How My Art Improved After I Remembered Something I Watched Last Year

2015 Artwork Learning from Shoo Rayner video article sketch

Sometime last year, I watched this absolutely fascinating Youtube video by a professional illustrator and artist called Shoo Rayner. The video is about wooden artist’s mannequins and about how you can use them to both draw more realistic proportions and to work out how to draw people standing in a whole range of positions.

Since I had a couple of these mannequins from a long time ago (I’m not sure why but, when I was a kid, I asked my parents to buy two of them), I managed to locate them again and I used them for a couple of paintings.

The problem with these old paintings was that they looked, well, kind of wooden – like this one:

"Zombie Manor" By C. A. Brown [2014]

“Zombie Manor” By C. A. Brown [2014]

After a while, I just couldn’t be bothered to copy these mannequins any more and ended up abandoning them. But, a few weeks before I wrote this post, I suddenly realised that I wanted to try to draw people standing in poses that I hadn’t really drawn before. But, I couldn’t be bothered to find my artist’s mannequins again, so I followed one of the other pieces of advice I remembered from the Shoo Rayner video.

In other words, before I drew my pictures, I made a light pencil sketch of the mannequin from memory. Instead of fussing around with an actual mannequin, I was able to work much more quickly by testing out different poses using a “virtual” mannequin that existed only on the page and looked a bit like this:

I've drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

I’ve drawn this example using ink for the sake of clarity, but you should only draw it lightly in pencil.

Although, as Shoo Rayner points out in his video, this technique requires a bit of practice and some experience with using artist’s mannequins – I’ve found that this technique is well worth using for a couple of reasons.

One of the main advantages of using this technique that I found is that because literally everything is drawn from my imagination and memory, my paintings tended to look a lot less “wooden” as a result.

Since I wasn’t directly copying a literal wooden mannequin, I could add a bit more spontanaity and variation to my pictures which helped the poses in my final paintings and drawings to look a bit more “natural” (whilst still looking realistic). Kind of like this:

"Castle Crypt" By C. A. Brown

“Castle Crypt” By C. A. Brown

"1992" By C. A. Brown

“1992” By C. A. Brown

"Somewhere In A Room" By C. A.Brown

“Somewhere In A Room” By C. A.Brown

Another advantage of using pencil drawings of mannequins (rather than actual mannequins) to plan your paintings is that you can add more variation. An artist’s mannequin is a fixed height and size – as such, everyone you draw by copying the mannequin will have roughly the same proportions as the mannequin does. This means that everyone in your paintings will look kind of the same.

By making sure that the mannequin only exists in your imagination and on the page, you can alter all sorts of things about it – whilst still making your paintings look realistic.

Again, Shoo Rayner goes into more detail about how to use this technique in his video and it’s well worth watching. But, it’s also important to remember that – no matter how much drawing or painting experience you’ve had – you can and should still learn new things from time to time.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂