“Don’t Be Scared”, Drawing the Human Body


    August 2023

“People have been drawing one another for, well, forever…”

Quick sketch of humans engaged in sport


For the last two years I have been studying the human form so I can paint humans…a very frightening endeavor. My friend and mentor, Janine, kept repeating her mantra, “Don’t Be Scared.”  With that encouragement and her teaching, I tackled the task, beginning the journey.

Apple computer always says things are intuitive. Drawing and painting ourselves would seem to be just that…intuitive; however it is anything but intuitive. It is precise and almost scientific. Measurements are exact and unforgiving if ignored. Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Durer studied the human body and established averages for every part of the human anatomy. every part was analyzed and explained; for example, the hand plus the wrist would equal the length of the head; the hand would equal three-fourths of the total. The body would be a 1:8 ratio of the head, meaning the height of the average male would be eight head lengths. A newborn would be a ratio of 1:4. As I said both the face and the body are proportionally quite precise.

I purchased an 8″ posable wooden mannequin figure to help with drawing. Armed with my ruler, I measured each drawing to see if I captured the correct dimensions. Then a friend of mine encouraged me to attend a live figure drawing class. I thought it would be a lecture but it was two and a half hours of drawing a live woman who sat in various poses. We were given time limits to complete each pose. The last one took 30 minutes. There was so much to learn but eventually, it did begin to feel more “intuitive” as I studied and continued to learn.

Drawing Completed of Live Nude: Final Pose

After I began to understand the principles espoused by the great da Vinci and Durer, I began to try to just draw, recognizing the “dangers of measuring every proportion and becoming overly attached to ensuring the exact measurements.” Such obsession could prove harmful and counter-intuitive. So I wanted to believe what I was seeing and attempt to draw it without my yardstick. According to John Raynes, “observation is essential” and looking is deeper than seeing.

Art has always had a preoccupation with exploring the human condition, what it means to be human. I have created a few works with people in them attempting to do just that. I am not finished with this endeavor but I have made a great start!

Mediterra Cheesehead Party

Mediterra Cheesehead Party


Kim and Ava on Bonita Beach


Ethan’s Golf Pose

Gesture Drawing Study

As I continue my journey into mastering the human form, I have started to observe, to really look at people I encounter…What shape is their head? Does the body seem proportionate? What are the distinguishing features that would allow me to capture their likeness with just a few strokes? I do not expect to master the figure or the face but I do expect to continue the quest.

I have been studying several books and have passed along some of the authors’ wisdom. I hope it’s helpful. Here are the main titles.

How to Draw the Human Figure: A Complete Guide, John Raynes A. R. C. A and Jody Raynes.

Figure Drawing for Dummies, Kensuke Okabayashi

Anatomy for the Artist, Jeno Barcsay