How to Study Figure Drawing - Form

Now that we've learned about gesture, we'll continue to study the figure moving on to form! We're going to see how to make our drawings look more three-dimensional. This means we'll be able to play a bit with perspective too, which we'll also see next week with the exercise demonstration!

As always, you can watch the Youtube video I did on this same topic rather than read. However, I try to explain things in different ways in the videos and in the written posts. So feel free to both read and watch if you'd like to fully understand everything!

Table of Contents

1. What is Form and Why Learn It?

Form is "the shape and structure of something" according to the dictionary, basically, it's the three-dimensional shape of an object. So, a circle is the two-dimensional outline (shape) while the sphere is the three-dimensional form. This is fairly simple to understand, where it gets complicated is when us artists have to take an object that exists in three-dimensions and draw it using only two.

As artists, our job is to convince people that what they're looking at is real enough, that it exists in three dimensions. Even if you're drawing a cartoon, you still have to make people believe that everything, from how the characters interact to how the scene is laid out, is happening in our three dimensions. It's no small task but we do have some tricks up our sleeves that we can use, such as volumes, landmarks, wrapping lines, and areas of intersection.

2. Learn

Before we start, I just wanted to remind you of two things. The first, is the principles of studying smart, which are: make a plan (set a time frame), study in cycle, focus on learning rather than the results, and analyse your drawings. The second, is how to do the "Learn" step well: get a variety of resources, and read them multiple times to fully grasp the concepts. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is part of the step-by-step guide I mentioned that can be used to help you learn any art fundamental.

Summary of Key Concepts

Just like in Gesture Drawings, there are a few key concepts that we have to learn about because they're the tools that'll help us implement form better. Form has less concepts than gesture, but they're much harder to fully understand to compensate.

From Hampton's book

Other examples from Huston's book

Best Resources

For the resources, we'll be going from the basics to the more advanced resources. The first and most important thing you need to do is be well familiarised with the simple volumes. It might seem too basic to start with them, I thought so at first, but believe me when I say that volumes alone can be complicated enough.

The key is understanding how they work and behave in perspective. What does a cylinder look like when it's facing towards or away from you? How does a cube taper as it rotates? These are all things you'll need to know when you break down the figure into the simple volumes.

There's no better place to learn all of this than Drawabox. The amount of effort and information Uncomfortable has put into it is amazing, and I couldn't recommend it more. This is where I learned the basics and what got me started into being more thoughtful about how I was learning to draw. He'll teach you how to see your drawings in three dimensions and how to use volumes to draw insects, animals, and objects. Doing all the lessons take a long time, but for drawing the figure, I recommend trying to get to the 250 cylinders challenge.

Drawabox | A free, exercise based approach to learning the fundamentals of drawing

However, if you have studied the volumes and just want to recap everything, or if you just want to better understand what these volumes are all about, then starting with Proko's video is a good option too. Still, for the practice, you have to go with Drawabox.