The Simplest & Most Common Mistake

Don’t Stumble with Figure Drawing

Let’s talk about common mistakes we all make because if you are making these figure drawing mistakes and are told to look out for them, it will speed up your progress considerably. I am using examples of my student’s drawings from the masterclass I teach to illustrate my points.

Drawing 1, figure drawing of incorrect placement of the arms.
Drawing 1, figure drawing of incorrect
placement of the arms.

In my last article, Attack of the Masses, I talked about massing. In this article I want to talk about the simplest and most common mistake we all make as we learn to draw the human form: separating the arm from the body and then “reattaching” it. The result being that the arm becomes quite unnatural in its shape and size in relation to the torso.

Drawing 2, showing figure drawings of correct arm positions.
Drawing 2, showing figure drawings
of correct arm positions.

Have a look at Drawing 1, concentrating only on the arms in the figure drawing. Both the arms are placed outside of the body. That’s what is causing the “too much muscle” look on the arm on the left and too-far-away look of the arm on the right. This also creates an unnatural horizontal line on top of the right shoulder.

In reality, the position of the humerus bone (upper arm) connects with the scapula looking straight down on the body. As you can see in Drawing 2, the scapulae, parts of the shoulder girdle, just glide over the rib cage. The humerus meets the scapula in a shallow housing that is correctly positioned to the front, to the outside, and to the side of the body.

In Drawing 3, a seated person is viewed from the front. The same problem of “reattaching” the arm presents itself in this figure drawing. The arm on the left is positioned quite far towards the outside of the body as the extremely elongated top of the shoulder shows, yet it doesn’t seem to be far enough as none of the muscles can be supported on the arm. The result is that the arm looks extremely slim.

Here’s the dilemma. If we position the arm farther out to the side, the shoulder becomes too long. If we correct the length of the shoulder, the arm grows even more emaciated.

Drawing 3: incorrect figure drawing of the arm Drawing 4: Correct figure drawing of the arm.
Drawing 3 & 4.

The solution, again, is in the correct position of the arm, which in this view would be sitting to the front and to the outside, rather than simply attached to the body from the side. Have a look at  quick sketch Drawing 4, which rectifies this problem.

The next time you draw an arm in a human figure drawing, remember that it should not be attached to the side of the body. It is part of the body and is placed to the front and outside. Remembering this will solve quite a few challenges.

I will be posting a series of blog entries accompanied by their video version that you can watch on Figure Drawing Online in the Free Stuff section that will serve as an extra resource for those who are learning to draw the figure, especially those who are doing it on their own and have nobody to bounce their ideas off of. If you a minute, watch the video counterpart of this blog entry. You can find it here, and leave a comment if you have any questions.

–Robert

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2 thoughts on “The Simplest & Most Common Mistake

  1. Thanks for the tips Robert. I don’t always do figure drawings but, when I do I tend to run into these exact mistakes. Great to see what I am doing and how to fix it.

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