Five Minute Sketching: People
We were all told to sit up straight as kids, not to slouch, to keep our heads up when we walk. A person’s posture can be as important a characteristic as their hairstyle or their smile. For the five-minute sketcher, knowing what shapes to look for when drawing someone’s posture can quickly
add a whole lot of character to your sketches.
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Tips to get you started
The body’s lines It’s a good idea to imagine lines running through certain parts of the body – vertically from head to feet (or head to the pelvis), horizontally from shoulder to shoulder, horizontally from hip to hip. In a casual standing position the two horizontal lines aren’t usually parallel – one slants up, so the other slants down. From the front, the vertical line appears to run straight, but from the side it will curve depending on their posture.
Laura sketching, 2010.
People stand in different ways when they sketch. Here, I sketched fellow artist Laura while she was sketching in Davis, standing with her legs crossed for balance, while balancing her sketchbook against herself.
Balance The human body by itself may appear symmetrical, but in practice people tend to lean one way and stretch their leg another, even if only slightly. Our bodies automatically balance themselves, so remember this balance when sketching. Also, we tend to take our body’s weight on one side, making one leg straight and the other more relaxed.
Character Posture can reveal a person’s character. A lazy looking person will slouch more, an angry person has tense features, and a perky, energetic person might have their neck straight and much more symmetry to the way they stand. Exaggerate posture to tell a story!
Pete Scully, By-stander at Mondavi, 2012.
This young man was waiting to rehearse a dance show at the Mondavi Centre in Davis, California. His posture shows he is not in a hurry, his feet are pointed apart, and he is looking around to see if there is anyone he knows. I took little notes so I could colour in his clothes later.
Age through posture The way people stand at different times of their life is also interesting. Young children tend to stand straighter, while teenagers, new to their height, will slouch a lot more. Middle-aged people often have a more relaxed, generally upright posture, while older people often hunch down a little with slightly bent legs. Try to look for posture patterns among different age groups, and between genders as well.
Quick posture Go to a place where people of all ages might be, and draw people as simple stick figures, taking care to observe the body’s lines of posture. Life drawing classes can be good for studying the human form, but the real world is where you will see natural poses. Seated postures can be interesting, too. Does it matter what they are doing – reading a book or talking excitedly to a friend on the phone? Draw a diagram of someone’s posture before adding in the rest of the sketch.
Angela seated, 2011.
I was interested my wife’s seated posture while she was looking at the computer – the way her right arm rested on the mouse while her left arm supported her face. I made a few different sketches of this pose on the same page, overlapping.