Drawing A Greek Terracotta Figure in my Sketchbook

Practise drawing the human figure from a Greek sculpture


In my personal journey of working on my art to try to become a better artist, one of the first things I wanted to work on was how to draw people. Drawing people is both a real goal – one of the joys of drawing, I think – and a real fear, because it is the kind of drawing where the technical errors show up most clearly. I am not sure whether there are really such things as errors in art – but, while I may lack self-confidence here, I am determined to train and to do better.

So I decided to work on different types of studies of people, to help me feel more confident. I drew manikins and selfies, an from an ancient photograph, and then I thought drawing a beautiful little figurine (28.6 cm/11¼ in. high) might help me hone my skills.

This Greek terracotta figure from the Metropolitan Museum in New York City is beautiful and it inspires me. How can I capture its very natural movement?

Terracotta statuette of a woman looking into a box mirror. Hellenistic, 3rd-2nd century B.C., terracotta, 28.8cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NewYork, Rogers Fund, 1912.

I drew it with simple pencil on paper. It made me realise how much I loved to draw from a picture of a three-dimensional object, and I did it again and again — with  a lion, another lion, a hand ...




For this drawing, you don't need a lot:

  • a pencil (I use 2B)

  • a sharpener

  • an eraser

  • white paper (here I draw in my sketchbook).



Step 1 – Drawing the head and arms

I began this drawing my way: I often feel the need to begin with the head. I probably should begin with sketching the entire figure first, and getting the general proportions right. I did not do that for this drawing, but I drew the face and head first, and then the raised arms on either side of it.

The arms were the most difficult to draw, because I had to draw them with a little of what we call in French a raccourci, or foreshortening. It is when parts of the body have to be drawn shorter because they are seen in perspective.

It was a very simple sketch, with no details. I just wanted to draw a few visible traits. The sculpture is looking down, and the face is barely visible. The level of detail here is very different from the level of detail I put in the self-portrait.

In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 01:13. It actually took me 8 minutes.


Step 2 – Drawing the entire figure

Then I drew the rest of the figure, and the very interesting and delicate drapery. It was a very quick sketch, as I was drawing with spontaneity, without thinking too much about it.

In the short video above, this runs from 01:13 to 02:42. It actually took me 5 minutes.


Step 3 – Drawing details and adding dimension

Then I went back to draw the details. Shadows and draperies enhance the viewer’s perception of volume, and it felt like this gave life to the drawing.

I am really interested in working more on drapery.

In the short video above, this runs from 02:42 to 04:06. It actually took me 7 minutes.



And voilà!

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.


Finished drawing in my sketchbook| Drawing a Greek Terracotta in my Sketchbook, by The Daily Atelier


This is the course where I share my personal formula for drawing a portrait or a self-portrait with pencil, even if you don’t have a lot of time or haven’t drawn in a long time.

This is the course where I share my personal formula for drawing a portrait or a self-portrait with pencil, even if you don’t have a lot of time or haven’t drawn in a long time.

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 portraits. Enjoy!