OCAD Studio: Figure Master Copy Part 1


Canvas or a panel

1 bristle of small to medium size


Raw Umber Paint

Burnt Umber Paint




Thinner (I recommend odourless mineral spirits (OMS))

Kitchen paper towel for wiping back and cleaning

Making a Wash Drawing

  1. Choose a figure painting that you want to copy and then get a canvas of equivalent proportions to the image. It can be any size, but I recommend something about 20 x 30 inches or so.
  2. Working from your chosen reference, begin lightly sketching in the main shapes lightly with raw umber thinned with mineral spirits. As always, begin with the largest proportions before refining the lines and shapes. Try to use primarily straight lines as these are easy to correct and look confident.
  3. It’s best to take measurements with your eye rather than with a tool, but if necessary, you can use a spare brush to check that the proportions in your painting match the reference or sitter.
  4. If you need to make any corrections, dip a clean brush into your pot of mineral spirits and use it to wipe away the mistake. If any marks remain (or too much mineral spirits) you can use a clean piece of kitchen towel or rag to wipe away the excess.
  5. Once the line drawing is loosely sketched in, you can begin painting in the outline of the shadow shapes on the figure and background.
  6. Then add a tone to the shadow shapes. This will help you to notice mistakes that you may have missed when it was a line drawing. Take the time to make any final corrections to the shadow shapes before leaving it to dry.


  1. Once you’re happy with the shapes, wash your brushes and palette and leave the painting until dry to the touch (at least 2-3 days).

Adding a Ground Colour

  1. Once the wash drawing is dry you can add a ground colour.
  2. Just dot a small amount of Burnt Umber straight from the tube onto the canvas.
  3. Spread these dots with a palette knife until the marks cover most of the surface.
  4. Then rub a piece of kitchen towel dipped in Mineral Spirits over the surface of the canvas.
  5. This will spread out the paint into an even tone.
  6. Make sure that the shadow shapes are visible below the ground colour. You can keep rubbing the paint to make it lighter if need be.
  7. Then leave the painting until dry to the touch (at least 2-3 days).


OCAD Studio: Articulating Figure Gestures

This lesson will explain how to go about adding more detail to a drawing by breaking the simple curved lines into more complex articulations. You do not need to make it extremely detailed, it should be enough to break a long line into 2-4 sections.

Sighting Angles and Alignments to Improve Accuracy

Even if you’re using your eye to copy, it is useful to pay attention to relative angles and alignments while working. This will stop you from getting tunnel vision about any single aspect of the drawing and keep you thinking about the big relationships that govern the overall proportions.

You can compare angles by flicking your eyes between your drawing and the subject. Your eyes will spot if an angle is different because there will be a shift as your eyes move back and forth (like how an animation works). The same is true for lengths of lines between the angles.

Alignments are even simpler, imagine a straight horizontal (or vertical line) lying across your subject (you can also use any straight implement, like a ruler or knitting needle) and see what point in the subject line up. If they don’t line up in your drawing, you know that something is off and you can correct the mistake.

If you can get the alignments and angles right, the drawing will naturally fall into place without too much effort.


High Point and Low Points

When looking at natural forms you will find that most are made of gradual curves. These curves make it difficult to break down a form into simpler construct lines (or articulations). An important aspect of producing an effective line drawing that captures the essence of the subject is an ability to pick high points and low points effectively.

A high/low point is essentially the point at which the curve turns back on itself in a noticeable manner. While a curve is (by nature) always changing direction you will tend to find that there are specific point along the curve where this change in direction is more pronounced. Thing of a parabolic curve, it is gradual changing direction until suddenly reversing rapidly before becoming more gradual again. It is these marked changes of direction that we refer to as high and low points.

When beginning to articulate a gesture drawing, start by finding these high/low points along the curved lines. Only find one or two points to begin with, otherwise it will become over complicated quickly and it will be difficult to make corrections where necessary.



Any representational drawing (or painting) is a 2D interpretation of 3D reality, so there will be aspects of your drawing that omit parts of the subject that are hidden from view. In complex subjects (like the human figure), this results in a number of overlaps. Places where one form partially blocks another form. These overlaps usually result in a angle change and placing them accurately will help to give a sense of all the forms relating to one another accurately. They are also crucial when trying to capture foreshortening (a form of perspective that is caused by the aspects of the subject closer to the viewer appearing bigger).


Naturalistic Rhythm and Avoiding Repetition
The final consideration when producing an articulated drawing from a simpler gesture is to ensure that you keep a naturalistic rhythm when adding more lines. There is a tendency for humans to make things regular and repetitive, which makes for a dull (and unrealistic) drawing. Nature is full of ordered irregularity which is inherently beautiful, so an important aspect of producing an effective representational drawing is to appreciate and translate these natural rhythms into your drawing. If you notice yourself adding identical lengths of lines or identical angles it probably means you’re drawing automatically and not looking at your subject enough.