Part 4, Project 5, Exercise 1: Single moving figure

Drawing a moving figure is different from drawing a posed figure – the person won’t slow down or wait patiently for you to finish. You’ve already had some practice in producing quick figure drawings but this project may be more of a challenge because you’ll need to draw quickly to record your subject in motion. This will probably mean looking up and out, concentrating on the subject in front of you while drawing ‘blind’, rather than looking down and concentrating on the sheet of paper. As well as working outdoors and indoors you can draw people from a window, car, etc. Wherever you are, draw quickly and keep your eyes on the figure in action. Try to capture the vitality of the movement through fast and confident marks and lines, and don’t be tempted to repair or overwork the final image. 

Use quick exploratory lines to express the overall flow and movement rather than seeking a perfect reproduction. Think about the speed and purpose of the figure in movement and how to capture the energy through stance, mark-making, etc. For example, someone running for a bus may have their coat flying and head thrust forward; the figure will have momentum and intention. Try to express this.  While working, make notes about your observation of moving figures and why they’ve caught your attention. Think about:

  • Narrative – the story that reveals the reason for the activity, such as running for a bus or dancing.
  • Interaction – merging the moving figure with its surroundings, considering its relation to the environment and other figures, buildings, etc.

Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. Try to fill a page a day; this will be a rich resource for future work as well as improving your figure drawing through regular practice.

This exercise is HARD!!  It’s driven me mad trying to capture what I can see in my mind as the perfect representation of a moving figure but which appears on the page as rather an awkward, disproportioned attempt!!  However, I think in places I have definitely captured a sense of movement- a moment mid-action- although most of these images are not really looking like “People”!!  On the whole my pictures are of just an individual, without a sense of narrative or context.  I was so taken up with observing the individual at that moment that this seemed to get lost.  I will continue to dry to do this exercise as I completely understand the need to practice this skill and would LOVE to be good at capturing people in drawings.

I did try to draw a scene on the playing field with various children playing to try to capture the narrative and interaction of the moment.  This is more effective- even though the figures are still not great, putting them into a scene gave them extra “life” because there was more of a story and a sense of time and place depicted.

As well as working from real life I also drew a few pictures from photos, just because I wanted to practice the form taken by the human body during motion.  These are (obviously) more realistic in their finish, but the objective was to practice looking rather than to cheat and produce the perfect drawing.

I also watched videos of moving figures (because I didn’t really have the opportunity to draw  people from life doing anything more than running, walking, or playing football.  I felt that people walking on the street  was fairly a boring, repetitive exercise, so i looked for videos of more interesting movements like dancing! (I wish I was allowed in my daughter’s dancing classes).  This was useful because the movements I was looking for were repetitive in nature (pirouettes etc) and I was able to capture the receptive shape in my mind- I tried to do a lot of these sketches “blind”.

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