Not that I have the right to tell you, but this is what I’ve figured out.

Draw a big circle to fit the entire figure inside. This is to make sure that you don’t run off the edge of the page.

Draw a line for the spine. Just one line.

Draw a cup shape for the hips. Don’t draw more than that.

Draw a box for the torso, a circle for the head, and stick arms and legs. Don’t draw any other lines.

Turn the legs and arms into cylinders. Use no more than two lines each for this. That’s a cylinder for the lower arm, a cylinder for the upper arm, repeat four times. Block the torso in and turn the head into a sphere. Do exactly this and don’t do anything else.

The hand is a box. The foot is a wedge. Don’t draw toes. Toes are like teeth and eyelashes — as a general rule drawings look better without them. Don’t worry about fingers, if the hand is closed they’re a wedge, if they’re open it’s a cup, and if it’s anything else then draw an arc that shows where the fingers end and move on. Don’t draw anything on the face except for a line for the eyes and a line for the center.

And now for the most important part:

Actually follow these instructions. If you didn’t, toss that drawing, go back and do it again.


If you have followed my instructions properly, you will have a basic figure, and most importantly, NO OTHER BULLSHIT.

Now you can scribble. Use the remainder of your time and attention to elaborate details. Do whatever you want. After the basic figure, which should not take more than sixty seconds to draw, you have enough information to work one pose any which way. I usually start with the hips and the inside of the weight-bearing leg, and then get distracted by the collarbone or the bridge of the nose or whatever I feel like.

Not drawing is, for me, the hardest part of drawing. It’s taken me a long time to realize that wasted lines not only cloud the picture, they cloud my vision of the picture and make proportions impossible to get right.

I’ve taking life drawing classes pretty regularly for a pretty long time, and let me tell you, scribbling straight does not work. Give up, because it is wrong. Even if you are getting good results, you could be getting them faster if you just draw what you intend and don’t draw what you don’t intend. Thirty second and one minute poses are wasted on scribblers. You will only feel mounting frustration if you attempt to approach short poses in any other way than this, which is breaking the body down to simple shapes and then elaborating them.

Which is what you are supposed to be doing.

Life drawing models are living in a different time zone from the people drawing them. For the model the seconds tick by like hours, and for the artists five minutes is barely time to get started. Models cannot possibly pose for the time that artists want in the poses that artists need. Strenuous poses hurt. They cannot be held for any length of time. But many of the most interesting poses are strenuous. In my opinion the best balance between the model’s needs and the artists’ lies at about three minutes. That’s short enough that the model can do something cool, but long enough that the artist can get a good drawing of it.

So if you can’t bust out a decent life drawing in three minutes you’re missing out on the best stuff.