Drawing Figures – Project: The Moving Figure


Research Point

Go and do some people watching.  This could be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in the pub or cafe, in a cinema or concert queue.  Whenever you find yourself amongst lots of people have a really good look at them.  Look at how they stand, what they are carrying, what they are doing with their hands, what their chins are like, the difference between a man’s head and a woman’s.  If possible do some quick sketches; or remember and draw up what you observed when you get back.  Record your observations in your learning log.

I started this task over a cup of tea whilst watching BBC Breakfast News.  They were interviewing Michael Palin and I noticed, how striking his position was.  It was probably more so as he was wearing black trousers and sitting on a red sofa, but the camera angle made it interesting.  He was sitting very upright but relaxed and in a typical male pose.  As the camera viewpoint moves every few seconds, I had to remember the position and sketch from that, occasionally, the same view was flashed up but not for long.  I then looked at how the female presenter was sitting, elegantly cross-legged in a very feminine way.  This was also more difficult to catch as although, similar camera angles came up on-screen, due to the more complicated position, a slight difference in viewpoint made a huge difference in the drawn pose.  I tried to memorise it but the drawing is not overly representative.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

After this, as I needed to do some shopping, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and headed off to Fordingbridge.  I decided to sit in the car park for half an hour and sketch people coming and going.  It was around 9.45am, so a fairly busy time for shoppers.  Most of the people I saw were retired, young mums, small children and some delivery guys.  I began by trying to draw “action” and movement, a man on his mobile phone walking along with his other hand in his pocket, a gran strapping in her young ward in the back seat of the car, a woman searching for change at the parking meter.  It was difficult to understand what was really required of me and not just to repeat previous exercises.  Then I noticed an elderly lady passenger in a car that drove past me and thought I’d try to sketch her from memory.  I was quite pleased with the result and started to notice characteristics common in her age group.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

I decided to concentrate on this aspect of the figures around me, what describes an older person from a younger one?  Some observations from this people watching session are detailed below:

  • head and neck appears pushed further forward
  • chins merge with neck as a result
  • the neck merges into shoulders with less definition
  • stance can look strangely unbalanced when standing with weight evenly distributed over both feet
  • older people tend to hold their shoulders much higher as they walk, even those that appear sprightly
  • also noticed how the elderly can appear more androgynous – similar can be said about young babies – I’m sure there are obvious biological reasons for this as well as social/environmental ones.  Examples of social/environmental reasons could be: women tend to have shorter hair and wear less makeup as they reach old age, many people put on extra weight around the middle or appear thinner – both may merge the male and female silhouette to some extent.

Another woman I managed to sketch was younger, maybe in her thirties or early forties and her overall demeanour was very different.  She was lighter on her feet, her head held a little higher, with a defined neck distinguishable from her chin and shoulders.

I suppose I had noticed this before but when studied to this degree, it becomes quite startling as an indicator of a figure’s age.  It is also a lesson to me that good posture is very important and is probably a much more successful method of reducing those signs of aging than miracle creams!

Project: Gesture – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • How well have you managed to capture the poses? What could be improved?

In the Stance exercise, the poses were simply depicted and most are captured fairly well. Number 3 is a little upright I feel, although the weight is anchored on the model’s right foot correctly. The shoulders are maybe a little too level and not following the diagonal.  With the Energy exercise, as I had a moving target, I think the sketches are representative of what I saw with the exception of the very first one where I was too late to get the arms down convincingly.  Also, it would have been good to have realised the brief and gone larger on the paper to try to get feet and hands in all the sketches, although with hind sight, as I was being a little covert, an easel and bigger sheets of paper would have been trickier logistically.

  • Do you think that your figures balanced?  If not where did you go wrong?

In the Stance sketches, most are balanced and have the weight distributed as was, however, as before, sketch 3 looks a little unnatural. As does number 2, yet he did look that way in life.  With the Energy drawings, although they are moving, waiting for the repetition of a position did allow for fast reworking which probably assisted with correcting any imbalances.

  • How did you go about conveying a sense of energy?

By using the opportunity to watch and draw while my model was doing a workout, it put me in the right frame of mind to be quick when both observing and drawing. I kept working the lines even when waiting for the position I was drawing to re-present itself so there was energy in the marks and in the “poses”.  The first two sketches are the most static as I was a little late with reacting and didn’t have a second chance to get the movement in the mark making I would have liked.

Example of Exercise: Stance

Example of Exercise: Stance

Exercise: Energy Quick pose.

Exercise: Energy
Quick pose.
Liner pen – A4