautifully done, and then we have that hunching shoulders coming away, and this plays on.
It really, it kind of feels like almost the head was added on to the body a little bit later.
I wouldn’t be surprised that maybe even a different character for the head than the body.
But, who knows?
Then we can feel these wonderful gestures coming off the hunching shoulders and swing
into the arm.
If we just did the contour style, unless we had a very sophisticated eye, we would just
be lumping our way along.
There is a good chance we’d miss the curve or the exact nature of the curve.
As to that gesture of the curve, what we want is a curve that’s organic.
What that means is—let’s look, I’m thinking about right here for the moment.
There is the gesture line.
Simplified contour coming off that hip.
Here is our skirt shape for the hip, or whatever our conception is.
It could be a boxy structure, whatever it is.
Let’s just keep it like that.
We come right off.
We fall off the hip and swing into that leg.
Fall off the hip, swing into the leg.
What I want is to make sure the curve doesn’t last, doesn’t stay the same for very long.
In other words, it’s not a compass curve.
You tie a string and you put the pencil at the end of the pin to center, and you get
a perfect curve that’s the same, takes you in a full circle all the way around.
We don’t want that.
We want it to evolve and change.
When I did this curve here, notice how it’s quicker here and slower here.
It’s much straighter here, and it changes direction much quicker here.
That’s what we want.
We want faster and slower.
What I’m going to do, whenever I look at a curve, I’m going to look for a corner
in the curve.
Notice that we could have chiseled this out like this.
This would have been the Italia style to do something like that, let’s say.
Notice how right here we get a corner for the hips, in effect.
We could come all the way over here, and we could feel the corner right there.
You could see how that connects nicely, takes us across that constructed form.
But also, what it does by finding that corner—corners are structural—but also it makes that gesture,
if we round off that corner, it makes it seem more organic and perfect.
Notice if I do that, it’s wobbly.
It’s more lovely in that sense and more truthful to that living complexity, but it
has those corners underneath.
I want to find quicker and slower moments, in effect rounded corners.
I always think of grandma’s quilt.
You put it over the bed, tabletop.
It’s going to soften that corner, but we’ll still feel the corner underneath.
We want that.
We want it just to be equal all the way through.
As we draw this, notice that the upper arm, whether it’s curved or not, is stiffer than
The forearm has a quicker curve to it.
I can slow it down and speed it up.
I can straighten it up a little bit and curve it off a little bit more.
That’s what we want.
We want those variations.
If it’s something very short, you can get away with making it just a compass curve.
Notice, here is where it turns a little bit quicker, and it lasts a little longer.
And notice that even this distance is short, and this distance is long.
The proportions have changed.
That keeps it organic.
If it was the same distance each time that also gets repetitive, so we want to do it
Start quick or end quick, or break at the sides and last at the center.
That kind of thing.
This is Carracci, really beautiful stuff.
You can see how bubbly moving toward Baroque it is, where you get these big, bubbly contours.
Raphael is much quieter.
Michelangelo gets pretty wild at times, too.
Caracchi really plays it up, and you can kind of see down in here, Tintoretto ideas.
Tintoretto probably learned something from this.
You have to be careful with that.
We can play things up, but if you do it too much, you get that snowman problem.
Also, you get the danger of having all the little bumps not add up into anything.
We need to, like the pearl necklace, have the little things still be subjugated to the
Notice what happens: We play this up and then we quiet it down.
Then we really play it up a little quieter, a little quieter.
Play it up a little more quieter.
Notice how we get, still, the sense.
Come on the inside.
We still feel the sense of that.
Let’s do it again so we can see that.
All the lumps and bumps, all the virtuosity, all the melodrama and dramatics still doesn’t
destroy that simple truth there.
You look at someone like Ingres, most of Raphael’s drawing, much quieter, more dignified in a way.
This is much more, it’s Baroque, it’s big.
He’s pre-Baroque, but it’s bigger than life.
It can even be considered garish in a way or troubled or dramatic, whatever we’ll
label it, depending on our prejudice.
You can see, boy just all over the place.
Take a look at Tintoretto’s if you don’t know his work.
He does these crazy drawings.
They’re like cloud people.
Everything is puffy like it is on this leg.
So anyway, that’s that.
Now let’s get to the meat of things.
Here’s the shoulder line and the rib cage stretching down into the pelvis and going
up away from us.
This is a typical, you know this was going to be a little niche in a palace in the Vatican
or something like that because you’re underneath.
Anytime you’re underneath that almost always means it was meant for a high spot in the
You know, Tiepolo, Rococo you see that all the time.
You see them sitting on something, and they’re way up in the clouds or on the ceiling of
the cathedral or whatever it is.
But, we can feel that, and you can feel the eggs in here.
There’s a spare tire muscle in here.
You can see how he’s playing up the overlaps this way.
Think of the Michelin Man, if you’re an American.
It’s a lumpy spare tire made of tire shapes, and you can see how there are donuts, donut man.
You can see how the overlaps do a lot of work, take us back.
And so, all the anatomical connections, keep in mind if we take a bone—
let’s just take a generic bone.
Put another bone to it.
The bones just more or less bump together.
They just touch and articulate against each other.
But the muscle attach way up into the bone, their origin, and they come down and attach
their insertion way down into the other bone.
They overshoot that joint.
They go way above and way below that joint, unlike what the bone does.
That means we’re going to have attachments.
Let’s say this, we’ll just take this.
Here is the waste.
It’s going to go down and attach below the waste.
It’s going to above and attach above the waste.
And so it can go in any direction it wants and can totally confuse us.
Notice that he is only taking the stuff that attaches, fits, swells, separates in the right way
to play that up.
You can see here.
He’s only picking the detail that turns us into this idea or this idea.
Look how valuable that ear is.
It takes us all the way down the side there.
That wonderful asymmetry to the hair, show the blowing wind and to get more dramatics
to this contrapposto pose.
The shoulder crowding the neck and chin to show that overlapping, foreshortening truth.
Look how high the lap goes.
So, one of the things we want to watch—we’ve got a hip.
We don’t want to put the leg here no matter how well we curve it because then it’s going
to feel or actually detach.
It’s going to be too low.
We want to make sure we know where the bottom of the hip is and the bottom of the thigh
is, and then come up high enough.
Or we can eyeball and start high and come down low enough so that it fits together.
That’s what he’s done here.
We can feel the hips here as a bulging box up in here like that.
It’s much bigger because of the foreshortening, but it sits in there.
Just some wonderful ideas.
Notice how the drapery reinforces the gesture.
The windblown hair, the windblown drape, the curving spine, the curving fabric, the flowing
leg, the flowing fabric.
Reinforcing it, the environment, the stability of being anchored in there.
There is that triangle design there.
Notice how the center of gravity is between the supports, so it feels nice even though
he’s radically leaning over.
So, lots of good stuff.
And you see Pontormo is a wacko.
He’s a Mannerist, came out of the later school of Michelangelo, basically.
Michelangelo created the mannerists.
The Mannerists were paranoids.
Things weren’t going well for Italy.
Everybody was fighting against everybody.
There were invasions all over the place.
Florence was a small nation state that was always in danger, and so the feeling of being
unsettled was the Mannerists.
You had these weird, kind of violent color palettes.
These crazy proportions, flatter form.
Pontormo is famous from this hollow-eyed look.
Crazy big neck.
And then huge body compared to the head.
That came off the Michelangelo Last Judgment that was a pretty paranoid piece, too.
His own skin is hanging in the painting, at least we believe.
He was a sinner like everybody else and was going to suffer for it.
The divine Michelangelo couldn’t even get into heaven.
But, still look at the rhythms.
They’re still there.
The front to the back and the front to the back.
There we can feel the corner of that tube tilting back in space.
There is a bulging tube in this case.
You can feel right there, right there, right there.
This impossibly long waist.
You can see where Ingres would have got his proportions from.
Huge leg again.
You can see how you can just work this out as a contour or simplified contour.
Then you can impose the structure back on top.
Come back on top.
The structure can be a double-check, too.
You might say, well, that’s fine for you, but I don’t want to draw this stuff.
It’s no fun, or it doesn’t work for me, or whatever lame excuse you have, or whatever
legitimate, it’s just not for you.
It can be a great double-check.
So, boy that feels good, but this waist needs to be a little bit fuller, and there is the
hip over here.
A little bigger, and there is the thigh this way.
That’s going that way so I better have, maybe I better have a little overlap here.
It takes off or whatever.
It can allow you to come back over the top.
Just like I like to use proportions.
You can see this weird twisting here.
This rotation this way as opposed to that going more profile, getting a strong back
view on those hips against the profile.
I don’t like to use proportions, saying how many heads down should it be.
I like to just wing it, feel it.
Trust my instincts and correct it later.
I like seeing the corrections.
It’s one of the reasons I love Pontormo.
A little less with this one than others, but you can see where he’ll search out exactly
where it should be.
Oftentimes, he’ll do this trying to find it, or he’ll add extra fingers.
Oftentimes, there are these little spear-point little things.
It’s looks like the cast for Wolverine or something, the movie.
But, he’ll kind of search it out, and I like that.
It’s one of the places I got my kind of energy lines, the kinetic lines like comic
books, kinetic lines show movement in my paintings and stuff.
I love that kind of stuff.
So, search it out.
Oftentimes, it’s best to work with a little bit of risk involved.
Don’t stick to a process that gets you a B+ every time or a B- every time.
Risk getting a C- so you might get an A every once in a while, when you do something exceptional,
or A+ when you really push it.
Let me talk quickly about the gesture again.
I never dealt with twist.
The twist is basically—not basically, it is.
You can think of rope or a Barber shop pole, a rope, wringing out a wet towel.
That’s a twist.
You have what started on the left, and it twists over to or toward the right.
And so, in Italian Renaissance they call it contrapposto, opposing positions.
When I first learned about that, I called it contra-pasta, which is opposing dinners,
I guess, opposing meals.
But, it does that, and if you connect your center lines to your twists, let’s say this
is the hips down here, this is the rib cage up here, you’ll see the S-curve.
The twist is always characterized by an S-curve.
An S-curve is not always a twist.
You can take any little section of contour and find S-curves.
But, if we’ve got a twist, we’ve got an S-curve, so let’s make this more of a twist.
We’ll make this a perfect profile here.
Then that’s going to pull in there.
And so, we’re turning the hips this way, and that’s twisting back just
slightly this way into a profile for the rib cage.
Let me get a little space here.
Anyway, twist is an S-curve.
So, we have pinch.
We have stretch, pinch, and twist.
I just use stretch.
So, let’s do this.
Let’s not make it too crazy.
It feels like something a real figure could do.
Notice, again, that if we have a twist, it’s characterized by that center line being an
The more dramatic the twist, the more dynamic the S-curve.
Notice—remember what we said about stretch.
Stretch is the long, simple bulging.
It’s a bulging side, the convex side.
If I look to the bulging side here and the bulging side here, there is that watery design,
those opposing curves.
Or, if I went to the center line here, there is that lifeline.
That wave action going.
If you just looked at it as stretches, it’s just two opposing stretches.
All I do is go down the longest sustained curve, build my structures as they need to
be, and then the stretch takes care of itself.
So, I’ll go down here for a curve.
This is really two stretches, two gestures, isn’t it?
If I take the first bulge, that’s the rib cage in say the waist.
Now I’m going to turn the next bulge, and that will be the waist and/or the hips, whatever,
like that, and I’ve got it.
Or, what I might find is I can group that whole tube, let’s say.
That whole torso, I should say, into a tube.
If I add the center line in then I’ve got the twist, or I can make it a bean bag idea.
Notice that the forearm does that, supinator group, the
extensor group comes from over here and twists from over here to the thumb side of the head.
We get a natural twist in there, but the whole thing is still a tubular design.
Oftentimes, you can take that torso and make it it’s basic shape and then impose the
gesture back on, or just start with part of the gesture, part of the bulge, part of the
Since that center line wobbles as it does here, just do what you need to do to get that
Then add on the next twist here.
Notice, too, you can take something that’s almost a profile and make it a profile.
Let’s pretend there is none up at the back and then add the extra here.
And so, I just drew the whole thing as if it were a perfect profile.
Then I add a little extra onto it.
There is, say, nothing up here.
We get more and more as we come down here.
Okay, so you have several choices.
Just draw the profile and then add the extra on it and modify it as you need to.
Draw it all as one tube or all as one hourglass or whatever it is.
Do the structure first and add the gesture later.
Or do it stretch by bulging stretch.
Do a curve, build it, the form or forms on it.
Do the opposing curve.
Build the form or forms on it.
That would work as a back view, too.
So, twist is kind of demystified there.
It’s not a third animal.
It’s just coming off that same stretch/pinch idea.
The pinch takes care of itself.
Just draw the stretch and build the shapes on it.
The twists can do the same thing.
Just build the stretch and shapes on it and then add the opposing stretch or actually
just build the bigger structure first and add that S-curve center line later.
What I’m trying to do is break down the body into big simple shapes.
I want to make it simple, yet characteristic, and I want to make sure it’s positioned well.
I’m going to compare everything to a vertical and a horizontal grid.
That way I’ll see not the head that I’m drawing, the idea for the head, my idea for
I’m going to draw that as simple as I can, as characteristic as I can.
I will lay it in as one simple idea, or I’ll add several simple ideas if I feel like I
Maybe I’ll add a little bit of the hairstyle.
Maybe I’ll mark off the eye socket.
I can do as much as I need to do to feel confident about it.
Then I move along again.
I see this torso, this upper rib cage really, as a tube.
It’s almost perfectly horizontal you can see.
Then the spine pulls down.
Notice every time I make a mark I’m drawing several lines because as I draw this side
I’m thinking about this side.
As I draw this I’m already thinking about where the arm is going to begin.
Also, notice I kind of criss-cross.
I get a nice corner, a nice, crisp corner there.
In the rendering I’ll round it off—if I ever get to the rendering.
I’ll add all my nice technique.
But, in the beginning I want to build the concept.
These marks are ideas.
They are ideas that are saying something very specific.
Everything, no matter how complicated anatomically, tonally, I’m going to reduce it down to
That’s going to be the learning curve that I need to work on.
I’m going to come up with evermore simple shapes or ever more characteristic shapes.
Or, as a great stylist or the great stylist I hope to be, I’m going to come up with
ever more personal shapes.
When people see those simple shapes, those dynamic relationships, then they’re going
to say, oh, that’s Steve’s work or that’s your work.
Notice as I draw these things, in terms of proportion, I’m going to check the proportion
on the short side, on the pinching side.
Then I can see how close is the arm or the arm pit to the hip.
That’s going to get the pinch.
Otherwise, I might draw this nice tube and this nice tube, and I’m constantly thinking
about how it’s a shape that ends, then the long gesture, and the shape that ends, and
then the long gesture, and I make it too long.
Get the fluid, graceful gesture, that connecting line, the far side that builds the structure,
and then check it on the short side.
That’s going to be the place to see if you’ve got it right or not.
Here I would check and see how close does the chin get to the shoulder.
If I’m going to screw it up, I’d rather make that too short because that’ll show
that pinching idea.
In fact, that her neck is working against the torso, and that creates that dynamic pinch
and shortens that proportion a little bit.
The other thing with the proportion is once I draw one thing that I’m comfortable with,
then I can use that as a yardstick for everything else.
How many heads back to that beginning of the hip or whatever it is?
It’s real simple.
Notice I’m going real light.
Unlike what I did on the lesson board, there I drew nice and dark so you could see it.
That’s why I use the markers, primarily.
Here I’m drawing nice and light.
Then when I feel very confident about it then I can go darker with my finished detail.
But in the beginning, stay ghosted.
Notice that I’ve drawn a bunch of lines for the spine, and I can pick the one when
I’m confident it’s just right at that point.
Notice how I’m always drawing several lines to slow myself down.
I’m trying to see not if that’s correct.
There is really no such thing, in a sense.
That is not correct on its own.
It’s only correct if it’s in the correct relationship to everything else.
And so, I’ve got to take the time to compare it—not to everything else, but to a lot
of other things.
And that takes a little bit of time.
So, I’m drawing several marks so as I’m drawing this I can be thinking about this.
As I’m drawing this I can compare it back to that.
Then as I get these related I’ll compare it back to this.
Then as I get this whole thing working, I’ll start to compare it to this.
It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?
It takes time.
It takes patience.
I takes a process that supports your ideas and helps to ease you through those difficulties,
those several marks.
Notice also I turn my pencil in the direction of the stroke to get nice crisp lines.
I’d rather draw six or seven crisp lines than one soft line.
That is what I’ll use actually when we get into rendering with light and shadow.
That’s going to be how I get my shadow shapes, so soft lines.
When I do my construction line and my final contour—we won’t really do final contours
at this stage, but if I were ready for that, then I turn it always in the direction of
And that’s going to give me that nice crisp line and an accurate line.
It’s not there.
Once I’m comfortable then I darken it and commit to it.
So, that’s that.
Let’s try another one.
Alright, so I want to feel this simple shape in a basic position.
Remember, there are three positions to whatever form, whatever structure I’m drawing.
Structure equals the form.
The volume, mass, plus the position.
So, this is leaning over.
It’s slightly tilting back.
It’s facing into a profile.
Those are the three positions.
We’ll spend much more time—we’ve got a lot to talk about on the head.
I’ve got a massive amount of lessons for you to go through on the head.
But, all we need to do is get that simple sailboat shape.
You can come up with other shapes, but that’s the one that I like in position.
Then if I think of the head as a boxy idea, and I’m going to do that with the bangs.
Notice I’m doing the bangs like this.
Now I’ve got a box, and that suggests this idea that we’re a little underneath the box.
That’s that tilting position.
There are other ways we can pick that up, like the eye socket.
You can help reinforce that.
Refer back to our talks about that.
Refer to our talks about that and you’ll see that.
But, I just need to get a little sense of it.
Then the head is hidden behind the shoulders.
So, I’m going to feel that neck.
Here is the pinching.
Notice when I get pinching forms, I’m just going to use a zigzag.
I’m just going to do this.
That’ll show the pinch.
It’s like a little garden hose.
You know, if you roll up a cord, the power cord to your computer or roll up the garden
hose for your lawn.
It does that.
I just do the zigzags, and that’s a quick shorthand to say it’s pinching behind that ear.
Then we have that lovely flow of the neck into
the shoulder line.
Notice that this is not vertical.
It’s an angle.
If I’m going to screw up, I’d rather it more of an angle.
Then it comes down this way.
Where it ends, I don’t know.
I haven’t figured it out yet, so I don’t commit to it.
Then I start going piece by piece.
Notice that I do enough work that I can feel confident where to begin the next gesture.
I did all that work structurally, not because I wanted to have
a more finished head at this point.
That’s exactly what I don’t need.
If I render this out and then fit in a gesture line and kind of abstract construction is
going to make it more difficult.
I just need enough structure so that I can find the next gesture.
That’s going to be my threshold for structure.
The gesture is the more important idea.
We’re going to get enough structure so that we can feel the gesture because that’s the
fundamental design line, and that’s the connecting line.
We’ve got to have that.
And the fact that I make my rib cage a little too round, a little too square, a little too
flat, even a little too long or short is far less important than getting this beautiful
flow going down this way.
So, that’s what I’ve got to set up, and I’ve got to do all this work.
Sometimes it’s not all that much work.
But, when in doubt you add more information so that you can feel confident that you’ve
placed that structure on a beautiful, lively, gestural truth.
As I get more structure, I go back and find my gestures.
It’s not here.
It’s not here.
It’s not here.
I’ve changed that gesture line now three or four times to make sure it tracks.
You can make it more square.
Notice that if I have something that’s difficult for me, I can chisel it out and keep it more boxy.
That can eventually give me nice structure, three-dimensional structures that I can build
off of. Also, it makes it reasonable.
I can figure that out and then figure that out, and I can check its angle.
I can close my eye and compare it to the reference and say, whoops, it should be here or it should
Bring that down to my paper and draw it like so.
Just keep going and going and going.
Eventually, you can all this wonderful rendering done.
I’ll tell you the truth, just so you can kind of see where we’re going.
If you get this foundational stuff, the big stuff, the shadow shapes
are actually pretty easy.
They’re just little shapes on the big shapes, and if it’s a rounded shape then you do
a rounded shadow.
If it’s chiseled shape you can do a chiseled shadow.
All I’m going to do is take my pencil, and I’m going to turn it this way for the shadow.
And then I’ll just turn it whatever way—I’m a lefty so I turn it this way, and if you’re
a righty you probably turn it that way—and I just fill that in or just hatch it in.
It can even by very painterly.
That’s not that hard, really, once we’ve got the big picture.
Keep in mind that every line we do is a visual arrow.
Keep in mind that the most important thing is feeling how things fit together, and when
things go in decidedly different directions they fit together in a corner.
When things go in generally the same direction they work on a curve.
Notice how—let’s just leave this out here.
Notice how that arm isn’t quite positioned correctly is it.
It goes over here.
But, it didn’t touch anything on the rest of the body.
It wasn’t a hand on the hip.
You didn’t have this hand here across her back and the fingers doing something in a
I don’t have to be real careful with that.
It would probably be smart to be careful with it so I could practice my skill, but if I
goof it up that’s not a bad goof-up.
If this is arm out here it’s not going to substantially affect the pose.
If I miss where the rib cage and pelvis start compared to each other, that’s a big problem,
but if I make the elbow a little too far away from the body or hug it in a little too tight
to the body, that’s not going to be a big deal at all.
If I make this come up a little bit or go down a little bit with that leg, it won’t
be a huge deal necessarily.
So, you can know where you can goof up.
If that part isn’t going to anyplace important—the hand isn’t touching the cheek—then you’re
fine to let it fade off.
You made a little arrow you don’t need to fix.
Or, you moved it over to make the pose more dynamic or more balanced or whatever.
This lovely tilt so we want to look at that center line, and it’s going to be off the
Now, at this point, I may not know where that chin is.
I can take a guess, and since I’m drawing nice and light—when you begin your drawings
do nice and light—I can do the mask of the face.
I can do the whole skull shape on top.
Frankly, what I’ll do is I’ll go to the hairstyle because that’s what I see.
What I’m looking for now, let me just put in a little bit of the beginning of the bridge
of the nose.
I’m looking at this distance here, that far eye socket, to see how much she turns.
I can do this.
Then I’m going to look for the T. Here is the center line.
Here is the eyebrow line.
I’m going to make sure I get those the right angle, comparing it to the grid, closing one
eye, using that pencil test to get the angles.
Put down this way.
Also, we’re a little bit underneath the head there.
I’m in no hurry.
The teacher only gave me five minutes, or I’ve got three hours.
I don’t care.
I’m going to go at the same pace, basically.
If I’ve got three hours I might parse out smaller forms than if I’ve got just a few
minutes before I start doing my rendering or whatever.
But, the process always stays the same.
That way I’m not having to change hats.
I’m the lay-in guy.
I’m the gesture guy.
I’m the finished rendering guy.
I’m the drawing guy.
I’m the painting guy.
I’m always the same voice looking for the same solutions and dealing with the same problems.
It doesn’t matter what medium I have or the time frame.
I just take these things further.
So now I’m going to do little placeholders.
I’m going to lay in the construction lines and kind of place roughly where the eyebrows
Here is the eye line.
You can place roughly where the eye would be.
Just I’m doing a little shape like that or a little soft line to fill that general
Now, with the head tipping up, the nose is going to look a little shorter.
I’m going to see more underneath.
The tip of the nose is going to get a little closer to the eye line than it normally would.
Then we drop down to the beginning of the lips, the line of the mouth.
Maybe we see a little bit of open mouth there.
I’m just going to plot that out, or sometimes I’ll just do a little egg in there.
And the chin—whoops, I was a little long on the chin.
Bring that back.
Now, I did all that work, not so I could render right away, but because I was not sure where
the ear went, let’s say, and where the head and hairstyle ended here.
I want to make sure that I feel the underside.
That’s the digastric plane under here.
It gets a little shorter yet.
We’re stepping back to the neck, and that’s going to feel that that’s not a cheap Halloween
mask, but a fully realized, fully structured head.
Give us a little bit of the shoulder line in here.
In this case, it’s not in here.
It’s not a nude.
You can even get a bit of the collar if you want.
You don’t have to.
That gives us a sense of what’s going on.
More profile now.
I’m going to make this really small, relatively small just for the heck of it.
So, changing sizes is a good idea.
It’s almost a perfect profile.
I just draw it as a perfect profile.
I like to get the hair shape pretty specific because by picking that zig-zagging hairline
I can tell how close it is to the eye socket.
I’m going to lay that eye socket in there.
I’m just going to zig-zag down.
That’s going to end up being the corner for the whole head.
This is all front.
This is all side really off this way.
You can even pick up a bit of the eye socket with the shadows.
When you’ve got a strongly lit figure, those shadow shapes can actually help because you
can actually lay in the shape of the shadow—make it a little bit smaller here—and feel better
about the proportions, hopefully.
So, this fits in here.
The hair rises up, drops back.
We have this gathering of the hair back there.
Step back along that digastric plane down to the neck.
Make sure that this step back is correctly observed, or else you’re going to have real
Then the back of the neck.
Okay, so there we go.
Much more quickly like we would build a head for the body.
Here is the mask of the face.
Here is the center line.
You can mix up the order if you want.
She leans a little bit, so that T tilts a little bit.
I’m going to use her hairstyle to frame the face.
That gives me a sense of seeing what we see.
We’re a little bit on top of her, so we’ve got the head rising up.
If we put a box on her we’d be like this on the box.
I’m kind of thinking of that even though I’m not drawing truly box shapes.
When we are on top of the box, the eyebrow line to the ear lifts up like that.
We want to make sure that ear is higher.
That’s going to do more, almost than anything else, to place that head in the correct position.
You can lay in the whole eye socket area or the eye line, nose, mouth.
Make sure that chin is in the right spot.
Notice that the shoulders are way up into the head.
We naturally think of the head and a neck before we get to the shoulders, so really
observe where is the shoulder line sitting compared to the head.
Her neck is way down here.
The arms are up here.
We’ve got that head coming up into almost the eye line.
Notice that I pushed it a little higher than she really is.
That’s a better mistake because she’s sinking down into her shoulders.
Alright, there we go.
I want you to take five minutes with each reference.
Just pick a body part, maybe two body parts and break it down simply. Then do it again.
Try it a couple of different times. Make sure you get that simple, yet characteristic form.
Make sure it has a long axis curve. What we’re doing is we’re not copying. We’re translating.
Here is your chance to translate a difficult figure into something simple, useful, practical;
not easy, but something that is going to be a clear base to build upon. So, let’s get started.
Let me show you how I do it.
I’m just looking for a simple shape.
Simple, yet characteristic with a long axis.
In this case, for the head I’m just going to use the center line.
I’m going to draw the simplest possible shape that I can and make sure that I’m
drawing the face and the skull.
Long axis, gesture, simple structure.
And then another long axis, simple structure.
So, I’m just trying to come up with the simplest possible shape I can, but it’s
still characteristic of what I see.
As I have a more difficult thing to draw, in this case the head, I’ll add more and
But, that’s all I have to do.
Just that much.
My point in these beginning drawings is not to get the whole figure.
In fact, I would prefer you didn’t get the whole figure.
You can come back and get a second pass.
In the beginning, just look at the body parts and look for the simplest possible construction.
I’m going to draw a shoulder line, and there is the arm coming down.
Here is the spine coming down here just so we have a reference.
I’m going to see this whole upper rib cage to the spine as an egg.
In fact, the whole upper, kind of the V-shape,
that very male latissimus dorsi is what it’s called.
I’m going to use that as kind of a half-egg that has a spine going down through it.
In other words, I’m looking at the difficult, complex, fantastic structure or object that
I may or may not understand, and I’m replacing all of its difficult—in this case, Latin
termed anatomy and laws of light and color theory and incredible contour and material
differences between pencils and pens and that kind of stuff—and I’m making it as simple
I’m looking for simple eggs.
If they don’t quite fit together at this point, that’s okay.
I’m looking for boxy ideas that have corners.
I’m looking for tubes.
I’m looking for this two-dimensional sides and the three-dimensional ends.
And if whatever it is I’m drawing is organic and alive, I’m looking for that long axis curve.
Notice that I can change my mind a lot of times and just keep drawing.
In fact, part of the charm of a sketch is you have multiple lines.
Don’t worry about getting it exactly right.
Make your best guess at making it right.
If it’s wrong, do it again.
If it keeps being wrong come over here and do it again.
If you just can’t get that form, go to some other form.
So, we’re going to go through all the body parts, but I’m going to try to see if I
can come up with something that’s a box.
I see something that’s boxy.
And in a certain pose you may not be able to because nothing is perfectly boxy, is it?
It’s all organic, lovely fluid flesh.
And so, the boxy quality can sometimes be the hardest things to get.
Sometimes we see things pretty nice and boxy.
But not often.
Maybe in any particular pose.
But, still try, and if you get it wrong—the problem with a boxy is that interior corner.
Can you see on this hip that soft tone here?
Then the leg comes out this way as a pretty clear tube.
But, we have this kind of bump where it comes together.
I’m not worried that you get these lovely connections.
We’re going to work very hard together and spend a lot of time, do more assignments and
demos to get those together.
But, just to show you, that tone, I’m going to use that tone because it seems appropriate.
Everything in this direction seems like the side of the hip and everything over here seems
to be the front of the hip.
That becomes the natural corner for that.
This hip seems to be higher and this seems to be lower.
I do my best guess.
If I did my best guess and it was horribly wrong, it’s okay; it’s still practice.
I can try again, or I can go for a simpler idea.
I can go for an egg.
Eggs are much easier to draw than tubes and certainly boxes.
I can pick out an egg idea.
Usually you have several choices in nature for what simple shape to do.
At this point, we just want to practice doing simple shapes.
If they’re not right, they’re not right.
No, you’re not going to be fined for that.
That’s just part of the process of learning.
Just the fact of putting marks down that suggest some idea is fantastic practice, and then
as you get better and better and better, you’ll make better decisions about those ideas, but
that’s the trick.
The other trick is to try and see past all the difficulties, especially all the seductive
things about the body.
The muscles and the flesh and the beautiful light and luscious tones, all that kind of
stuff, and say for all of that incredible detail and dynamic, powerful object and structure,
and the metaphor of heroes and Gods and Goddesses; whatever we’re dealing with, can I just
see that as a tube.
Here is the nipple line just so you can see what I’m thinking.
Can I just see that as a tube?
Can I see it even simpler?
In fact, I don’t even have to draw a tube for the torso.
Can I just say that I sense the tubular quality in the torso?
I’m just going to draw a tube that is about in that position.
I’ll put a center line in the tube, maybe to show the position of it.
In this case, it’s actually twisting, something we’ll need to talk about.
Wow, could I even get that?
Probably not in the beginning.
But, with some practice you can get this.
That’s all I care.
Eventually, it becomes an arm or a tube or even a head.
For now, let’s just get those simple concepts on the page.
Notice I don’t—I just try and find a space that’s open.
I’m not drawing a head.
I’m drawing an egg.
In this case, thank goodness, it’s very much an egg isn’t it?
It becomes pretty easy to see that egg.
It’s not going to be easy to draw the egg at first, but I’m going to draw it nice
I can hold it like this or hold it like this.
This, though, I’m probably going to get real fussy.
I want to relax.
I’m really drawing from my shoulder that you can’t see.
It’s moving the whole arm.
You’re going to be a little out of control at first, but it’s going to make you get
the big stuff, which is good.
For some people, they just can’t do that.
It just doesn’t feel right.
Just relax your hand out and pick this out.
And if want to add an eye line or the shape of the bangs, notice as we start adding simple
little shapes on the bigger shapes sometimes we have a better, almost always, frankly,
we have a better sense of where those bigger shapes should be.
Maybe a little egg shape for the ear.
Notice how the shoulders come way in.
We start comparing one thing to the other.
The hand is way up here by the ear.
The shoulder line is below.
Now, it’s not below; it’s way above the bangs.
Here’s the bangs here.
It’s way up here.
Just starting to see those distinctions and putting down a mark that is a notation that
describes and explains those distinctions.
This is just stuff.
It’s just abstract.
It’s got nothing to do really with the figure.
There are no red marks on the figure that I’m drawing, but they are placeholders.
A better way to put it is they are ideas that replace the difficulty that’s up there.
And so, there is anatomy up there, and there are all sorts of stuff that’s scary stuff.
But eggs, with a little bit of practice are not so scary.
Tubes, construction lines are not so scary.
That’s where we begin.
That’s what we want to do.
So, what I want you to do sometimes is just draw balls and tubes and boxes, and just draw
them out of your head.
Then go look at everyday objects.
The human figure is the hardest thing in the world to draw.
Don’t always go there.
That can be intimidating.
It can be a little frustrating at first.
Draw simple things.
Draw your coffee cup.
Draw another pencil that’s on the page.
Draw your keys laying on the table.
Just draw the simple things in your life, or draw things in life.
Draw things out of your head.
Just get so you start getting a catalog marks that mean something to you.
Alright, that was Unit 1.
We’ve got our basic understanding under our belt.
We understand gesture and structure.
We’ve got some understanding of how to get the basics of the figure down on the page.
Now, go ahead and go to the assignment page, and I’ll see you there for our next step.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview52sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Demystifying Gesture & Structure14m 35s
3. Structure: Simple, Yet Characteristic16m 23s
4. Gesture: The Relationship Between the Parts13m 17s
5. "The Pencil Test" for Understanding a Figure's Perspective20m 2s
6. Tilting & Facing: Balancing 2D and 3D15m 21s
7. Form + Position = Structure21m 33s
8. Balancing Gesture & Structure26m 55s
9. Old Master Analysis30m 55s
10. Demonstration 115m 2s
11. Demonstration 27m 47s
12. Practice Assignment26m 25s
13. Steve's Approach to the Assignment10m 21s