A 30 second gesture drawing using a graphite stick
A one minute gesture drawing using conte crayon
Another one minute drawing, using compressed charcoal
As I mentioned in my last post, I started figure drawing years ago. After taking a series of classes in art school, I've continued the practice intermittently over the years. It's a great way to challenge yourself. The human figure is infinitely complex.
Having a good model helps the process. Good models are people who have graceful and fluid motion and conversely, are able to hold a pose without moving. Try it sometime. Find a position and try not to move an iota for a whole minute. You may find it feels like a lifetime. Then imagine sitting/standing/laying in the same pose for 20 or 30 minutes. Just thinking about it makes me start to itch.
Warming up is usually the first step for the artist in any figure drawing session, starting with gesture drawings. A good model is able to make a fluid gesture and hold it for anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes and then change to a new pose without pausing between. It's a bit like a cross between dancing and that old statue game, where you freeze in mid-motion. The idea is to draw quickly and capture the sense of movement. Gesture drawing is also used to loosen up (kind of like stretching before going for a long run). It's hard to worry about how the drawing is coming out when you're basically scribbling like crazy on your paper. And that helps, too, because the minute you get self conscious about what you're drawing, you tighten up and can no longer capture the gesture.
I like to use a variety of media during this process because I'm never sure what's going to work for me at any given time (if anything does). Yes, there are days when nothing works well. That can be frustrating to say the least, but it's like anything else. There are good days and bad days. Just as with everything else in life...
P.S. A reader sent me a link to his website, which lists various figure drawing venues all over the country. Here 'tis–http://www.artmodelbook.com/figure-drawing-directory.htm. Thanks, Andrew, for the great tip.