Draw People in 15 Minutes

Draw People in 15 Minutes

by Jake Spicer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250089632
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 772,815
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

JAKE SPICER is a figurative draftsman, painter, and printmaker who lives and works in the UK, where he is the principal teacher of the Brighton and London Life Drawing Sessions. In 2009 Jake was named the Fringe Report Artist of the Year, and his work is exhibited widely across the UK. Spicer is also the author of Draw Faces in 15 Minutes.

Read an Excerpt

Draw People in 15 Minutes

Amaze your Friends with your Drawing Skills

By Jake Spicer, Rachel Silverlight

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-14090-6



Your Materials

Drawing is a tactile process and the materials used to make a drawing are key to its success. A well-executed drawing made with poor implements on the wrong paper just isn't a good drawing. The techniques described in this book can broadly be applied to all drawing materials; you'll find you'll need to adapt the approaches for different media.

Always start simple; pencil and charcoal are staples of drawing because they are so versatile. Over time you'll find the best materials; experiment with different drawing materials and papers before you settle on a combination you like. Once you find something you get on well with, be fussy and don't settle for less than the ideal but equally don't be afraid to continue innovating and experimenting. The following pages contain more details on basic materials.

Pick Your Kit

If you want to get started straight away, here's a good basic kit list to begin with. It's what I've used for the drawings in this book:

HB, 2B, and 5B graphite pencils for a broad tonal range

A good quality pencil sharpener

A plastic eraser cut in half to give a sharp edge

Off-white size B drawing paper fixed to a drawing board (95lb. or 140 gsm), or a sketchbook of the same paper


You need a paper that suits your drawing materials; the tone, color and surface texture will make a real difference to how your marks appear.


Heavy, good quality drawing paper (cartridge paper, for example) is ideal to draw on. Watercolor paper is absorbent, often textured and is good for wet media or a drawing style that requires heavy texturing. Specialist drawing papers should be acid free, have good longevity and be resistant to discoloration. Construction paper (or sugar paper) is cheaper and grainier than drawing paper, is often colored and will age badly. Plain newsprint or lining paper (wallpaper) can be used if you need to economize but will discolor, and become yellow and brittle over time.


Bleached white paper is the most common, but off-white, ivory or buff is preferable for drawing on; it will show off drawn marks more sympathetically and can be heightened with white. You can use colored papers but if you do, test how the medium looks on it first.


Weight of paper is measured in pounds per ream (poundage or lb.) or in grams per square meter (gsm). Papers between 65–135 lb. (100–200 gsm) are good for drawing on. The paper's weight affects the feel of the mark on the page although weight doesn't always relate to quality — for example you can get very lightweight Chinese and Japanese papers for specialist tasks.


When you are choosing what size of paper to draw on think about practicality; small sketchbooks are good for taking out and about, whereas a static set up with an easel will allow you to use large paper. Also think about what kind of marks you want to make; small paper encourages short marks from the fingers and wrist and can be covered quickly; larger paper encourages sweeping marks from the shoulder and elbow.

Drawing Boards

You'll need a flat surface to rest your paper on, ideally something you can hold at an angle and take around with you while sketching. A rigid, lightweight piece of board, slightly larger than your paper is ideal; pegs, clips or masking tape will secure your paper in place. If the plane of the paper is angled toward your face it will be easier to make direct comparisons between paper and model.

Working on a drawing board on an easel can help with observational drawing, although it can give you arm-ache if you're not used to it! Working flat on a table increases the risk of distortions in the drawing and can put strain on your back and neck.


Sketchbooks are practical and personal; they protect your paper, keep your work in order and small ones are easy to carry around. Ring-bound books can be folded back giving a flat plane of paper but the bindings can break if treated roughly. Hardback sketchbooks are naturally supported; softback books can be cheap but bend too easily. Always think about the type of paper in your sketchbook and find a size and dimension that suits your purposes. Loose paper can always be bound into a sketchbook later.



For drawing, graphite (lead) pencils give smooth, gray marks with a slightly shiny surface. Graphite pencil is very adaptable, can be rubbed out cleanly, and gives a controlled line. Pencils have different grades, measured on a scale of 9H–9B with HB in the middle — H stands for hard and B for black.


Pencils should be kept sharp for consistent drawing. Sometimes you'll want a blunt pencil so that you can achieve a wider, softer line, in which case you can use sandpaper to wear one edge down.


Avoid smudging pencil with your finger as it can be difficult to control; if you want to achieve soft tones you can buy powdered graphite that can be applied to your paper with a finger, paintbrush, stump or tortillion (blunt shaping tools made of rolled paper).


Kneaded erasers come in grades of softness. They are malleable, darken with use, and are best for rubbing out charcoal or graphite powder.

Plastic erasers come in various qualities with cheap not always meaning bad; test a few to see how cleanly they rub out. Cut your eraser to a point so that you can use it as a drawing tool and keep your eraser clean to avoid unwanted smudging.



Charcoal is black and gives a varied, expressive line. The medium wants to smudge, and can be rubbed back with the hand and drawn into with an eraser to create light. Because of the difference in the quality of their surfaces, charcoal and graphite don't always mix well.


Willow charcoal comes in irregularly-sized sticks. It snaps easily and can be used on its side, point down or crushed and applied as powder.


Compressed charcoal is a dense black medium bound with gum arabic; it comes in uniform sticks, is harder to smudge, and doesn't rub out easily. Conté crayon, made from compressed charcoal and a clay or wax, is a good alternative with similar qualities.


Charcoal pencils are made from compressed charcoal in a pencil casing. They come in different grades of light, medium, and dark and give greater control over line than other charcoals.

Pen and Ink

Most ink pens cannot be erased, but do give clean lines, encouraging bold decisions in drawings and are a good choice for linear mark-making. Water-soluble ink can be wetted with a brush and used for painting in tone. All sorts of drawing tools (including brushes, bamboo, straws, etc.) can be dipped into pots of ink and drawn with. Ballpoint pens are cheap, versatile, and give a varied width of line. Fineliner pens provide a constant weight of line with better quality ink than ballpoints. Brush pens give a varying weight of line and are tricky to handle but with experience can be very expressive.

Who, Where, and When to Draw

Sketching Out and About

Once you have your materials you'll need people to draw. Fortunately they're everywhere! Make it easy for yourself to fit drawing into your day-to-day life: carry a pocket sketchbook with you wherever you go and get into the habit of making quick observational sketches when you see somebody worth drawing. Here are some tips designed to help you.

At Home

Set up facing the sofa. Anybody watching TV or falling asleep will make a still and unsuspecting model.

Sketching in Cafés

Sitting by the window gives a range of views inside the café and out. If you're in a café opposite a bus stop your models will practically line up to be drawn.

Sketching on the Train

Sleepy commuters, partially glimpsed profiles and reflections in windows are all fair game for the guerilla draftsman.

Drawing from a Model

If covert outdoor sketching isn't your thing, or you want a model that isn't going to wander off halfway through your drawing, you might want to ask somebody to pose for you.

So You Need a Model

Firstly don't jump the gun; for your initial drawings you need someone who won't mind a few unflattering sketches being made of them! Here are a few ideas for finding people to draw.

* Learn to draw with somebody else. Take it in turn to pose for drawings; you can help one another progress and share tips and revelations. By posing for a drawing yourself you'll also learn to empathize with your own models.

* Find a friend or family member who doesn't mind sitting for a few first drawings. Exchanging the sittings for a meal, gardening, etc. can take away some of their expectation that you should create a good picture early on.

* Attend a life drawing class. Even if your aim isn't to draw nude figures you'll learn a lot from the process. It's a great opportunity to see the work of others and to share ideas.

* Once you're confident with your work, consider paying a professional artists' model to sit for you. You can often contact models via local art groups.

How to Run a Model Sitting

A session drawing from a model is called a "sitting" and the model a "sitter." Even when it is a very friendly and informal sitting there are a few things that are worth bearing in mind, particularly when drawing people who are not used to the experience.

* Firstly, be straight with your model about your level of experience: it will help you to throw yourself into the drawing without apprehension, keeping your drawings energetic and interesting.

* Set yourself an overall time limit for the session; an hour in total is often realistic, giving time for a chat, quick poses, a stretch, and a longer pose.

* Sit the model down comfortably and chat to them for a few minutes without drawing; explain what you'll be doing and that you need them to remain still, but that they can relax and find a comfortable position.

* Once you're ready to start, give your model somewhere to look. This will help them keep still. Put on some music to help you both relax.

* Make some quick drawings of five-minute poses to find a pose and composition you're happy with. These will get your eye and hand working together and will help you to learn the shape of your model's figure, clothes, and features.

* After several studies, have a break. Let the model stretch if they're feeling stiff from remaining still. Then try for a longer fifteen-minute picture; be strict with your timekeeping and know when to stop.

* Be honest with yourself about what the sitting is for. If it's a chance to sketch and chat keep it light and expect to make less considered drawings. If you're trying in earnest to learn and make better drawings you might want to cultivate a serious atmosphere. It's easy to get caught up in playing the artist; if you find yourself worrying about whether you look like a proper artist as you work then you're not paying enough attention to the model and your drawings will suffer for it. In the words of my own teacher John T. Freeman: "It should only be the model who is posing."

Life Studies vs. Photographs

This books mostly deals with drawing from life. When you're sketching from a real person you are translating something 3D (the model) into something 2D (your drawing) and you'll need to fully employ all of the skills of observational drawing. To capture the essence of your subject you want your drawing to be the result of a sitting where you can pick up on all of the characteristics that make your model unique, including all the little movements and shifts that can often be a source of frustration to the draftsman. Equally, if you're out and about sketching you want the hustle and bustle of the world around you to come through in the spontaneous and energetic marks of your drawings, mistakes and all!

Advantages of Drawing from Life

* Life sketches have a natural energy to them

* Your time is limited; you'll practice making intelligent, intuitive decisions

* Sketching from life is sociable and allows you to capture the feel of a situation or person

Disadvantages of Drawing from Life

* Life sketches are often incomplete

* Moving figures are hard to capture, and your model might have expectations of how your drawing will come out

Drawing from a Photo

A photo distances you from the subject of the picture and your drawing becomes a monolog of marks rather than a visual communication between model and draftsman. Translating a 2D image into another 2D image won't provide the opportunity to practice a full range of figure drawing skills, although it can allow you to draw figures without needing a model and in poses a model wouldn't be able to hold. There's no need to be snobbish about working from photos, as they can be a valuable source of imagery to draw from.

Advantages of Drawing from Photos

* You can go into greater detail drawing surface textures and clothing

* Folds in clothing and flows of hair remain in the same position

* You can draw poses that only occur fleetingly in life

Disadvantages of Drawing from Photos

* You are confined to working from only one angle and a single image

* Sketching from photos is solitary work

* As you have unlimited time, its very easy to overwork a picture and make it feel static and lifeless

It's very hard to make a good drawing from a poor photo, so work from the best possible imagery. Try to take your own photos for reference, making it easier to get the angles and lighting you want. Here is the setup that I use when drawing from photographs.



Attitudes and Techniques

This chapter focuses on ways to think about drawing, complementing practice with a little theory to help you understand the revelations of drawing. As you do it more often, you'll come to realize that drawing isn't just about making pictures, it's about learning to see the world differently.

Attitudes are ways of thinking about and approaching the practice of drawing. The attitude you take to making a drawing is as important as the techniques you use to realize it. Techniques, such as the ones in this book, give you a starting point and a process to work through when translating your observation of the three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional drawing. Take all techniques with a pinch of salt. There is no right or wrong way to draw, just better and worse ways of achieving a certain outcome, or learning a particular way of seeing. Some techniques help you structure your time, the way you think about your subject, and the way you make your drawing; others provide clever tricks to make your drawing more striking. Use and adapt the techniques suggested here, combine them with other things you've read or been shown by fellow artists, discarding any approaches that don't suit you, and bring in your own understanding of the world. Do this, and given time you can be sure of developing an approach to drawing that is robust, authentic, and your very own.

Expectation and Intention

Rather than having expectations about the outcome of your drawing, aim to maintain integrity in your process. If you're making an observational study of a person, make sure that you really look at them closely, and that each mark you make on paper is the result of a clear observation. Every drawing you produce should be made for a reason; it is important to know why you are making a drawing before you do, even if that decision happens moments before your pencil touches the paper.


Excerpted from Draw People in 15 Minutes by Jake Spicer, Rachel Silverlight. Copyright © 2016 Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction 6

Draw People in 15 Minutes 8

What You Need

Your Materials 10

Who, Where, and When to Draw 16

Drawing from a Model 18

Life Studies vs. Photographs 20

About Drawing

Attitudes and Techniques 22

Core Skills of Drawing 24

Visual Language 26

Building Skills

Beginning and Improving 28

Seeing Tools 30

Mark-Making 32

Exercise: Eloquent Scribbles 34

Edges and Lines 36

Exercise: Blind Contour Drawing 38

Relationships and Points 40

Exercise: Sight-Size Portrait 42

Shapes and Spaces 44

Exercise: Tiny People 46

Light and Tone 48

Exercise: Subtractive Tone 50

Seeing People as a Whole 52

Observational Measuring 54

Establish, Construct, Elaborate 56

Exercise: Establish, Construct, Elaborate 58

The 1 5-Minute Figure

The Basic Figure 60

Stage 1: Establish the Pose 62

Stage 2: Construct 64

Parallel Stage: the Clothed Figure 66

Parallel Stage: Anatomy 68

Anatomy and Drawn Anatomy 70

Negative Space 72

Parallel Stage: Problem Solving 74

Stage 3: Elaborate 76

Putting It All Together 80

Exercise: a Person in 15 Minutes 86

Going into Detail

The Head 88

The Face 90

Drawing the Features 92

Hair and Hats 94

Arms 96

Hands 98

Legs 100

Feet and Shoes 102

Clothing 104

Fabrics and Drapery 106

Clothing References 108

Dynamic Figures 110

Age 112

Landmarks and Mannequins 114

Human Proportions 116

Foreshortening 120

Problem Solving 122

References 126

Acknowledgments 128

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