- Lesson details
We are pleased to share with you a 10-week long class brought to you by Art Mentors. In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermoe teaches figure drawing using the Reilly Method. In this 8th lesson, Mark will demonstrate how to properly render a full female figure by carefully spacing and placing the initial lay-in. He will also highlight the different aspects of the body to focus on when designing the figure, and later analyze works by illustrator Al Parker.
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In this class, legendary illustrator Mark Westermore teaches figure drawing
using the Reilly Method.
Welcome to class.
Today I’m going to work on a nude female figure.
We’ve got a really beautiful image to work from, a very graceful model.
We want to also see the angle of the hips and pay great attention to
the landscape of her figure.
Today I’m going to work on a nude female figure, and a back view at that.
We’ve done a male head, hands, and figure.
And so we’ve got a really beautiful image to work from, a very graceful model.
As soon as we put her up I’ll start making some remarks that are important when starting
This is our pose.
I want to make a few points before we get into it.
One of them is you want to look at the foot that bears the weight, and that’s her left
Then we want to also see the angle of the hips, which is diagonal, and we want to look
at the angle of the shoulders which is slightly diagonal, too.
And pay great attention to the landscape of her figure.
That’s really shown off nicely by the lighting coming from the right.
It’s a single source of light.
It’s form lighting.
She’s very full figured.
The widest point across her figure is at the trochanters, which are at the side of the
hip where the neck of the femur inserts into the pelvis.
The hair is dark, so dark that I really want you just to treat it just as black without
anything else except the edges varying.
It’s good that we did a lesson on the hands because we have female hands now, which are
smaller relative to the rest of her body, and the fingers taper more and are thinner.
You want to try to be as graceful as possible with the hands.
This is not a time to go back in and try to dry knuckles and creases around the knuckles.
As you see here, we could draw that type of a hand.
That’s what we don’t want to do.
Think about John Singer Sargent and the way that he draws hands and fingers.
Look at the half-tones also here.
We’ve got half-tones that don’t fall into shadow at the inside angle of the scapula.
And then we have the spine itself which does fall into shadow.
We have a half-tone at the top of the cervical vertebrae or beginning of them, and that’s
to the left side of that underneath her head.
Don’t draw that too dark either.
It’s going to be an exercise in controlling your values based on your shadows and your
With the light coming from the right side, the side of her arm, the side of her torso
and rib cage, those are the areas that are not in half-tone.
The crease is formed at the top of the arm at the deltoid muscle.
Be careful with those.
Don’t go crazy with those or make them too dark.
They are little busy shapes, and they’ll steal the whole show, and that’s going to
ruin your focal, your first read that you want to establish.
Okay, there is no background to the figure, and it’s pretty much vertical even though
the pose is not.
But from a graphic point of view, it’s straight on each side, pretty much, and then we have
a shadow under her feet.
Some artists might want to put a tone to the right of her figure where the lightest lights
are and stage her against a dark fading tone.
Anyway, so these are the thoughts and considerations that I try to prepare before I go into the
drawing, just when I’m trying to understand and appreciate it.
I would stretch the legs in this photograph also.
The photo somehow makes her legs look a little shorter than they are, and it’s not a bad
idea from the knee down, at least, to try to stretch the female legs a little bit.
Now I’m going to start doing the lay-in, and I’m going to use a Conté A Paris, Pierre
Noire 2B series 1710, which is what I generally use for lay-in stages.
I may go into the charcoal when I take it farther.
Make sure your pencil tapers nicely like that.
If it has a hump on it, it’s not going to be effective.
When you try to place a shape, you’ll think you want to place it in one spot.
That hump will cause it to shift to the right or the left.
For this that’s not very acceptable.
Okay, so start here.
Let me get a little closer to the drawing.
We’ll start near the top of the page.
That’s drawing two arms taken together.
Not one and then another, but two.
We’re just going to draw an imaginary center line for the pose.
Then we’ll pick up the shape of the head and try to give it enough
size or scale that even though it’s the back of the head and it’s quite simple,
we don’t want to have a small figure floating on a large page.
That’s one hand overlapping the back of her head.
Here is the forearm.
And then here almost parallel to the page, slightly not, that’s the other forearm.
Let’s see what’s needed to be drawn on the head.
I’m just going to try to get the shape of that head.
The head is turned slightly to her left so the axis of that head looks more like that.
Here is the hair overlapping
Here are the cervical vertebrae.
I mention them as a half-tone.
I put those in place, and then the angle of the shoulders is like this.
This is the trapezius muscle.
Out here too.
These are the dorsal vertebrae, sometimes called the thoracic vertebrae, meaning of
the thorax or dorsal meaning back, like a dorsal fin on a fish.
There is the figure overlapping the deltoid here and then the arm coming almost vertical
but not quite up from that point.
The opposite side, you know, some people—and this is a good thing as a rule—will say
look at the negative shape between the hair and the shoulder.
What if the hair shape is wrong?
That’s not sufficient.
It can be used as a help, but it’s not necessarily going to be good for the drawing.
This is the stage we call spacing and placing.
Then here is the angle using an S-curve of her right arm.
Here is the deltoid turning away from light into shadow.
For now, just draw the shape and volume of her left hand.
Some more of the other hand, too.
Okay, here where the deltoid overlaps the figure, we’re going to drop a line.
Something like this down to her heel.
On the opposite side, her left side, we’re going to drop another line like this.
0:14:50 Remember, the hips are angled like that.
The shadow along the spine, the soft edge on the right and hard edge on the left.
That shows the overlap between the two columns of muscle that run up the back.
The back is extended so that the relationship between the pelvis and the rib cage is convex,
seen from the back.
It’s concave, seen from the back and convex seen from the front.
That’s just the relationship.
That’s not the figure itself.
These dimples represent the sacroiliac joint.
That’s where the sacrum joins the ileum,
which is the superficial visible part of the pelvis.
The sacrum is a set of vertebrae at the base of the spinal column, and they are fused together
in kind of a heart-shaped manner.
Draw this all the way out to the trochanter here where the femur joins the acetabulum,
which is the opening between the three bones of the pelvis.
That’s the widest point across the female figure.
As you can see, remind yourselves that you need to draw lightly at this stage.
See how easy it is to make adjustments with the pencil and then with the eraser.
If you draw too dark, well, you foreclose on all of your options.
She has a real hourglass figure, as they say, and so I’m not going to downplay that.
I’ll at least record that, and I may even exaggerate that.
Here is a half-tone but structurally it’s important because it shows us here the angle
of the shoulder blade.
That overlaps the back.
This one we talked about earlier is the cervical vertebrae.
There are seven of them.
Less between the back of the spine and the base of the skull.
Beneath the sacrum, we see the separation of the gluteus maximus muscles, so that’s
the edge of the shadow.
Here is the turning of the form of the gluteus medius and then the gluteus maximus muscle
Sometimes I won’t even put in the shadows as build the figure.
Other times like this, I do so as I go.
Keeping them light so that they can be adjusted, corrected, or improved.
All of this shadow should mask together.
Your edges should be clear enough, whether they are soft, lost, firm, or hard, clear
enough that you can still see them after you apply the value.
If you apply the value in a way where your edges become illegible or lost, then that’s
not very good.
It’s better not to hurry.
You should try to get your placement accurately or design it in the manner you like, even
if it takes a little more time as you go.
The less you have to make corrections and changes, the better.
If you’re experienced, even when you make changes you can still keep the drawing looking
fresh, but that’s the risk of doing too many changes.
The drawing can look overworked.
Scapula has to relate to what’s happening in the arm.
0:25:46 I could draw all the way down to the feet at this stage.
That would be logical, but this is also acceptable.
What I am drawing are not little details like fingernails; I am drawing instead very key
points of her anatomy and the manner in which the shadows describe
those points or the edges, too.
That edge should be a soft edge.
Her arm becomes a simple cylinder at this point.
You want to pay particular attention to the depth of curvature and the design of the shapes.
Here I drew an S-curve.
Here is a somewhat shallow C-curve, and then here the outside of the her arm is a very
Now, the shadow completely covers her forearm in the back of her hand.
The upper arm has light and shadow both.
Here we see the soft-edged rounded shape of the shadow on her deltoid muscle.
Then again, this arm, like the other, can be expressed essentially as a simple cylinder.
If the spacing and placing is done poorly, you really can’t expect a good finish out
Whatever it takes, try to focus on good expression during this stage.
That muscle raising the arm is folded over itself.
Very careful to unify my shadow.
Literally that means taking the tip of the pencil and going into little areas that are
not dark enough or the eraser on areas that have just accidental accents that really were
This is kind of like watching grass grow or paint dry at this stage when I’m doing this
demo, but it also can teach you what you can
expect to accomplish in a certain amount of time.
Otherwise, you might not even really know, and that can trip you up, too, as you’re
trying to complete your drawing.
This is a very classical pose, and I do try to think of an adjective
as I draw from my subject.
That helps me give myself art direction as to how to treat it.
Simplicity in the design of the female figure is very much an attribute of classical expression
of the pose and the individual model.
Just placing a half-tone here when we get the muscle coming down off the ileum
and to the sacrum.
One hand casts a shadow over the other.
There is a reflected light or rim light along the brace of the cranium where the black pain
meets the underplane.
At that point—it’s subtle—there is a reflection of the light source.
We call that a crest light, where two planes come together.
If three or more planes come together, that could create a highlight such as the tip of
the nose, most commonly.
Like your shadows, the crest light can help describe the form.
I’m going to leave that one area light and otherwise just paint with my pencil, creating
a shadow value for her dark hair all across.
I’m lining up the iliac crest and then drawing to them on the back.
The muscle itself is convex, but the way it joins the leg
and forms this underplane—that is concave.
I always draw the relationship of a thing before I draw the thing itself.
Then it’s sure to relate to the rest of the drawing or the painting.
This class is actually intended, in part, to prepare you for my next class, which is
painting the head.
Every principle that I’ve given you in this class will apply to that subject, absolutely.
This edge between the shadow and light must be kept soft because we’re drawing over
a rounded surface. That demands a soft edge.
There is the gluteus medius muscle, and beyond is the gluteus maximus muscle.
The edge of this shadow can be hard because it’s an overlap.
As we move back to the form shadow, it needs to be soft.
It almost becomes a lost edge at this point.
The right thigh is quite foreshortened, so it's length will be a lot less than otherwise.
So I stepped back to look at the drawing from 10 feet away, and what I found--I'll tell you.
You must do this, by the way, when you're doing anything longer than a sketch.
These two shapes are a little repetitive, so I'll need to resolve that as I go along.
And then the angle here should come back a little bit more, to the left.
You've got to make these changes when you see them because
Stuff like that, particularly here, will affect placement of the rest of the figure, so you
do want to be accurate with that.
Okay, now let’s move on with the legs.
The left leg of the thigh is overlapping the other leg.
Here the underplane of the gluteus maximus overlaps the back of her thigh.
The opposite gluteus maximus casts a shadow over the inside of her thigh.
The muscles on a female extend farther toward the joint than in a male, where the
tendons come down to the joint.
In the case of a female, of course the same thing happens, but the muscle mass comes very
near to the joint itself, for instance, at the knee.
You’ll notice that my pencil is just as sharp as when I started the drawing.
I haven’t touched a sanding pad or anything.
If you hold it right it should stay sharp.
If it doesn’t, then at break times or whatever you could just sharpen it up.
Usually just a sand pad would be enough.
Okay, her right leg overlapped by the left thigh
and leg is very foreshortened in the thigh.
Form shadow follows the flexor muscles here at the back of her thigh
down to the knee joint.
Naturally, you get an overlap with a hard edge.
These muscles are rounded.
They have much softer edges than the extensor muscles at the front of the thigh.
In the finished drawing you’re going to put half-tone over the light because you can
see with that leg bent it’s receiving less light than where the planes are directly almost
perpendicularly positioned for the light source.
Sometimes, filling in the light and shadow pattern, or filling in the shadow pattern,
I should say, sometimes that gives me a better look at things.
I’m able to see things more critically and judge the arrangement of
all the parts of the figure.
Other times you can just wait until you lay everything down and fill it in at breaktime.
This angle is parallel to the outside angle of the calf here, and then this angle
is parallel to the outside of the calf here just above the knee joint.
The back of the heel lines up with the turning here and the overlap of the thigh.
This angle leads us to the inside of the leg, the calf muscle.
Here the edge becomes firmer at the Achilles tendon.
The edge becomes softer as the muscle is round.
It’s actually not round, but it has a round aspect in this pose at that point.
Notice the inside ankle.
Here is the heel.
Oh good, alright then.
You can see here exactly how the inside higher ankle overlaps the tarsal bones which make
up the top of the foot.
There is a cast shadow from the opposite foot and the silhouette would reach here.
We’re looking down at the foot so the perspective on the stand
gives us a steeper curve on the base of the foot.
Basically, you’re drawing a footprint in the sand. Just think of that.
Okay, so we’ve drawn the foot.
Let’s line up the actual ankle.
This is the end of the tibia, the main bone of the leg.
It’s difficult to see it, but we have the lateral ankle, too.
This is the soleus muscle, named for its shape.
It looks like a sole fish.
We call it the walking muscle.
This is the gastrocnemius muscle, which means it’s shaped like a frog belly.
It’s very full.
Beneath it is that soleus muscle.
Okay, and then we get these cast shadows here...
running diagonally to the corner of the page.
Just cleaning up a little bit of the blurring that my hand caused over her legs
and the background right here.
Well, we have now a complete lay-in of her figure and the shadow.
I’m not saying it’s complete in the sense that it won’t bear changes; it probably will.
But, at this point, we can move on to the next stage which is refining and designing.
We’ve done the spacing and placing, and that’s subject to change, too.
It’s not written in stone.
and great draftsman.
His name is—who did I bring today?
His name is Al Parker.
The only illustrator to ever receive a letter from Norman Rockwell, who just about called
him the greatest illustrator.
So that is worth something.
He flourished around the middle of the 20th century—30s, 40s, 50s, 60s—
beyond a little, I'm not sure exactly when.
But, I’ll pull that out and we’ll discuss some of his work as it relates to our study.
Naturally, in those days, illustrators have a lot more work for magazine covers, stories
that are carried, serialized inside magazines, that kind of stuff.
If you were good, there was a lot of work in publishing.
Alright, this is a book that came out recently, a hardback on Al Parker.
It was pretty cheap, about $25 plus shipping.
Let’s close in a little bit on the heads here, this area.
Naturally, unlike most of you, he’s trying to tell a story.
The mother is really proud of the little girl doing a man’s type of job.
The expressions are important, and he used models for something like this.
I’ll show you in a chapter on this models.
It’s exactly how he photographed them.
Not all of his work used models, but almost all.
He had several styles to say the least, even more.
Remember, his men and women are very idealized.
That was the nature of what he was hired to do.
You can see the folds are kept very simple.
No little creases but folds instead.
Notice how simple it is.
A flat tone for the arm, a shadow, and maybe a half-tone at the edge of the silhouette.
He does a vignette.
He does not draw a complete background.
This is more interesting, being a format that’s rectangular to begin with,
such as a magazine page.
This is a good example coming up next.
This one is not, but it’s what we call full bleed.
It’s an illustration that goes from all corners to the others.
It’s a complete page.
Still, the silhouette is very important, the way this is stage.
We see a lot of pattern here and a few other places, but otherwise, it’s very simple.
We’re balancing simplicity against pattern like this.
The pants are simple.
Here are the feet, very simple.
Just a very light shadow on the wrist and metatarsal, metacarpal bones.
But the hair is kept flat and just softened a few edges.
Here is another example.
The use of a very simple shape that frames this boy.
We look at it, and there is a story being told.
I like the rabbit.
You can see the drapery, cut very simple and leading the eye here.
The head is very simple.
He’s blonde so the darks are a form of probably raw sienna.
The light is probably yellow ochre.
Otherwise, it’s a very simple head.
Here he is always striving for elegance.
She has light-colored blonde hair, and there are more issues involved than when we’re
drawing from a female nude today, and what we’ll be picking up next week.
But, look at the facial features.
Everything is flat, no detail.
In the photo there probably was, and then he just softens the edge, firms up the edge.
Everything is the features.
The design of the eyes, the lips, and the nose.
Notice in most of these the nose is kept a little more narrow than typical real models.
Every era has it’s ideal, and this has been the case for a long time.
This is the same concept here.
No background, just like on dark.
All the attention to the features and then like the other, some pattern.
A lot of illustrations embraces and kisses.
Here is a good example.
This one is done a little bit differently with vigorous little strokes.
It tends to support the idea here, and this guy is obviously in a fight.
The back of his hand is nice.
You can see here the end of the ulna and then the way that the fingers roll over like the
ribbing on a ship.
Notice this is kept almost completely flat, just a few scratchy indications.
So, I’m going to move on to this.
Here we have fully rendered two figures, vignette, no background.
Dark on white.
It’s hard to see from your vantage point, but an ideal head for the male and for the
Then over here, I like this one.
This is a flat illustration.
Everything is flat.
When I was studying, I didn’t like this because I wanted to learn to do Norman Rockwell
and all of that, but I really appreciate it now, and the design is really beautiful.
This is a light on dark composition, one of the two basic compositions.
This is an excellent one.
Notice the drawing of the hand, how simple it is, and the last two phalanges are basically
formed into one in this case.
Again, look at the facial features.
You need to study that and try to design it.
If you’re going to work especially in the entertainment field or if you’re going to
do portraiture even, you’re going to need to learn to idealize.
Here we see a head that’s very evenly lighted.
There is no form shadow as such, so you have to put your planes in very close values to
one another, but again, with the proper edge.
I like this one a lot.
It’s a very good example—if you squint your eyes and look at her head, the shadow
and the light are she same value.
The mass together if you squint.
If you open your eyes, you’ll see the shadow has so much reflected light that it’s very
light; however, it’s a different color.
Sometimes it just has to be a different color temperature, but it’s a bluish tone against
a warm head.
Notice the fingers, no darks between them or light.
There is white on white so there is not going to be any dark.
Plus, in this room, which is light, they’re not going to fall into shadow except for the
The hair is very simple.
One or two crest lights and silhouette light, rim light, and that’s it.
Here is a good example where we have the photograph of his model.
Look at the attention to detail.
Then we see the drawing or rather the painting.
Notice he’s changed things a little bit.
In this case, he parted the lips.
He raised the eyebrows even higher, and the silhouette is just very clean and even.
Man has form lighting.
This is pretty common.
The woman often is done in ambient lighting so there are not a lot of shadows on the head,
where with the male they do it with a form lighting which creates a certain cragginess
to him, a different look from the female.
Notice they are even in the same illustration.
How would that be?
Why does he have a form light on him and she doesn’t?
That’s the answer.
It just satisfies the needs for telling the story and for the art director.
Here we see a really good example of a photograph coupled at the top, couple with the—I’ll
pull it down for you so you see—and here is the finished illustration.
Again, another vignette.
Just the tree trunk, and it actually spills over onto the next page here.
Let’s see, I don’t think you can see that.
Here is the spread, and on the opposite page the illustration carries over, even covering
the text in some places, so it makes it an interesting page.
It’s a really great page.
If you have any of these old magazines, don’t throw them away.
At least go to these kinds of illustrations and tear them out for your own files.
This is the photograph.
Notice the meticulous work on the models.
He didn’t skimp on anything.
Nor did Normal Rockwell or Jon Whitcomb or any of the people of this era.
I didn’t either.
We find simplicity and complexity.
Why do you think he likes the flowers so much?
I have some students who like that a lot.
It really fills out the beauty of a piece sometimes.
Normal Rockwell wrote a chapter in the famous artist course called the importance of detail,
but not at first.
You don’t do that.
Here you’ve got the model posed in the bathtub with the lighting he wants, and then we see
here the finished illustration.
The bathtub is kept very simple and she is too except she is wet so she has some crest
lights on her skin.
The hair is very simple.
Now, on the next one we see this particular photograph which is quite nice, and he used
that one for—let me get this straight for you—he used that to do his illustration.
That’s just a vignette.
It’s got a color key which mean it’s all warm or all cool.
This is all warm.
It’s a little too small to see, but painting this mesh is a little bit of a challenge.
He may have had a second photograph because notice here she is facing us more, and here
she is looking away more.
But you can see the importance of his photo shoot.
He didn’t skimp on that.
Okay, he’s the book of the week.
Next week I’ll bring in another artist to make some points.
Okay, so that’s the end of today’s lesson.
Next week we’ll carry the female figure farther, and I’ll bring in another artist.
The homework for the week is to draw heads or draw hands or find reference usually on
the internet of nude figures with proper lighting, single-source lighting.
Draw those figures.
Alright, well, thanks for attending the class, and I hope we have a good one
next week, I expect.
Okay, thanks. Good-bye.