Figure drawing reference

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Good references are no longer a secret tool hoarded by the select few who have achieved titanic success in the creative industries. It is pretty much a given that an incredible piece is only as good as its references and I hope that this sentiment brings people hope rather than despair.

Finding inspiration and using it in your art is as much about giving yourself a technical advantage as it is providing a foothold by which to get to grips with the blank page before you.

Art is a very, very technical thing. There’s composition, form, line work and colour to consider (among many others) and these concepts are not innate to us in any way. So we learn and learn and if you’re an artist you will be well aware of the fact that we usually do our learning very visually. References are a great way to do so and when used correctly and in a way that enables growth and development in your practice will be a powerful tool in your workflow for life.

Let’s take a look at some ways that you can incorporate references into your approach and see if there is anything you find useful enough to pick up.

Cobble together

Frankenstein different things together to make your dream references. Sometimes the best way to approach creating a jumping-off point is to go ham city on different bits of inspiration and smash them together on a page. Some call it collage, some call it massacre. Good figure drawing reference is all about finding what works for you and a cobbled-together approach can often lead to a good degree of specificity and nuance to use as a way to start your drawings.

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Hint: Use JustSketchMe to create 3D figure drawing references

Straight-up trace

Sometimes you don’t want to sweat the body as much as the clothes it wears. If you’re looking to design a character via its visual components or maybe you’re just looking to sketch out a few dope details, there is nothing stopping you from tracing a rough idea of a body and focusing on those details that you want to get across and onto the page. Not every piece needs to be a complete and fully realised artwork. Have a go at getting your thoughts out first and foremost and then the rest will come later.

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Visual cues

Have you ever looked at a corinthian pillar and thought that might look great as ancient armour? Use it! Have you seen a vase that could look great as a silhouette for a tentacle monster? Well, there you go. Inspiration comes from everywhere and you would be a fool to not answer the muse’s tidings. Be your own curator and source inspo from wherever you might find it

Shape and form

Many artists use unconventional methods to inspire the shapes and dynamism present in their work. Just look at these everyday items turned into space ships by artist Eric Geusz:

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Finding figure drawing references does not need to follow a linear or even logical process and you should try to train your eye so you can pick up flourishes and cues that others may not. Your ability to edit and sample is a powerful tool in your arsenal and by getting weirder and more arch with how you approach your art you can help yourself stand out.