My reference-based drawings look stiff and boring. What’s the solution?
Paul Limpar, Sweden
Answer Tony replies
Well, the short answer is to not actually copy your reference, but use it as a guide. I know this can be daunting when you’re just starting out, but the key to creating a dynamic pose from a model or photo is being comfortable pushing, stretching and moving bits around to make the drawing say what you want.
Part of this is just something that will come with time as you build up figure drawing mileage, but knowing what to strive for is half the battle. For this example I want to really emphasise energy and motion, so I’m drawing the singer, dancer, actress, military spy and Legion of Honour recipient Josephine Baker.
The first sketch I’ve made – the left-hand one of the two drawings below left – is a direct copy of the reference photo. Though I’m still making a lot of design choices in regards to line weight and what I leave out (that’s just sort of drawing in general), shape-wise I’ve made no attempt to stray from the source image. With this as a starting point, I’ll show you how I push the pose to convey an idea. My goal is to use gesture, structure and technique to tell a bit of story with the drawing.
The finished sketch has some value added in to separate the figure from the background. Even your brushwork becomes part of
the design. Hopefully the second drawing has a bit more gusto in it than the first, which copies the source directly.