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10 Things I Know About The Figure and How It Relates To The Landscape

1: Think of the figure as if it had a big sheet covering the whole thing.

What shape would that take on? That's the big shape you need to start with.

Woman folded over grabbing her feet on a cylinder.

Woman folded over grabbing her feet with red lines showing the shape of her.

Woman laying down with a blue triangle in front showing the shape of her.

Woman laying down with red lines showing the shape of her.

Mountain landscape painting.

Mountain landscape painting with blue lines showing the shape.

2 - Inner Curves.

Once you have established your envelope you can begin to look inward.

Looking for the inner line that will run through the middle. This inner curve does not reveal it self very easily. You need to look for it and dig it out. It runs through all living things.

Drawing of a man sitting down with curved lines drawn on him.

Woman posing for a camera.

Woman laying down holding her knee.

Woman laying down holding her knee with blue curved lines showing her shape.

Landscape painting of a snowy church at the top of a hill.

Landscape painting of a snowy church at the top of a hill with red lines showing the shape.

Landscape painting with mountains in the background.

Landscape painting with mountains in the background and red lines showing the shape of the painting.

3 - Inny and Outy.

All things living things have an outward line. Everything starts out as a molecule and grows from there. As we grow and get bigger the molecules expand in an outward motion.

Concave and Convex illustration.

Illustration of a molecule.


If it’s inward line it denotes weakness or sickness as if something is now on its way out and dying. Good old Walt Disney sure knew this.

Scar was evil and sick (Inny lines) Mufasa was the king. Strong and brave. (Outy lines)

Lion king's Scar and Mufasa.

lines showing the shape of Scar and Mufasa's shape from The Lion King.

Scar and Simba from The Lion King.

Evil queen from Snow White.

Queen. Evil, bad mean… Inny lines.

Snow White with pink lines showing her shape.

Snow White… Hero, pure, Outty lines.

Womans green dress.

Woman in a green dress coming down the stairs.

Looks like they go in…

Woman in a green dress going down the stairs.

A Closer look say’s they are all outty lines.

Drawing of a woman laying down.

Drawing of a woman laying down with red and blue lines showing the shape.

Two drawings of landscapes that are similar.

On the left… One bad inny line.

On the right, fixed with four good outty lines.

Same shape but a stronger read.

Landscape painting with red lines showing the angles.

We still maintain our linear perspective…

Looks like inny lines…

Landscape painting with red lines showing the spaces between clouds.

Upon further examination….

Outty lines! Clouds are almost always made with outward lines.

Landscape painting of trees.

Landscape painting with lines showing the shape of the hills.

Carl rungs was always outty lines.

4 - The line begins before the line begins.

The fullness of the gesture.

Illustration of a calf muscle.

Illustration of a leg muscle.

Man modelling leaning over on his leg.

Man modelling leaning over on his leg.

Mans muscle arm.

A mans arm with lines showing the shape.

Landscape painting of a purple hill.

Landscape painting of a purple hill.

See how the colours flow in this Tom Thompson painting just like muscular flow in the body.

5 - One Side, So Does The Other.

Emile Gruppe trees

6 - Asymmetry.

A lot of what makes gesture is the relationship between the two sides of the forms. For example, the squash side versus the stretch side on the torso. It’s that tension between the stretched out smoother side and then the sharp angle change on the squash side. Those two sides play off against each other and it creates a lot of visual interest. If they were symmetrical it would be way less gestural. Very often people will make the head a bit big and make the hips and legs too small, and that seems to undermine the gesture. You don’t need total accuracy – the key is just to be wrong in the right direction.

7 - Surface Lines

The next ingredient is surface lines. Sometimes called cross contour lines or wrapping lines. Often a gestural curve is a big long curve that runs down the form. This will show you the gesture but if you add some surface lines you can really show the mass of the the figure.

Just as the figures above, the red lines show the gesture go the tree. The blue lines show the way the brush marks show the contour of the trunk.

8 - Tension vs Passive.

Squash side vs. stretch side.

Tension tends to be inny cramped areas with lots going on. Bent arms and legs. Pinched torso. Neck tilted. More often than not they can be darker in value. Passive area’s are smoother and less busy. Longer and more flowey. Arms or legs stretched out. Long curve of the back side.

Sometimes your not in charge of model poses so you get what you get. If you are in charge then somethings to think about… Along with trying not to have 50/50 light and shade, something else to think about is your active squashy side and the passive stretchy side. The active side being more active and busy, has more visual weight than the passive side. Be carful not to make these the same weight. Squishy goes a long way.

Chancey Ryder trees.

Note the dark squishy pensive side and the outward open on the left side. Just like the drawing above, this is gesture drawing in paint.

9 - Fast lines & Slow lines

The Breaking of The Pinched Surface Areas Tend to Be Darker.

Good place for lots of value transition. You can place background colour in hi tension places. Lines tend not to break here.

Longer smoother lines (like a strait away on a race track) tend get up to speed and go at a rapid pace. As you eye will always travel along a line these long lines are called fast lines. They can sometimes need a break to slow the eye down. Long soft lines like these are a great place to break the surface and have the figure become part of the background.

Left side is barely broken but the right side being a long fast line is broken allowing the figure to penetrate the background.

Look at the angled horizon line and how, near the tree it has been broken to slow the line down and let the sky move into the middle ground.

10 - Practice.

Practice will make you more confident good drawing is born out of confidence. Even if you not confident in what you’re drawing you need to put your marks down with the confidence of a six year old with a cape. What ever is in your head will come out the hand. If you thinking timidly then you marks with be hesitant and sketchy at best.

That’s all for this month kiddies,

Stay arty,


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5 commentaires

han gu
han gu
09 juil.

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Well explained, thanks Doug!


Marg Smith
Marg Smith
19 mars

Thank you Doug!


You really are the best! Thanks, as always, for sharing your knowledge so generously, along with your signature humour. You make me learn while I laugh!


aka Brownie!


You're the best, Doogie!!!

Verna aka Lola Lilibet

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