What Sets Her Apart

Susan Lyon’s figure drawings truly set her apart artistically and are the foundation and preparation for all she creates as an oil painter. If you ask her why, it is a drawing’s immediacy, directness, and drama that are the ideal conduits for her creative sensibilities and in her opinion these provide the best way to capture the many facets of the human body.

Lofton by Susan Lyon, 2008, conte drawing, 16 x 14.
Lofton by Susan Lyon, 2008,
conte drawing, 16 x 14. Adapted from an
article by Allison Malafronte.

Lyon’s exposure to human figure drawing started with her exposure and exploration of the drawings of John Singer Sargent and Nicolai Fechin, particularly the dramatic light-and-shadow patterns in their artworks that reminded Lyon of old Hollywood movies. To hone her skills for drawing figures, the artist attended life-drawing classes and short-pose sessions during her studies at the American Academy of Art and the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, both in Chicago.

At first, Lyon was intimidated in these situations, particularly when creating figure drawings very quickly. “I dreaded the quick-pose sessions because I couldn’t get myself to slow down…it seems counter-intuitive to say that you have to slow down in a quick-sketch class, but for the first time I was being forced to really observe and think about what I was drawing before putting pencil to paper.”

What she once dreaded, Lyon now views as an asset in her working method, and she encourages other artists to devote a lot of time to quick figure sketching as a result. “It really forces you to simplify and think in terms of basic shapes and values. The ideal situation would be for the model to move whenever he or she wants,” she says.

Twisted Figure by Susan Lyon 2008, conte drawing, 14 x 16.
Twisted Figure by Susan Lyon 2008, conte drawing, 14 x 16.

So go grab a stopwatch or look at your phone and start drawing–anything and everything, but especially figure sketches–quickly and with a few clear details involved in the work. Remember to draw with a light touch and take your time measuring proportions, just like Lyon does, and you’ll find your figure drawings improve dramatically.

For more on understanding what makes a difference when drawing figures and how to make drawing a significantly important part of your process, consider the brand new 2015 Drawing CD Collection. Every issue for the entire year in is cover-to-cover resource that I find myself referring to again and again. I hope it is the same for you! 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.   

2 thoughts on “What Sets Her Apart

  1. I tried the Lofton in pencil and pastel and it was really an achievement for me as I don’t do anatomy, but with this type of study, I feel less afraid to try it and was so glad I did