Art Classes/Courses · Drawing · Portraits

Drawing Live Models

Drawing the figure is a challenge, clothed or unclothed.  I offer a few tips for those working with live models for the first time…

Consider Your Viewpoint

Firstly you should think about your distance and viewpoint from the model.  Don’t make this too challenging at first.  I always think that a three-quarters view is good for a beginner because straight-on can make drawing faces look flat.  An extreme straight-on view for the figure is probably one of the hardest viewpoints because of the forshortening challenges.

Have you got the best view?

Give yourself enough distance to see everything well if you are drawing the whole figure.  I see a lot of squashed drawings of the figure where learners haven’t given themselves enough room on the paper.


Drawing from life is a good skill to develop and if you get the opportunity to draw a live model, it is a great opportunity.

Many think that the clothed figure will be easier to draw than the nude, but this is not really true.  When confronted with a clothed figure you have the additional difficulty of coping with the textures and movements of the garments. Although loose clothes can disguise some of the human form which might be difficult to draw this is just as difficult as drawing the nude because you still need to understand the anatomy.

The clothed figure is more challenging than the nude

The observer has to be able to imagine the concealed figure for example a neck appearing from a shirt has to be drawn in the right place in relation to the shoulders.  Legs only visible from the bottom of a skirt still need to be convincing in the way they relate to the hips.  The clothing moves in relation to what the body is doing, if the weight is on one leg the trousers will be shorter on the leg with less weight as the hip will be raised.  It is important to think about the body first and then the clothes.

You could warm up with some marks

Warming Up 

I think if you have a session with a live model it is a really good idea to start with some quick poses to help you warm up.  Don’t consider these to be any sort of work of art, just treat them as warm ups.  I usually like  to use low grade paper for this because it makes me more relaxed.  Set yourself ten minutes just to get to know the model from different angles before moving on to more developed studies.

A ‘Figure of Eight’ warm up

Can I Keep Working Without the Model?

The model should take several breaks so this is a really good chance to check the drawing.  You can assess your drawing and decide what needs more attention once the model returns to the pose.

Don’t Forget the Background

Many life drawing classes will have set times for poses so you could be in the position where you have finished your drawing and you still have time.  I would use this time to put a few lines in for the background.


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