Drawing People – book review

The Human Figure in Contemporary Art

By Roger Malbert

Published by Thames & Hudson ISBN 9780500291634

Review by Derek Brazell


We’re all drawn to images of other people – faces and bodies – whether those images are made up of watercolour splodges or intricately detailed pencil drawings. And Drawing People, Malbert’s intriguing compendium of contemporary approaches to the figure, contains a satisfyingly diverse range of views and media.


In his introduction, Malbert acknowledges the figurative work created by illustrators, and that the ‘the border between art and illustration has become increasingly permeable”. He includes work by artists such as Raymond Pettibon (featured in Varoom 29), Emma Talbot and Francesc Ruiz who “appropriate illustration’s language within a new conceptual frame”. Illustrators will find visual approaches familiar to them from their illustration peers’ artwork in Drawing People, and also much to admire, from the curious yet realistic scenarios of Jinju Lee (below) to Adam Dant’s figures in closely detailed cityscapes.


The book divides into several sections, Body, Self, Personal Lives, Social Reality and Fictions, each introduced by the author. With a short text on each artist and comment on the artworks for context, their images are reproduced at full page in the large format publication, allowing details to be perused and the choice of media to come through (the digital appears largely absent here). The human figure is explored through its relationship to other bodies, its position in space, interior life, mutation, sexuality and its relationship to film and print.


Drawing People rewards through its eclectic mix of artists using drawing as their base, and may inspire an expanding attitude towards the human figure from artistic readers.


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Understanding Illustration

Pictoplasma – Character Portraits


21st May 2015

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