How to Draw People (When You Don’t Know How to Draw People)

Every now and then I remind myself that this is, after all, supposed to be an “art related” blog. Originally I was going to give my art an online presence (and I still am). But as an added and unexpected bonus, having a blog has also given my cat an online presence! And, well, Panda. But…


first rowJust so you know, I try to do an art or craft related post in between Foster and Panda’s stories, but sometimes they are so excited about their ideas I just have to give in. But the idea has been in the back of my mind for some time to do a post on how to draw people. bride and groomWe are, however, talking about the “Mrs.Tracy version” of people. If you ask anyone who has been my student over the past 30 years, you will find out I did not allow stick figures in my class. Okay, well, sometimes I would give in, but in general, everyone knew the rule was…NO STICK FIGURES! 4th rowFor both the Spanish classes and the English learners, as soon as I would say we are going to illustrate a project, I would immediately be bombarded with the usual protestations. “I can’t draw!” “I can’t draw people!” “No stick figures?” “I can only draw stick figures!” “I’m not going to do it!” “Please, please, pleeease can we do stick figures?” You get the picture. 16 squares peopleSo I would introduce them to the “Mrs. Tracy method” of drawing people, using this simple and handy chart. I would walk the students through my method, in which you use a basic “template” for your person, and then you can elaborate on this template to change them into pretty much anything you want. The thing to remember with the Tracy method of anything art-related is that it doesn’t have to look real as long as it gets the idea across.  The other rule is that it doesn’t have to be perfect.familyOf course, I’ve had many students who could draw very realistic looking people, and I always allowed them to draw in their own style. But the “Mrs. Tracy method” proved to be a liberating concept for the rest of them, who thought they were doomed to draw only stick figures for the rest of their artistic lives. JagvirSuddenly they could easily draw people from all walks of life. If you ever see anyone who draws people like this, it’s safe to say they might have been one of my Spanish or English students from 1986 to 2016. adviseI used to love doing word webs with my English learners because it gave me a chance to draw during class, and I enjoyed seeing what the kids would produce. I would tell them them they could draw any picture they wanted, or they could copy what I put on the board. Nine times out of ten, they chose the latter.word webs

Now it is important to note that not all of my people drawings look like they came straight off the “Mrs. Tracy method of drawing chart”. But that still doesn’t mean I know how to draw people. Here are some more ideas on how to draw something you don’t know how to draw. The examples below are details from the pictures in the post “Bible Stories”.


One of the standard rules of the Tracy method is, draw people facing the other way. This is a close up from “David and Goliath”. Notice you can see David’s face, but it’s mostly covered by his head covering. Goliath is facing David, leaving his facial expression to the imagination of the viewer.


Above (left) you can see Elijah waiting for rain. You’ll notice he sat “with his head between his knees”. (I think that was harder to draw than drawing his face would have been, to be honest!)  On the right, the storm has hit and Elijah has to turn around to steady his mule.


When Elijah’s servant saw the cloud the size of a man’s hand, he was obviously looking out to sea. After the storm struck, the wind was conveniently blowing his head covering over his face. Below you see both drawings in their entirety.

1 Kings 18

Elijah in storm

And then one of my favorites, Lazarus being raised from the dead (below). Observe: Jesus and a bystander are facing toward the tomb. Mary and Martha are at an angle where their faces don’t really show. And Lazarus is naturally wrapped up in grave clothes.Lazarus comes forthSo, you see five people and all I had to draw was one eye on Mary (or is that Martha?) and two eyes on Lazarus. But still, it gets the point across. Oh yes, and even the dog is facing the other way. Below you see the bystanders at the tomb, their astonishment shown more by their body language than their faces. Now, tell me that’s not artistic genius! (It’s either that or it’s proof that necessity is the mother of invention.)Lazarus bystanders

So now you know the secret of drawing people when you don’t know how to draw people. Hopefully this has been helpful to you, if nothing else by offering you the opportunity to laugh at the way some of us draw people!
Rocky's penguin
(By Rocky from ELD, circa 2000.) Coming soon: When all else fails, draw animals…the Mrs. Tracy way!


Was this post helpful to you? Did you try drawing people the “Tracy way”? Feel free to leave a comment!


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