Realistic Figure Drawing – How to Capture a Seated Pose

In this video we’re going to look at the 15 block mannequin. Previously, we did a standing pose figuring out contrapposto; figuring out how the blocks move on that figure and eventually simplifying it into a 10-14 gesture construct which captures the pose; captures proportion and captures gesture, giving you a good foundation to then build upon the rest of the figure as you move into form and structure and division of light and dark. We’re going to look at a seated pose and see if there are different challenges that are involved in that position. Will there be some foreshortening we have to deal with and how do we position foreshortening? How do we take care of again, proportion and gesture and again; simplify into a 10-14 block construct. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Alright so, we’re looking at what – a seated pose using a drawing by French artist Pierre-Paul Prud’hon from the book “Language of The Body.” We are using a female nude seated. Try to understand now in the seated pose, where the gesture is; where the center of gravity and weight is and we’ll work with our blocks. We’re going to start with the first three main blocks being the head, the rib cage, and the pelvic block. So when we’re blocking this blocks again, understanding their parameters and a sense of their proportion. So the head, you want to obviously mark the top of their head, the size of their head; to get a sense of how wide their head is and what direction is their head going. And just a gentle little landmark of the chin is sufficient enough to get a sense of the proportion of the height of their head to the weight of their head. Again, look at the core of the block. Try to understand the axis that will occur – the imaginary axis that occurs at the center of the block to get a sense of the direction it’s going.

Alright now, the rib cage. So let’s grab the back of the rib cage using the spine area here. A landmark for the top of the rib cage could be the shoulder area, the trapezium, the clavicle or the center of the rib cage or the front of the rib cage is about here, and again we’re trying to get a sense of the girth of the model. So fill your way to the size of these blocks. Your first landmarks might not exactly be how wide or tall your block should be. So, once you have it blocked in, get a sense of the weight of that block by observing and comparing to the other blocks. So remember the bottom of the rib cage is also the bottom of the elbow. So follow the arc of the arm and the arc of the elbow; we’ll know where the bottom of ribcage. But look for key points – protrusion of the bone or an indent in the bend of the rib cage to the pelvic block. So here we go with the pelvic block now. And that now, even though it’s seated on a platform, it’s actually gently going across a little diagonal.

Again, look at the axis of the block. See that mean direction. Get a sense of where it’s moving. And the bottom of the rib – of the pelvic block is here, is in the bottom of the buttocks. We have the back of the pelvic block and front of the pelvic block run the belly button areas where we’ve seen the digging in of the two blocks pinching into each other. We’re using the height of the Ilium or the iliac crest as our other landmark. Now again, observe how this block is going this way and this block is going this way. So these two corners are pinching. These two corners are pulling apart. This is the passive side; this is the active side of the pose.

Alright, let’s move into — legs now. We want to establish the top of the thigh of the front leg as it works its way towards the knee. The bottom of the thigh is going straight down and so let’s put this a little higher now. A little low with that; and the bottom of the thigh is about here. So this block will taper wider at the top, tapering thinner towards the knee. We can see the block is going in that direction therefore, we have to close it perpendicular and the top of the knee would be about here. The other thigh we hardly see, so we can just put a landmark at where it is. And then we need to block the bottom of the knee, the back of the calf as it sweeps over to the foot. The front of the block and again, the core of the block is slightly bending this way.

And then, we have the top of the ankle and then we can skip again the drawings; remember you’re skipping your drawings when you’re doing this. So we’ve skipped the abdomen area; the neck. We’ve skipped the hip joint, we’re skipping the knee joint and now we’re skipping the ankle joint. So our blocks will close above and below these joints leaving empty space to read as the joint area. So there’s the foot, using the back of the heel – the bottom of the foot to the top of the foot and working our way under the ankle and to the top. On the other foot, we’ll put a landmark for the knee here that sweeps that block this way. We’re looking at the negative shape to help us position the one leg in relationship to the other. This will taper; again we’re going to close above the ankle. Now we can position that heel goes under the ankle. Find the slope of the foot. Mark the back of the heel; the back of sole of the foot. And now we have our toes.

So that’s giving us a good understanding of what the body is doing, how the legs are positioned; where the feet are in relationship to each other. So we’re left with just the arms now to deal with and again, we’re looking at the back of the arm towards the elbow, the top of the arm; getting a sense of the girth of that arm. We want to close this block around the armpit area or under the ball of the humerus — the bone, and we’re closing above the elbow. Now the forearm is working its way back up; slightly C-curving or bending again, closing above the wrist and now the hand is changing direction so we are closing the hand. There, are few landmarks to suggest what the hand is doing. A simple blocking in of all the fingers; the drooping is sufficient enough to get an idea of what — what the hand would be doing.

Alright, the backer! So again, using the negative shaping here, we’re able to position the bottom of the arm; the top of the arm. We need to now adjust the head and lower it a little bit more as it overlaps with the arm. We have the blocking in there and now the chin and the forearm is turning upwards again and then closing again at the wrist and then the another palm is about here. Alright, so there you have the 15 blocks, giving you a good feel of what this pose is doing. Obviously, step back, observe what you’ve done. Make some adjustments either to size, to proportion or even to positioning. Have you angled something too much or you’re making something too big or too small? Once you’ve done that, you can now simplify this into your 10-14 ghostly bandy lines using C-curves. Alright so, we’re gonna work with C-curves, S-curves; we’re using straight movements and we’re using the zigzag movement. Alright so, the two blocks here are definitely letting me see that I can capture the back in one C-curve.

Again, I’ll still establish where the top of the torso is. Again, I need the back of the head – distinctly the top of the head and I need the other side of the head and I can landmark the chin to tell me where the size of the head is. We’re looking at the bottom of the arm towards the elbow. We’re going from the elbow towards the wrist and we can sweep both these arms together as you see them create a vertical movement here. And then we can break apart the one arm from the other while establishing the body. We’ll grab the top of this arm; top of the forearm and again, a little C-curve; a little landmark here telling us what the thumb is doing – where the palm is. We said this is the active side, so I’m going to keep this with two movements, two sharp little straight movements just to keep that pinching — dynamic movements on that side. With the leg we can now do a simple C-curve starting here; going towards the outer knee and then flocking towards the front knee. So, at some point of two C-curves come together.

Now grab the bottom of the thigh, the bottom of the buttocks; towards the back of the knee and now we have to reverse the sweep this way from the top of the knee all the way down to the toe of the foot. A little simple flat movement here, suggesting stress of the foot resting on the ground and then we have this reverse C-curve all the way down to the top of the toes. A little blocking of the bottom of the toes. The back of the foot can be in one movement to the heel; landmark the ankle and you can still grab the back of the shin here.

Basically, if I erase the blocks now I’ll be left with like 10-14 lines. 10-14, 10-15 ghostly bandy lines that suggest a gesture construct that capture this pose. And there, you have it. So nice simple mannequin that’s telling what it’s doing. It’s giving us proportion; it’s giving us gesture. And this is the strong foundation you’re looking for at the beginning of your figure drawing. That way, you are not chasing this anymore. You’re not moving the drawing around anymore. All you’re doing is then building upon this and adding more less and more less of information. Alright, thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time.


I came out of this with a heightened attention to detail, and practical knowledge of how to make a graphite drawing to a high degree of finish – in stages. I can see how doing more of these copies would improve the accuracy of my drawing.
– Jon, Drawing the Bargue