5 Things to Think about when Composing a Drawing

life drawing, soft pastel, lucy chen

Life Drawing in soft pastel, by Lucy Chen

Here are some of my latest life drawings.  Some of these poses are as short as 5 minutes, and others 20 to 30 minutes.  Do you think I’ve improved from the beginning of the year (click here to see my earlier life drawings)?

Though there isn’t much time to DESIGN a drawing when it comes to sketching life models in a group class, looking back at my own works and those of the other students’ in the class, here are a few things I’ve found that would affect how I feel about a drawing.

I know I need to practice utilizing them more in composing a drawing.


Life Drawing in charcoal, by Lucy Chen

1. Atmospheric vs Defined

Loose marks, soft edges and “smudging” gives a more atmospheric effect.  Well defined features and hard edges draws the viewer’s attention.

2. Describe vs Exaggerate

Do I want to draw the lines, shapes or render the values as is, or do I want to exaggerate what I see?

3. Quality of the Lines

We have a variety of lines, dark, light, thick and thin, at our command.  Learning to use a combination of those lines to get what you want?  It’s as much practice as it is intuition.

4. Fully Rendered vs Simply Contour

When used in the same drawing, the fully rendered part has more weight and the simple contour part feels much lighter. When used well, it’s very powerful in controlling how the viewer’s eyes move across the page.

5. Light vs Dark

As long as there is a mark on the paper, there is contrast, there is light and dark.  How to embrace both is a life long practice.  It’ll not only can make a drawing stronger, but a life more meaningful.


Life Drawing in ink, by Lucy Chen

Do you have a tip to share about composing a drawing?

Please share with us in the comment below.

By the way, I just started this “Expressive Figure Drawing” online course on Craftsy.com.  They’re running a 50% back-to-school sale at the moment. Want to join me?  See you in the class.

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