Break the Stick Figure Habit – Draw the Clothing First

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I learn a lot about art by watching kids draw in my comic book drawing class. Somewhere along the line, many people have come to the conclusion that the way to draw the human figure is to start with a stick figure.

In my experience, drawing a stick figure never leads to a good drawing. That’s because our bodies are not like sticks, just as our faces are not circles with two dots for eyes, and a smiley face for a mouth. Our bodies, it should go without saying, are more complicated than than that. As an artist you need to be sensitive to the fact that our bodies are not sticks! They have mass and form. Now, anatomy is not an easy subject to learn. There are over two hundred bones in the body, tied together with myriad muscles, which are woven and intertwined in a very particular way.

Just as our bodies not stick figures, neither are our muscles like a sack of potatoes. After seeing one too many stick figures, I finally decided, in a recent comic book drawing class, to ditch the stick figure altogether. Instead, I had the kids go right to drawing the clothes. With this method of constructing a body, you don’t have to worry about anatomy and muscles, because all you’re drawing are the clothes! Actually, this method makes sense, because in everyday life, our experience with viewing the human body is limited to what people are wearing (unless, of course, you’re a superhero walking around in a full-body spandex outfit. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for Halloween or dance class to witness that)

So here is a five step process for drawing the clothed human body:

[1] Draw a shirt. Make it very simple and cartoon-like, with a t-shirt collar and two sleeves.
[2] Draw a pair of pants connect to the shirt at the waist. Again, make then simple and cartoon-like.
[3] Draw some shoes connected to the pants, one shoe per pant leg
[4] Draw a hand on the end of each shirt cuff.
[5] Draw a head on top of the shirt

And there you have it! A basic drawing that is much easier to work with, and more accurate than, a stick figure.

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