When you learn to draw people, avoid these mistakes......

As you learn to draw people, watch out for the tendency to assume things about the shape that you don't actually see. Without constant checking, it is easy to lose sight of what's really in front of you, and as a result, the drawing suffers.

Over time, I have observed the same problems crop up again and again, in my own paintings as well as those of others. So as you learn to draw people, keep alert to avoid these common mistakes:

  • The head is out of proportion with the body.

    An almost common pitfall to get to when you learn to draw people.

    To avoid this mistake, carefully check the ratio between the length of the head to the length of the body. When I'm doing a full length figure drawing, my own tendency is to draw the head smaller than it should be. Since I know this about myself, I always double check the size of the head before getting too far into a drawing.

  • The neck is too thick for a woman or too thin for a man.

    Not every woman has a swan-like neck, of course, but generally speaking, women have more slender necks than men. If your subject has a thicker neck, you may want to portray it as a bit more slender to emphasize the femininity; otherwise, it not only looks wrong, but it's also unflattering.

    Of course, an overly flattering portrayal can also be a problem. Use your artistic license wisely to find the right balance for you and your subject.

  • There is no relationship between a neck and the shoulders.

    The bottom of the neck line does not stop where it meets the shoulders. It continues well into the lines of shoulders. Model this connection carefully. Without a smooth flow from the neck to the torso, the body lacks grace and movement.

  • The torso appears too flexible.

    Remember that the torso is not really like a bendable sausage. Its movement is limited. If you think about it, the only part of your torso that can move much is at the waist: the area between the rib cage and pelvis only move. And the range of movement there, whether from front to back, side to side, or twisting, is restricted.

  • The body is drawn with an uneven weight distribution.

    For a stationary body to remain standing, its weight must be balanced. Often, beginning artists will forget this basic truth when they learn to draw people.

    For example, if you draw people standing with their weight on one foot, the shoulder line and the hip line can never be parallel; otherwise, the figure will fall over.

  • The body proportions are just wrong.

    This is the most common mistake I see artists make when they learn to draw people. This problem often starts when we let ourselves be distracted and start working on personal features and little details too soon.

    For example, when you draw a seated figure, carefully measure the number of head-lengths from the top of the head down to the chair seat, then measure from the back to the knees. If you don't do this, it is all too easy to shorten the hips and thighs. So, imagine the figure nude or wearing a bathing suit, and block out the figure accordingly. Then add the clothing.

  • The neck is drawn as a tube, with the head as a ball on top of it. Or the neck is too long or too short.

    Unless you are Amadeo Modigliani(Italian artist who was inspired to draw and paint people like they are wearing African masks), you want to avoid this problem to keep your necks from looking stiff and unnatural. In a side view, the neck leans forward slightly. In a frontal view, the neck looks more like a tree trunk than a cylinder with its undulating curves.

  • The arms are too stringy and without form.

    In real life, you are more likely than not to be creating portraits of people with less sculpted arms than those of athletes or dancers. Even if the arms do look stringy, you, as the artist, can add some form to them.

    Draw or paint the arms across the form to indicate their roundness, rather than up-and-down longitudinal strokes. In clothed people, it is easy to indicate roundness by drawing the curves of wrist watches, bracelets or a sleeves. The folds of the clothing, done properly, can also accentuate the form.

  • The feet are out of proportion with the rest of the body..

    If you are doing a full length portrait, this is easy to avoid if you remember that the overall length of a foot is about the same as the length of the head. It's probably even bigger, except in youngsters.

    Other common problems with feet are when the feet are not rounded, lacking form or the feet are poorly placed in relation to the rest of the body If you have trouble with bare feet in your portraits, then add sandals, which help define the shape.

    Sometimes when artists draw a person in a long dress, it looks as if they just stuck the feet on anywhere at the edge of the dress, with no thought of the connections from hip to thigh, knee, ankle and to foot.

    What do you do? Try to draw the limbs beneath the clothing so the feet will come from the legs. Sometimes you just have to use your knowledge of anatomy and your imagination to find the key points—particularly the knees—under the cloth.

    The bottom line is always draw the body inside the clothing first, and add the clothes later.




When you learn to draw people, you need a multitude of skills. It takes time and patience to master the art of figure drawing but the result is rewarding.

Give yourself time and be kind to yourself when your drawings do not go the way you want. Sometimes mistakes are just opportunities for us to confront our own preoccupation with ourselves and our view of life.

Draw Real People


> > Mistakes To Avoid For Drawing People

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