Lesson #3: Drawing the Figure in Action

Part of the unit: The Figure at Rest and at Play |


Why do we need to be keen observers to draw a figure?
Students will be able to:
Draw a figure in an action pose with attention to direction and position of the limbs and torso
Students will understand that:
Artists carefully observe the poses of a figure when drawing.

Ebony pencils, erasers, 12x18 drawing paper, 18" rulers


Reginald Marsh's High Yaller or Twenty Cent Movie, several 12" or 16" wooden manikins


Display Reginald Marsh's High Yaller or Twenty Cent Movie.  Arrange a wooden manikin in a standing pose.

Review prior learnings in the drawing unit.  Explain that today's lesson will build on students' knowledge to draw proportional figures in action poses. 

  • Describe the pose of the figure in Marsh's painting.

Invite a student to manipulate the manikin to imitate the pose of the figure in the painting.  Ask students to closely observe the manikin's pose and to note the direction and angle of the limbs and torso. 



Distribute 12x18 drawing paper, ebony pencils, ruler and erasers.

Using a piece of 12x18 drawing paper, demonstrate how to hold the paper horizontally and use a ruler to make dots at each one inch point from top to bottom on both sides.  Connect the dots horizontally to create light guidelines that divide the paper into 12 equal one inch spaces.  Students should follow teacher's step-by-step directions to create guidelines on their papers.

Use the manikin that mimics the pose in the Marsh painting as a model.   Demonstrate how to modify simple forms such as cylinders, squares and ovals to draw the manikin at the far left of the paper. Explain the importance of the angles of the limbs, shoulders, waist and hips to capture the action of the figure. Remind students to pay attention to the guidelines.

Indicate how the metal bar supporting the manikin can be used as a guide to seeing clearly the angles of the figure.

Place a manikin in an action pose on each table.  Holding the paper horizontally, students should begin by drawing the first pose at the far left of their paper.  After 5 minutes, each manikin should be switched to the next table going clockwise around the room.  Students should be able to complete 3-4 drawings.

Post the drawings in front of the room. Ask students to reflect on the different ways the same subject was drawn.

  • How did your drawings change from the first one to the last one?

Ask students to choose a particular pose they find compelling.

  • Why did you choose this drawing?
  • Which manikin does it depict? How do you know?
  • How can we make this drawing more closely resemble the manikin?

Tell students that the next lesson will explore "a longer investigationof the figure in action."

There are many ways that artists draw the human figure.  Go to the website:  www.alhirschfeld.com.  This artist is known for his caricatures of famous people. 

  • What is a caricature?

Click on the last picture on the "table" to select the year 2000 and view a number of the images.  Select one drawing that illustrates the figure in action and print it out to include in your homework. 

  • Explain why you chose this drawing.
  • Describe how the artist has used line and shape to depict action.