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Life Drawing – from Head to Toe

Posted by laura on June 8 2017.

Gaynor, our life drawing tutor, has been working for Polestars since almost the start and we love her! She teaches all dance classes and most recently has proved to us that she is quite the artist too. Gaynor has put together this beginners guide on how to draw a body perfectly after becoming one of our amazing Hen Party Life Drawing tutors. 


Life Drawing Tips

Every part of the body has its own measurement, proportion and rules in comparison to other areas of the body.  These general guidelines belong to most, even though the rules can be slightly different from person to person when drawing realistic faces and figures. The general  life drawing beginners rule in life drawing is to think of the body in terms of shape!

The Head:-

The head is usually 5 eyes lengths across, so you can start by drawing a circle the size of the top of a wine glass, with a straight vertical line inside. Divide this into 5 equal parts the same length as the eyes. Next step is to mark off 2 eyes lengths down from the bottom of the circle, draw a second circle around these lengths, and you now have two circles, with connected  rounded lines, forming a head.

Life drawingThe Neck:-

The first rule in life drawing is to remember that the lines are not parallel even though they appear to be, and the measurement is a quarter of one head length. Begin by lightly drawing the main shape of the neck and chin, including both the outside lines and lines that indicate flexed tendons or muscles and the collarbone.

Draw this carefully to make sure that the angle of the neck is correct; even in the relaxed, forward looking position, the neck is not straight up and down, but tilts forward slightly.  The neck is not a pole that attaches the head to the body, it is a movable column that tapers and curves. There are also differences between male and female necks; males have a more pronounced Adam’s apple and are generally more heavily muscled, while female necks are more slender and graceful.


The shoulder line is two head lengths wide, their angle correlates to that of the hips and are equal distance from the spine on either side.  This area of the body is circular in shape so start drawing with simple representations of these first, the top section of the circle is the top of the shoulder and opposite it is the armpit which must be shaded dark.


The best way to draw this is to break it all down into simple shapes, we can start with three circles the first two must be smaller and they represent the shoulders area the lower circle is larger drawn above the waist.  Then draw the bones using curved and straight lines, next the muscles using large tear drop and ball like shapes, you should be left with a block like representation.  Finally erase original guidelines and add details, the abs are shaped like sausage looking ovals.  Add the depth, volume and form with shading and highlighting.


Begin your life drawing  by sketching the shape of the arm. Keep in mind that even at its relaxed state the arm does not hang straight down, but bends slightly at the elbow. Also note that if the arm is hanging at the side, there should be a straight line from the back of the neck through the centre of the arm until the arm bends at the elbow.  Draw lines that indicate the deltoid muscle in the shoulder and other muscles that may be visible, as well as a mark where the elbow, wrist, and hand will be. Build up the appearance of muscles on the arm by shading and picking out highlights.


Always a the toughest party of a life drawing. Begin with two shapes; the shape of the fingertips to the wrist, without the thumb and that same area with the thumb. You should have a long, skinny oval for the first area and a lopsided egg shape for the second.  Divide the oval in half and mark off four equally sized fingers. The guideline for the thumb should extend out roughly the same distance as a quarter of the oval, because the thumb and fingers are all about the same width. Extend the fingers up from the hatch marks, keeping them parallel to the thumb. The thumb begins to curve away from the hand at the horizontal midline, curves in to form the tip, and then curves out at the knuckle. The other knuckles should fall in an arc beginning at the right centre point and crossing downward. The second joint lies a third of the way up the oval, and a third of the way up again marks the third line of knuckles, with the exception of the pinky (small finger). When the guidelines are marked, sketch in rough circles at each knuckle, then erase the guidelines and re-shape the fingers and outside of the hand as needed.


Begin by sketching the leg in its largest, simplest shapes, the overall form is cylindrical.  It may be helpful to think of the nude life drawingleg as two pieces which divide at the kneecap with muscles extending outward on either side.  When the major forms are sketched in accurately, erase your guidelines and finalize the form in terms of line. Add lines that indicate the placement of the kneecap, thigh, and calf muscle as well.


In proportion to other features of the body, the foot is roughly a third longer than the hand, and without a big toe would be about the length of the head.  Begin the drawing with simplest shapes and angle lines.  Then roughly define toes and ankle bone, remembering that the big toe is generally flat on the ground while the other toes bend over to reach the ground.  Erase the guidelines and make a final, simplified drawing without sketchy lines. Remember when drawing the foot you can separate it into three main parts the heel, metatarsal and toes, the heel is a semi oval shape the main foot is a large cylinder shape and the toes can be cubes to start with then developed into cylinders.


Check our our life drawing pintrest board it might inspire you to do one of our hen party ideas

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