I see an awful lot of portrait artists on the scene today. I too fell into that rabbit hole for a while, but then I realized that what I want more is to draw figures in scenery that tells a story. Figures have never been easy for me to draw. I have a manga book that teaches certain aspects of figure drawing however I get so impatient. Anyone starting out with drawing figures will tell you...you have to draw a lot of ugly figures before one emerges that is proper. So without further ado, here are a few tips that I've picked up for drawing figures.
1. Always work in pencil first, that way you can erase and make corrections. I'm so guilty of just going at my work with pens...even just Bic pens. But when you are drawing something more challenging it is always good to be able to fine tune as you go. The eraser is your best friend in figure drawing!
2. Use a photo as inspiration and add creative elements as you go. One of the best drawing lessons I ever got was from a Bert Dodson book. You want to spend more time looking at the subject matter and just let your pencil do the walking. Instead of just looking at your paper, look at the photo and let your pencil outline the outer edge of the figure. Glance down at your paper periodically however most of the drawing is done with your eyes on the subject matter. It takes practice to learn to trust your eye to hand coordination however in time you will see that this method creates a more accurate representation.
3. Think about proportions. If you have to, stand in front of a mirror and look at the placement of your arms and where they fall along the body. The arms are the most challenging part for me, I always seem to draw them too short. The hands tend to fall right at hip level or just below.
4. Stylize your work so it is original to you! If you aren't into realism, more power to you! Honestly I've fought the good fight and every time I try to do realism it just isn't in the cards for me. Get comfortable with your own style and add creative elements to make your figures your own.
5. Practice makes perfect! Rome wasn't built in a day and drawing skills take time. My new commitment is to practice drawing every day. You will notice a huge difference in your art the minute you begin showing up each day to practice. In just six months time you will be amazed at how far your art will go.
I hope these tips give you some encouragement to do some figure drawing. It takes a bit of elbow grease, moxie and commitment to show up for yourself and your creative practice. But it is so worth it!