Expressive Figure Drawing Techniques

See demo on how to create figure drawings that are expressive, lively and dynamic in charcoal. Explained is specific techniques on how to physically work your drawing to get past tight, conservative ways of drawing.

74 min. video

Demo with Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Video Walkthrough

  • A lot of the drawing process is about your mindset, it’s not all about what your hand is physically doing.
  • Often people strive for accuracy in figure drawing, but that can often limit you dramatically in terms of exploring various stylistic approaches.
  • You can define an “expressive” drawing however you want: perhaps the drawing has an emotion you want to show, a specific type of movement.
  • An important part of loosening up is keeping your drawing very flexible, so that you are willing to make dramatic changes.
  • Often people don’t want to make dramatic changes to their drawing, and just end up going over the lines that they already have.
  • Consider your edges, have a range of ones that are very soft, vs. some that are very blunt and graphic.
  • At the beginning of a drawing, try to avoid outlining the figure; it’s slow and makes you think about the figure in fragments, instead of as a cohesive whole.
  • Try to draw with very broad strokes, so that you are drawing with your entire arm, not just your hand.
  • Speed can help a lot at the beginning of a drawing, so that you don’t fuss or spend too much time on a single area.
  • Think about your erasers as drawing tools, they are not just there for getting rid of mistakes!
  • You can use the erasers to “push” the charcoal across the surface of the paper.
  • Erasers are much better than smudging with your fingers.
  • Erasers can show the direction of a mark, and have a lot more tension as opposed to smudging which makes your marks mushy.
Expressive Figure Drawing in Charcoal

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