30 Minute Figure Sketch – Female Nude

As a practice drawing exercise I thought I would try my hand at sketching a female nude. For my source image I chose a stock photograph called cut5 that etsakoi has posted on Deviantart.

My thought was to approach the drawing as an abstract collection of values instead of being concerned with proportion as I normally would with a figure drawing. I was hoping that this method would help break through my anxiety based procrastination that I’ve been experiencing lately.

Also I was feeling guilty about sitting down for 30 minutes and drawing when I should be working. To counter this I decided to limit myself to 10 minutes of drawing time each day for three days. Spending 10 minutes a day on a “frivolous” activity in this way was somehow acceptable.

Armed with these ground rules, I gave myself permission to fail and then started drawing.

The First Ten Minutes

My first 10 minutes of sketching resulted in a basic outline of the left edge of the figure (see screenshot below).
I was being too prissy and I wasn’t working over the whole figure at once. Also if you compare it to the original, I had chopped the figure to just below the torso – because I had paid no attention to the proportion of the figure.

nude female figure sketch torso 10min

Beginning of the Figure Sketch @10 Minutes

The Second Ten Minutes

The next day, after examining my progress, I decided to keep at it despite having cropped the figure. I blocked in the right side of the figure with a heavier stroke and attempted to map out some of the values of the torso. I also tried to pick up the pace a bit here, and after another 10 minutes this is what the sketch looked like.

nude female figure sketch torso 20min

nude female figure sketch torso @ 20 minutes


Thirty Minutes

The next day I sat down to finish the drawing with my last 10 minute chunk of time. I concentrated on shading the figure and trying to get the values properly related to each other. After my 10 minute session was over I was happy with the results, but thought with a few more minutes of work would be required. I decided to put in another 10 minute session the next day just to smooth out some of the rough shading.

nude female figure sketch torso 30min

nude female figure sketch torso 30min

The Final Sketch

The next night I spent another ten minutes just going over the whole figure and background.

nude female figure sketch torso 40min

Nude female figure, final sketch. Drawn with a Wacom tablet and Corel Painter Sketchpad.


At the end of my little exercise I was pleased with the results. The only problem I have is that by the time I completed the drawing the original Deviant art account had been closed down and the original stock image removed. I didn’t take note of the artist’s terms of use for the stock so I hope I’m not in violation of them by posting my sketch here.

Lessons learned:

  1. Better record keeping required on my part.
  2. Next time I’ll use stock that I’ve actually purchased the rights to.
  3. By scheduling small blocks of time on my calendar I’m more likely to practice.
  4. Write the purpose of the practice piece/session first.
  5. Giving myself permission to fail helps to overcome my anxiety.



© 2012, db. All rights reserved.

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