The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel


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The Human Figure by John H. Vanderpoel

When I was still an architect, the majority of my focus in art was the figurative genre. This is because most of the classes I took then were figurative, and to me there is nothing more challenging or rewarding than drawing the human form and capturing a modicum of likeness and accuracy.

And being the diver that I am, when I was on my own I would take time to practice drawing the human form by copying out of books, and one of my favorite books to copy from was Vanderpoel’s The Human Figure.

So this summer when I needed to bone up on facial features again, I returned to copying from this book. But instead of using charcoal or graphite, I used oil paint. I switched my practice to oil paint because when you are painting, you are using masses to create form, where when you are drawing, you typically rely on contour and line to create form, and I wanted to practice my paint handling at the same time as I was practicing the human form.

Here are some photos of how I used this book to practice.

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Using a limited palette of titanium white, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, I would copy out each small drawing that graces the margins of this book. These were all fast studies, I would set a timer for thirty minutes and try to complete each page of images in that time frame. The goal was to quickly discern the important shapes and try to capture it with speed and accuracy.

Nothing too precious, in fact I would take a photo of each session with my iphone and then wipe the studies down and start over.


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The text is extremely helpful in reinforcing what you learn from the act of copying out. So I encourage you to read each chapter at the same time you are copying the images.

The Human Figure