Drapery Introduction

As art students, we all spent most of our time drawing the nude figure. As professional artists, we rarely draw the nude figure. In drawing the draped figure, what we call the figure with clothes on, the natural tendency is to copy the pattern of the folds that we see. As you go back in history, the material covering the figure was a major element of design for not only showing the underlying form, but major elements creating the look of the period. The starting point of the drawing is always what you want the drawing to communicate. My focus in this book is to use the drapery as a means to describe the underlying form. Of course, in describing the form, the action of the form is a critical element so the drapery becomes a strong component of communicating the action.

The folds created by the drapery fall into predicable patterns determined by the kind of drapery, the form that it goes over, the action of the form and, in the case of clothes, the cut and type.

The predicable patterns are classified into seven basic folds, and combinations of these folds. Understanding these folds, and what causes them, allows the artist to draw the clothed figure from imagination. In drawing from the model, the understanding of the basic folds and their causes, gives you the ability to select the folds that best communicate the action and describe the form.

In the step by step demonstration section of the book, I follow the same basic procedures that I discuss in the Vilppu Drawing Manual and my other books. Don’t approach this material as a set of rules, but as basic knowledge. The techniques used in rendering the folds and underlying form are the signature of the individual artist, as is the basic overall composition. What the viewer experiences are the lines and tones that we put down. My intention is to give you a direction of study for developing facility in the use of drapery to achieve your goals.

By Glenn Vilppu

This article is an excerpt from the Drawing Drapery Manual.