Drawing a Manikin with Pencil in my Sketchbook
Practise drawing the human figure with the help of a manikin
Today, I want to teach myself how to draw people. I want to draw figures that are in the right proportions, that capture a movement, a style.
Let’s begin with a very academic manikin.
In this video, I try to draw a wooden manikin in two very simple positions. I loved this exercise, and found it really fun to focus on the different body parts as abstract, three-dimensional forms.
For this drawing, you don’t need a lot, just:
a pencil (I use 2B)
white paper (here I draw in my sketchbook).
Step 1 – First sketch of a manikin with pencil
With this drawing I definitely put in place my go-to method of focusing on geometric forms. I would describe it in the following way (as I have done in several other posts on this blog):
First, I look at the whole picture as a composition of several very simple shapes: a circle, a square or a triangle, for example. In this case, I have an oval (the face) and some rectangles, cylinders and cones. Then I look at all the other sorts of geometrical shapes, and I see how they intersect. Where do the shoulders connect to the torso? And I refine and refine and refine, with lots of erasing and re-drawing.
I do not refer to general theoretical proportions of the body or the face. I try to observe the photo or model that is my inspiration (here the wooden manikin in front of me), so much so that I almost forget what it is, only zooming in on geometrical shapes.
It is in fact a very relaxing process to free oneself of the obligation to draw something that has to look like a human form, and just to focus on geometrical shapes.
In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 01:40. It actually took me 17 minutes to draw the first manikin.
Step 2 – Second sketch of a manikin with pencil
The method goes like this – it is very much a trial and error process – in three steps:
I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were some abstract shape.
I try to reproduce it on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the shapes look the same? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
Then I look at my drawing again, not as geometrical shapes but as what it is supposed to be (here a wooden manikin). Does it look like it? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.
I have purposely kept, in the video, a part where I made a mistake in the drawing of the right leg. In Step 3 of the process (does it look like a manikin?), I saw that the manikin on my sketchbook page could would not have been able to walk, because one of its legs was too long. So I erased, went back to Step 2 and looked at the geometrical shape. It was supposed to be the same length as the other leg, so I made the gesture of a compass to measure where I should draw it and drew it again. Sorted!
In the short video above, this runs from 01:40 to 03:28. It actually took me 23 minutes.
Step 3 – Adding details and volume to the manikin
We are almost there! I just wanted to add a few more details and shading to convey the impression of volume. This is easily done while listening to one’s favourite podcast. Just remember the shapes are round, so draw curved hatching lines for the shading.
In the short video above, this runs from 03:28 to 04:06. It actually took me 15 minutes.
And voilà, here are two beautiful drawings in your sketchbook.
I love to add pages to my sketchbook because it always makes me feel like I have accomplished something, even if it took just a few minutes of my time.
There is beauty and power in a regular routine. In a few weeks or months from now, I am sure I am going to come back to this study and try it again. Will my technique have changed? Will I like the end result better? We shall see!
I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything. I am just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in a regular art practice.
If you want a step-by-step guide to how I draw a self-portrait, with even more detail, check out this course, a simple guide to creating an elegant portrait or self-portrait, which will be ready to frame or gift in only 7 days.
If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other projects. Enjoy!