Learn to draw people : Can you draw silhouettes?
When you learn to draw people, the first and most essential skill you must develop is the ability to look past the details and see a shape in its entirety.
You can often identify someone you know at a great distance—long before you can see any details of their features. You don't need to see all the details because your brain recognizes their outline—the basic form and the way they hold themselves.
As artists, one of the things we do is train our hands to record what your eyes (actually our brains) see. When it is time for my students to learn to draw people, I often start them with a silhouette drawing exercise: copying the outline of someone, either at home or as a warm up exercise.
Spend some time tracing just the outlines of figures in photographs, postcards, or magazine photos. Any type of photograph, as long as it shows the whole figure.
Draw a rectangle that surrounds the figure as closely as possible, and then split it into halves or quarters. This helps make the relative proportions clear and draws attention to where the main bulk of each figure lies.
Unlike some of the other exercises, in this case you want to look for portions of the outline which might be approximated by some simple shape (like a triangle, rectangle, pentagon, or similar). If you notice a region which would be tightly enclosed by some simple form, draw that too.
Also, note any features of the outline which follow a straight line or even a regular curve.
The examples on this page show different ways to show the simplest overall shape of a figure (as it appears to you). You will notice that however complicated the figure seems to be, it can still be contained by a simple shape.
Learning this skill of “blocking in” figures (or anything you draw) within a simple geometrical shape is an important part of improving your drawing skill.
In this example, the shape is contained by a rectangle divided into two halves. It can then can be further divided to form four quarters.
This high and close viewpoint makes this shape into a triangle; just a slight change in the viewpoint would show a completely different shape.
In this case, drawing the entire rectangle around the figure helps you see more clearly the proportions of the triangle that contains the bulk of the shape.
Have fun with this exercise. Add it to your drawing repertoire, and I am positive it will sharpen your eyes. When you can see the outlines of forms, you can quickly determine the overall proportions of the shapes you want to draw.
Explore Drawing And Painting > Draw People > Draw Silhouettes