How To Draw Someone Sleeping

Maybe you’re an up-and-coming artist, or perhaps you’re looking to hone your skills by taking on a challenging and entirely new artistic subject. Drawing someone sleeping can be tricky and daunting, but with a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be capturing the essence of slumber in no time.

Study a Variety of Sleeping Positions

To truly achieve the full range of sleeping positions, start with a few reference images of people sleeping in different positions. Pinterest and Instagram are great sources for finding high quality images of sleeping postures. Don’t forget to check out the artistic masters’ works – many classic paintings including those by Rembrandt and Vermeer feature sleepers. When sketching the sleeping figure, be sure to pay attention to the way the body is slumped, the direction of the mouth, and the subtle hand motions that can be so telling of an individual at rest.

Nail the Hair and Clothing

Hair, although often overlooked, can make or break the realism of the subject matter. Sketch out the line of the hair, be it especially wild and unruly, or perfectly polished and shiny. Be sure to think about the bed sheets and pillows that the person is sleeping on. They react to the force of the body, creating wavy creases and imprints. When done correctly, these small details can help to produce a strong sense of atmosphere in the painting.

Include Depth of Shading

It may be tempting to rely on a single tone for the skin and hair, but don’t be afraid to experiment with depth and shadows. A good way to practice this technique is to start by shading different forms apart before attempting to blend them together. Take a close look at the light and shadows, and employ small techniques such as adding a drop shadow near the chin to create a more three-dimensional effect.

Avoid the Red Pencil Woes

This is perhaps the number one rookie mistake for rookie artists. It’s always overwhelming to take in an entire scene all at once, but don’t be tempted to finish off the whole picture by outlining it in one go. Start from the middle, taking one form at a time, and build out gradually. Resist the urge to outline in a single stroke, and instead focus on formulating the shapes by using broader, slower strokes. Think of your pencil as a brush, and make sure that the line isn’t too precise – after all, sleeping figures are supposed to look relaxed.

Drawing someone sleeping is just like any other portrait – it requires patience, precision, and skill. Take the time to understand the characteristics of sleeping postures, and take note of the many overlooked details. With a few practice rounds and an open mind, you can capture the essence of sleep in an entirely new and creative way.

Focus On Texture and Proportions

Before jumping into details like hair, clothing and atmosphere, take the time to nail down the proportions of the sleeper’s form. No one body is completely symmetrical, so use your reference images to create to pleasing and lifelike proportions. Pay attention to the texture of the clothing and bedsheets, making sure that the smoothness of the fabrics are portrayed in the painting.

Once proportions have been established, use light, confident strokes to sketch the face, hair, and clothing. Pay attention to the sense of tranquility in the figure, as well as the loose postures of the arms and hands. Keep your eyes peeled for any discrepancies in texturing and tonal values, as minor details such as these can make or break the realism in the drawing.

Consider the Setting

Make sure to complete the entirety of the scene by considering the setting (bedroom, forest glade, etc) that the figure is in. Don’t forget to think about where the light is coming from, and add mood-setting elements such as floating feathers, flying insects, and petals.

Think about the story that you are trying to tell with your painting. Ask yourself questions such as the time period the figure is sleeping in, the atmosphere of the environment, and the gravity of the story being told. The more effort you put into the setting, the more realistic and detailed the painting can be.

Take Your Time

Take a deep breath and don’t be intimidated. Drawing someone sleeping is no walk in the park, but with a few simple tips and tricks and some patience, you can capture a vivid rendition of someone in the arms of sleep.

Practice, practice, practice and don’t be afraid to try something new. Challenging yourself is the best way to embrace the skill, and a great way to create something truly unique.

Most importantly, be sure to always have fun with your art. You never know when a great idea or technique will strike – so be bold, be brave, and let your imagination take the lead.

Julia is an artist and musician, who grew up in a small town in Ohio, where she played in local bands and painted murals in free time. She moved to NY City to study art at the prestigious Pratt Institute, and then relocated to LA to pursue a music career. Julia loves sharing the knowledge she gathered during the years with others.

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