Art: Cathy Johnson

One of the most consistent requests we get from the Sketchbook Skool community is about drawing people. So many complex parts, so many ways to do it, and so much fun to do!

Drawing people can get a little frustrating, of course. It’s tough to get arms to not look like they’re just tacked on, and hands are a huge challenge. Likenesses are almost a philosophical question: Is it important for the drawing to look exactly like the real-life model, or can you take artistic license? Is the drawing about replication or inspiration?

That’s probably a whole other discussion. In the meantime, we asked the Sketchbook Skool fakulty for their suggestions on how to draw people. Let it inspire you—in fact, it can be your sketch theme for the week. We can’t wait to see your sketches!

  1. You learn how things really look when you draw from reality. Do it a lot. Sketch at coffee bars, at the movies while waiting for the show to start (even in the dark!), while waiting on line at the bank or post office, while watching TV with your loved ones, at the museum—anywhere, anytime you’re around people, draw them. Nobody else around? Practice drawing your own hands and feet.
  2. Think of the body as being like a trunk, and the arms and legs are its branches. There is a natural pattern of growth outward. If it’s helpful, try sketching a few trees along with people.
  3. If it’s too challenging to capture people in detail while they’re moving, abstract them. Just draw a rectangle for a torso, a longer rectangle for the legs, and so on. You can refine later.
  4. Draw shapes, not features. Ignore labels, names, symbols. Just draw what you see. Look for negative space, which can help turn “nose” into “triangle.” Draw one shape, then the shape next to it, and build from there, slowly.
  5. Work on selfies, every day if you want to turn this into a challenge! Drawing yourself means you’ll always have a willing, good-looking model available.
  6. You can create a lot of “suggestion,” focusing on shadows and drawing these in quick strokes. The shadows allow our eyes and brains to fill in the rest of the shape.
  7. Lay down the body language quickly, then focus on details you’re interested in.
  8. People moving around too quickly for you to capture even their basic body language? Draw statues—they’ll hold very still for you.
  9. Don’t worry about results you don’t like; just move on to the next sketch. Do lots and lots of them. You can get a whole sketchbook of inexpensive paper just for the purposes of making rough sketches of body language and facial studies.
  10. Try different styles. Make up characters. Don’t worry about getting details 100 percent right. “Errors” add individuality and personality. Remember to play!

Learn how to draw people, buildings, and anything you want. There’s a klass that’s right for you on our kourses page.

Art: Lynne Chapman

Art: Veronica Lawlor

Art: Mattias Adolfsson

Filed under categories: Tips