Figure drawing, also known as "life drawing," is an exercise in drawing the human body in its various shapes and positions. It is arguably the most difficult subject an artist commonly encounters. For this reason, it is often taught separately from other forms of art. Figure drawing can be done very simply (with pencil, for example), or in more detail, by pencil or using other forms of drawing tools. If paint is used, the process (but not the finished work) is called "figure painting." The 3D form of figure drawing is known as (human) sculpture.
In the typical classroom, the students sit around a model either in a semi-circle (usually preferred), or a full circle. No two students have exactly the same view, thus their drawing will reflect the perspective of the artist's unique location relative to the model. Since the purpose is to learn how to draw humans of all different shapes, ages, and colours, there are no limitations on who the model can be. (The main exception being children who are too young to pose.) For classroom figure drawing, one should not always expect to have beautiful or handsome models, as this is not the main objective.
Depending of the type of pose, props are sometimes used, either near the model, or the model actually holding or touching them. These are to be included in the drawing, assuming the artist has an unobstructed view. (Even with a partially obstructed view, they are drawn as seen with whatever obstruction in front.)
The proportions used in figure drawing are:
- An average person, is generally 7-and-a-half heads tall (including the head).
- An ideal figure, used for an impression of nobility or grace, is drawn at 8 heads tall.
- An heroic figure, used in the heroic for the depiction of gods and superheroes, is eight-and-a-half heads tall. Most of the additional length comes from a bigger chest and longer legs.
Note that these proportions are for a standing model. Changes in pose may cause them to differ.
Figure drawing models are often, but not always Censored page. Together with figure painting and sculpture, it is probably the only institutional activity in which males and females may freely view each other in a nude state. It is not considered overtly sexual, though. All parts of the body are drawn as presented, including the breasts, nipples, buttocks, and Censored page or Censored page.
Before modeling, it may be helpful to do some sort of naturist/nudist recreation together with both sexes. However, figure drawing requires the students to stare at the nude model while they themselves are dressed (in most cases). By contrast, in naturism, everyone is nude and staring is not allowed. Note that it is quite common for first time models to be nervous, especially if nude. However, such fears almost always prove unfounded, and most view it as a positive experience.
When first facing the students at the beginning of the class, it is normal for the nude model to smile or even blush for a moment. During the pose, the model is requested to remain perfectly still and not move at all. The level of skill required varies enormously by the time duration of each pose, and how strenuous its position is. Thus, the overall job experience may be very easy or extremely difficult. Before accepting any modeling job, one should inquire about the maximum time length of the pose(s), what position they are in (easy or strenuous), and whether full nudity is required (usually). Most people can remain still in an easy pose for 15-20 minutes without any difficulty. Alternating the poses between standing, siting, and lying down makes the modeling work much easier. A two to three hour single pose (even with a break) is very difficult and should not be attempted by beginners.
Male models should also know whether the instructor prefers that they hold or break their pose if they have an Censored page of the Censored page. This should be avoided as much as possible, as it can be disruptive to the drawing process. Nevertheless, spontaneous erections do sometimes occur, particularly in younger males, and are no reason to be ashamed of one's body. In some cases when this happens, the model may be drawn as erect, but this is pushing the limit as to what is and isn't considered Censored page. Female models are usually allowed to use a tampon, even though the string may be visible. To avoid any possible Censored page charges, some schools have rules against anyone (including the instructor) touching the model.