Term 1, Figure Drawing I, Week 1

Week of October 12, 2020

12 min readOct 19, 2020

Unit Plan


For each unit, I will choose one or two video resources and one book resource. The idea is to learn something, then practice it. That means I should have drawings that exercise the concepts from each chapter and each video. In the “Drawings and Critiques” section below, I specify the resource I’m practicing above the photos, and I write the critique below the photo.

For Figure Drawing I, I’ve chosen Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals course. Most of the videos are available for free on youtube. I’ll spend 2–3 days on each lesson. That seems a little rushed, but I’ll probably return to the exercises in different units. For the book, I’ve chosen Glenn Vilppu’s Vilppu Drawing Manual. I almost went with Loomis’s Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, but I’ve already gone through that book, and flipping through the Vilppu book it looked like there was a lot of overlap with the Proko material. I’ll aim to spend 45 minutes to an hour with with Vilppu book each day.

Finally, I would like to have a motivational resource available. This week I read Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. I like how he treats the concept of mastery as a path to be walked, instead of a state that is one day attained.

Art Parent

The Draftsmen podcast has an episode on choosing art parents. I thought it would be fun to have an art parent for each unit. For the Figure Drawing I unit I’m choosing John Buscema as my art parent. That means when searching for reference for exercises, I should focus on his art when possible.


I’m adding one or two daily drawing challenges for each unit. The challenge should fit the topic of the unit. For Figure Drawing I, I’m going to do a Croquis Cafe gesture session every day. Each video session is a live model doing a series of poses: 5 1-minute poses, 4 2-minute poses, and 1 5-minute pose, for a total of 18 minutes of drawing. In addition, I’m going to use the same gesture session format but using issues of The Savage Sword of Conan illustrated by John Buscema for reference, since he’s my art parent for this unit.


For live model drawings I use a Conte charcoal pencil, Pierre Noir 1710 B and smooth 18 x 24 Strathmore newsprint. I really like this style of sketching, but I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks, so I don’t have very good control of the pencil yet with the overhand (thumb on top) style.

I also use a Strathmore 400 series sketchbook and a Mars Staedtler lead holder with HB lead.

Drawings and Critiques

Monday Oct. 12

Croquis Cafe gesture session #436 (charcoal pencil on rough newsprint).

One minute gestures. I don’t get the feel for the poses here, with the exception of maybe the top right. The lines are messy and unsure.

Same here. I’m not capturing the gesture. The poses are stiff.

Two minute gestures. Lots of weird proportions here. Everything is still too stiff.

Something looks off with the twist of the torso in the 5 minute sketch. The right elbow is floating, when it should probably be resting on the knee.

Gesture session from The Savage Sword of Conan #1 (HB graphite on fine tooth 9 x 12 sketch pad).

I can tell what’s going on, but there’s nothing pleasant about looking at these.

It’s more difficult to get the gesture of clothed figures because I end up getting the gesture of the drapery instead. It’s still good practice I guess.

Still messy and unsure. I’m holding the pencil overhand with my palm down, and I’m not used to that yet. That’s why the lines have a thick quality. I usually hold the pencil like I’m writing, but for gesture I like the range of motion I get with my palm parallel to the paper.

I get the feeling of the action in the 5 minute drawing. The right leg is a little out of perspective though.

Gesture practice applying the Proko gesture lesson (charcoal pencil on rough 18 x 24 newsprint).

I feel more motion in these than the previous gestures from today.

Here the lines are starting to get more confident and smooth. I think that really improves the feel of the motion.

The calves are very thin here.

Thin calves again.

Exercises from Vilppu Drawing Manual (HB graphite on 9 x 12 sketch pad).

I like Vilppu’s method of following the flow of the figure with lines.

Tuesday Oct. 13

Croquis Cafe gesture session #435 (charcoal pencil on 18 x 24 rough newsprint).

The top left is really nice. I get the movement and the pose, and the figure is balanced, like it’s believably standing on solid ground. In contrast, the balance is way off in the top right. It looks like it’s floating in a weird way. Bottom left is solid. I kept forgetting the neck and having to move the head up.

There’s some drapery thrown in here that obscures the body, which makes it more difficult for me. The first one is ok, but the proportions are off in the rest.

I’m not sure what happened with the left figure. Maybe I was trying Glen Vilppu’s flowing lines. I always go into shading in the 5 minute drawings, but the structure leaves much to be desired. I should erase and improve structure instead of going to shading.

Proko 30 second gestures (charcoal pencil on 18 x 24 smooth newsprint).

The smooth newsprint is so much nicer than the rough. These are pretty minimal, but it’s hard to do much more in 30 seconds.

I get a nice feeling of motion from all these except the bottom left. These are watching proko do the gestures and then copying them instead of doing them myself from scratch.

Gesture session from The Savage Sword of Conan #1 (HB graphite on 9 x 12 fine tooth sketch pad).

Getting the comic gestures right are much more difficult than drawing from life. Maybe because the reference is already an interpretation?

Pretty embarrassing.

These feel better as far as motion.

The bottom row is in the Vilppu gesture style.

These are copied from chapter 1 of the Vilppu drawing manual.

More Vilppu gestures.

Lots of good motion here, although proportions are off.

This is my final page of the drawabox.com plants lesson. I’m not working on drawabox this month, but I had this one final page to finish up, so I wanted to get it done before starting Art Home School.

Wednesday Oct. 14

Croquis Cafe gesture session #434 (charcoal pencil on smooth newsprint).

My lines are smoothing out, but the proportions and motion are lost in these.

I like the motion of the third one. The first is stiff, and the second has some inverted curves on the legs.

Now I’m back to messy lines and bad proportion.

The figures just aren’t believable.

These are copied from proko gesture demonstrations. I do much better when I watch someone else do a proper gesture.

More proko copies. I started numbering each drawing to make them easier to refer to. #1, #2, and #4 look believable.

I’m seeing a lot of elongated torsos. That is a problem I had all week.

Gesture sessions from The Savage Sword of Conan #1 (HB graphite on 9 x 12 fine tooth sketch pad).

It’s nice to get practice with some different body types (even if they’re fictitious).

All three of these look like they’re in completely different styles.

Hands and feet are somewhere in between gesture and detail, the result of which is very bad. I should stick with pure gesture for these short drawings and not try to delineate fingers.

Practicing the Proko “bean.”

It’s hard to criticize these without seeing them side by side with the reference. A good bean captures the twist, lean, and tilt of the torso and pelvis. Sometimes it’s hard to see on the model.

Thursday Oct. 15

Croquis Cafe gesture session #433 (charcoal pencil on smooth newsprint).

I’m not liking any of these.

A little better than the last page, but they almost look like cartoons.

I like the right foot on #2.

Gesture sessions from The Savage Sword of Conan #1.

I like all the motion and action here.

These are more stiff. I shouldn’t bother shadowing a leg on a 2 minute drawing.

These look good in terms of proportion and motion. The right leg on #5 is a little small.

Vilppu style gesture. I like the proportions and the movement.

Here comes a ton of beans.

Vilppu gestures.

I think I get more motion in the Vilppu style, but then again these are copied from his gestures instead of from models.

#1 and #2 look like more traditional gestures. #3 just looks like a contour drawing.

Proportions are mostly decent here.

Friday Oct. 16

Croquis Cafe session 431.

These look really mediocre. I’m comparing them with the Vilppu gestures, but I should remember that I spent much more than 1 minute on those.

These are a little better. Correct proportions and smooth lines are a prerequisite.

I like #1. The left arm should taper more. It’s the same width all the way down.

Gesture session from The Savage Sword of Conan #2.

Off to a rough start.

Oddly, the comic poses are more realistic than the live models.

5 minutes is too long for gesture but too short for detail. I should probably start with a gesture, then fill in detail one area at a time instead of trying to get all the detail in.

Proko structure lesson. I didn’t draw very many shapes because I’ll be doing the drawabox.com 250 cylinder challenge next month.

Vilppu gestures.

It’s good to practice some different body types.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the leg on #1.

Saturday Oct. 17

Croquis Cafe #429.

I never really like the 1 minute gestures.

Elongated torso on #1. I really like #4.

Wide torso on #1, long torso on #2, small right leg on #3, but #4 looks good.

The Savage Sword of Conan #2 gestures.

Good motion in #2 and #3.

These are all unique. That’s the benefit of drawing comics.

A mummified wizard next to a tissue box.

Proko landmarks lesson practice.


Vilppu exercise. Smoosh two circles together and make them come alive.

Sunday Oct. 18

Croquis Cafe #437.

#1 and #3 seem to capture the motion with minimal lines.

Too much over drawing.

Elongated torso alert!!

The Savage Sword of Conan #3 gesture session.

#1 is a demon thing.

Not great.

I like all of these.

Proko landmarks exercises.

I like how these turned out. The rib cage in #1 looks off, and the lower back is a bit too long.