If you've read more than one episode of ATLAND, you can probably tell that I prefer women with curves. I don't find anything sexy about those wafer-thin runway models that pass for the epitome of beauty in the media. Real women have hips, breasts and rear-ends. 'Sexy' is an attitude. And this article is proof that I'm not alone in that opinion. One of the top requests I've gotten for new additions to the ATLAND website is an article about how I draw the curvaceous ladies featured in the strips.
I'd say one of the most elusive, magical and rewarding subjects in art is the female form. Most beginning artists have a frustrating time with female anatomy, and only the most experienced artists come close to getting it right. (I don't count myself among that group. I threw away two preliminary sketches before I was satisfied enough to complete the drawing featured here!)
The best way to learn the female form is to study it in person. That means live, nude models. You'll have access to those in college art classes, but if you're like me, long since graduated… having a large selection of nude women on hand isn't much of a likelihood (my wife, in particular, frowns on having them in the house.) If you've got a wife or girlfriend who's willing to pose for you, great! Indulge! But remember, women's bodies come in all different shapes, colors and sizes and you should get familiar with all of them.
That brings us to the second best way to study female form: photos. If you're reading this, you've got access to the internet, (and assuming you're over 18,) that means you can Google search for nude photos to your heart's content. There's NO shame in it. You can't learn to draw it if you can't see it. I have a huge collection of photo books and web-searched images in my library. Here are just a handful of my favorite muses: Bianca Beauchamp, Nadine Jansen, Chloe Vevrier, Vanessa Blue, Masuimi Max, Lorna Morgan and the Suicide Girls. Please note that searching for pics of these ladies online will result in adult content.
The last and least reliable way to draw women is directly from your imagination. Unless you've spent years with the first two options of source material, you're not going to be very successful or accurate. For this drawing, I started out with a few reference photos for inspiration, but ended up relying on experience for the most part.
What do you say we get out the pencils and paper and get going, eh?
If you want to read about the tools I use, see my other article on how an ATLAND strip is made.
For this article I've decided to draw a female pixie for the Denizens page of the website. As I said above, I threw away two rough drafts before I was happy with this pose. I always start with a basic gestural skeleton. This does two things, it lets me get the proportions right and it establishes the flow of the piece. She's flying, so the flow starts in the top right hand side, and goes to the bottom left hand side.
Here's the drawing, about 30 seconds in…
Now I start fleshing things out. By habit, I tend to start with the shoulders and chest and work down. I usually do the face last. Two things I want to mention here are axis and breasts.
The imaginary line through the shoulders and hips are axis and they tend to oppose. If the shoulders dip to the left (as shown) the hips will tend to dip to the right.
As far as breasts are concerned, remember, they are conical ovals of skin filled with malleable fat. Meaning, they offer very little resistance to gravity or applied force. You squeeze the bottom, and the fat moves up. Just like a balloon full of water. This pixie will have a corset that pushes her breasts up and together, but let's start with un-modified breasts, hanging naturally. Here are some bullet points about large breasts for all you comic book readers who are so used to bogus anatomy:
· Large breasts do not squish together to make deep cleavage by themselves. They spread out and away from each other.
Here's the drawing after about five minutes. You'll notice I decided to have her left index finger resting on her lip. It's playful and alluring, if a bit theatrical. I've added in the curve of her hipbone, bum, pelvis and pubic bone. These areas reinforce the most useful advice I can possibly give you: Use as few lines as possible when drawing ladies, and use all curves. Straight lines are your enemy.
Next we move on to the legs and arms. You need to study muscle forms. Volumes have been written on the subject and there's way too much info to impart here, so let's just say you need to know it. When you try to fake it, it shows. So don't fake it.
Keep your eyes on that extended foot. I changed it until I was happy. There are artists who make a line on the page and it's genius. I am not one of them. I sketch and sketch until I see the line that works the best. Then I erase the others! The eraser is your friend!
Here's the drawing after about 15 minutes.
I've made some choices about her face, hair and wings. Long, curly hair and wings flowing towards the bottom left. (The wind would take them in that direction.) She's got a little smile, and partly closed eyes. It's a little submissive and inviting. Here's the drawing after about 25 minutes.
Satisfied with her anatomy, I start coming up with a costume. She's wearing a frilly corset-style blouse. Corsets are designed to create deep cleavage. They squeeze the breasts up and together. So I change the shape of her breasts accordingly. I also gave her a choker. It's my drawing, and I love chokers, so she's getting one!
Here's the drawing after about 32 minutes.
Here's where I had the most trouble with this one. What to do with the clothing on her lower body? At first I tried a short skirt, but it just wasn't "fantasy" enough. Then I tried a long loin cloth. Nope, threw off the balance of the piece. Then I tried a long loincloth that wrapped around her right leg. No dice. The laws of physics wouldn't allow it and it made the drawing too bottom heavy. Then I shortened the loin cloth and it still didn't look right. Finally I gave up and fit her with some frilly panties that matched her blouse. Bingo! Success. Next I thought about footwear and accessories. I thought maybe some sandals, or some leather cord around her calves, but I just wasn't happy with any of them. An important skill is knowing that less is more. Don't fix it if it ain't broke, and similar clichés. So I left her costume with just panties, blouse and choker.
Here's the drawing after about 45 minutes.
Time for inks! I broke out my brush markers and inked her. At the last minute I gave her some sparkly faerie dust.
Here's the drawing after about 55 minutes.
Time for some digital coloring. I fixed some small issues in Photoshop at this stage. (Like adding a little frill to the left side of her right breast...didn't look right to me.) If you'd like to read more about how I color or ink, read the article on how an ATLAND strip is made.
Here's the piece after 1 hour and 15 minutes.
That's it, she's done! I hope you've enjoyed the article and thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or artwork of your own that you'd like to share, drop me a line from the Contact page.