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Online Life Drawing Course

Life Drawing I

Life drawing is a fundamental artistic challenge. Capturing the human figure in all its infinite, intricate variations requires both a mastery of technique and a thorough understanding of the body. In this online life drawing course, you'll make your figure drawings come to life with guidance with feedback from an expert instructor. Following traditional methods, you'll learn the standard measures and proportions artists use to achieve naturalistic and expressive figure drawings. The course builds progressively from the fundamentals to the challenges of portraiture, three-dimensional form, composition, and expression.

Life drawing course image 

Figure drawings by student Joella Frahm.

Learn life drawing using classic techniques

Instructor-Led Course

Feedback from design professionals

Creative Projects

Stretch your skills, grow your portfolio

Learn at Your Own Pace

Self-paced and scheduled programs available

Course Outline

1 - Measurements and Proportions

Lesson One establishes the fundamentals. You'll begin with an orientation to your art materials: charcoal, pencil, sharpeners, drawing pads, and more. You'll learn standard proportions for the male and female figure and how to measure proportions as you draw, using your eye, your pencil, a plum line, and other guides.

Project - Proportional portrait

2 - The Human Skeleton

The knee bone's connected to the… To draw figures well, you'll need to understand how the skeleton is put together. Lesson Two explores the main reference points inside the body that help artists represent the figure: ribcage, pelvic bone, head, shoulder blades, arms, hands, legs, feet, and vertebra. Did you know when drawing a figure, the first thing you want to do is to establish the angle of the pelvic bone? Or which differences in the skeleton differentiate men and women?

Project - Gesture drawing

3 - Muscles and Anatomy

In Lesson Three, you'll put meat on your bones. Building on your knowledge of the human skeleton, you'll study the anatomy of the body and learn how to represent muscle structure in your figure drawings. Looking at anatomical drawings, artistic works, and your own body, you'll take a tour of important muscle groups, learning their defining features.

Project - Contour drawings

4 - The Portrait

In Lesson Four, you will study the proportions of the human face. You will learn to see the important differences between male and female faces and explore techniques for drawing the forehead, the nose, the mouth, hair, eyes, teeth, and ears. Dos and don'ts will be discussed to help you avoid common mistakes in proportion and perspective.

Project - Portrait studies

5 - Volume, Perspective, and Shading

Unless you're an ancient Egyptian, your life drawing will involve the representation of three-dimensional figures. Lesson Five focuses on this challenge. You'll learn how to create volume in your drawings by breaking down the figure into three-dimensional shapes. You'll discover how concepts in perspective such as the horizon line, eye level, and vanishing point affect your figure drawings, even in close up. Finally, you'll look at how the application of line, value, and shading can influence the appearance of perspective and depth in drawing.

Project - Perspective and depth

6 - Composition and Expression

Lesson Six rounds out your figure drawing course by exploring concepts in composition and expression. You'll discover how texture, balance, rhythm, variety, unity, and emphasis can each be used in drawing—or in any art form—to give shape to a piece. Rules of composition such as the Golden Section and Divine Proportion will be discussed along with expressive considerations to help you develop your artistic approach.

Project - Formal and expressive portraits

Course Outcomes

Students in this course can expect to learn to:

  • Build a foundation in life drawing skills by creating and submitting for feedback more than twenty figure drawings.
  • See and apply in your drawing the standard measurements and proportions of the human figure.
  • See and apply in your figure drawing the characteristic shapes and proportions of the human skeleton.
  • Develop a basic ability to capture posture and motion through gesture drawing.
  • See and apply in your figure drawing the characteristic shapes and proportions of human anatomy and muscle mass.
  • Develop a basic ability to capture the shape of human subjects through contour and blind contour drawing.
  • See and apply in your figure drawing the characteristic shapes and proportions of the human face in frontal, profile, and three-quarter views.
  • See and apply in your figure drawing the concepts of volume, perspective, and shading.
  • See and apply in your figure drawing different approaches to composition, including texture, balance, rhythm, variety, unity, and emphasis.
  • Demonstrate a basic ability to use expressive drawing techniques in capturing the human figure.

Course Registration

Interested in this course? Scheduled and self-paced enrollment options are available. Ask Admissions about taking this course as part of a degree or certificate program.

Course LevelClasses startRegistration FeeTuition
Degree course
3 credits, 15 weeks
Jan, Apr, Aug$200$510/credit
Vocational course
60 clock hours, 3 months access
Enroll today, start tomorrow$50$949
* Registration fees are nonrefundable after 5 days from enrollment. All tuition includes a digital materials fee for updates to course or program content.

Software and Supplies

To take this course you'll need:

  • Computer with Internet connection.
  • Access to a digital camera or scanner.
  • Drawing materials including pencil, paper, charcoal and easel (full guidelines provided in the course.)
  • Figure drawing subject(s) or yourself and a mirror.

Who’s Teaching

Course developed by Anki King

Getting Started

Enrolling online is easy and convenient.

Chat with our knowledgeable admissions staff to select course and program options.

Complete your registration entirely online.

Related Programs

Did you know? You can take this course as part of an award-winning certificate or degree program.