Make It Come Alive, But Not Like Frankenstein

Stacy in Chalk by Rob Liberace, chalk pencil drawing, 14 x 22.
Stacy in Chalk by Rob Liberace, chalk pencil
drawing, 14 x 22.

I wholeheartedly believe that a drawing of a human figure should look like it has the potential for physical movement and action. Not a creepy, unnatural animation, but more of a direct relation to the actual human form. Our bodies are always on the verge of moving and repositioning. Sometimes it is a faint movement like taking a deep breath, and sometimes it’s more of an overt action like breaking into a run. There’s underlying power and torque to the form that will enliven the figure drawing visually and fight its inherently static nature. Finding visual ways to indicate those possibilities when drawing people is what makes a successful figure drawing.

One way to make a life drawing lively (har har) is to keep a ‘sketch’ aspect to it. Think about loose lines in addition to light and dark masses to turn the form. For example, when I try to draw a bent leg, I focus more on getting the gesture of the limb in a few quick lines rather than laboring over its anatomical correctness.

Seated Male by Rob Liberace, chalk pencil drawing, 36 x 48.
Seated Male by Rob Liberace, chalk pencil
drawing, 36 x 48.

Position is everything. Our bodies can move in so many different ways, so when it comes to drawing the figure, really think about how to position it to get the most implied movement. And this doesn’t have to hit you over the head. Our bodies are subtle machines. Cocking the head, tilting the hips, or putting a slight bend in the knee-all of these do the job.

I know and believe that the core of our bodies-the torso, back, shoulder girdle, and pelvis-are where the most potential for movement rests. But don’t forget the hands and feet. Attention to these parts can really articulate what you want your figure drawing to say. A hand drawing of a clenched fist gives off quite a different meaning than one where the fingers are held loosely and slightly curled.

An artist who is especially skilled at infusing his figure drawings with dynamism and movement is Rob Liberace. His work strikes a perfect balance between beauty and power, and Liberace is one of many artists whose work inspired our latest Drawing the Figure Collection, where you’ll discover in-depth resources on the ideas and approaches that I’ve touched upon, including drawing tutorials that delve into positioning the model and creating a drawing that successfully captures the power of the human body. Truly inspiring, and it can all be found with the Drawing the Figure Collection (available as a digital collection as well)! Enjoy!



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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.