Figure Drawing Basics: Costumes, Clothes or Nothing At All

To Clothe or Not to Clothe in Figure Drawing?

Figure drawing by Steven Assael.
Figure drawing by Steven Assael.

We all know that drawing the nude figure is a, if not the, classical way of depicting the human body. You gain so much from those kind of explorations — a sense of gesture, a foundation for drawing anatomy, and a close study of bodily proportions, which are crucial for establishing realism in any figurative representation.

But breaking the mold and adding clothing to your figure drawing art can lead to quite a few benefits. You are able to add intrigue to a line drawing or drama to a contour drawing and contribute to the overall message of the piece. It really just gives you a bigger visual vocabulary to work with.

Why Clothing can Lead to Better Figure Drawings

Figure Drawing Basics: Costume, Clothing or Nothing At All | Deciding Whether a Model Should be Clothed or Nude in Figure Drawing | Artist Daily
Julie Seated with Hands Clasped by Steven Assael, 2007, drawing, 22 x 15.5.

Artist Steven Assael, for example, often creates works with figures in constricting or tight-fitting clothing. He does this as a way to parallel or visually represent the psychological complexities and internal conflicts within everyone.

Other times clothing can exaggerate the gesture and movement of a body. A swirling cape can give more force and power to a figure in a street scene, for example. You get a sense of atmosphere that might otherwise be missing without the garment.

Clothing can also link a figure drawing to a culture or a time and place. If you are interested in drawings from the past with a more historical bent, or for the future, clothing can enable you to achieve your ends. Adding clothes can make a narrative element clearer to your viewer than a figure whose attire doesn’t lend itself to a specific context.

However, always remember the gesture and facial features or body position of a figure drawing are really what will make it successful and articulate, not just the clothing worn.

So many of us find both challenges and rewards when drawing people, which is why Drawing People for the Absolute Beginner is a resource that will never gather dust on my bookshelf. It is a foundational manual for anyone who wants to approach figure drawing and drawing people in an easily understood but comprehensive way.

Get Started with Gesture

As one of the most challenging, but exciting, art experiences to engage in, figure drawing takes a lot of practice. Below is a preview of Figure Drawing Essentials: Getting Started with Gesture and Shape. In this trailer, you’ll learn quick tips for capturing gesture and shapes in figure drawings.

Like what you see? You can find the full-length video demonstration on ArtistsNetwork.tv to master fundamental tools and techniques for developing a strong foundation in figure drawing. 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.   

One thought on “Figure Drawing Basics: Costumes, Clothes or Nothing At All

  1. Hi,

    We have free eBooks as well as larger, more extensive eBooks made up of different content that are available for purchase in the Artist Daily store. If you have further questions, let me know. Thanks,

    Courtney

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