Human Anatomy Drawing Assignment

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Human anatomy rendering in charcoal pencil by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

My grad school MFA program‘s summer term this year includes a human anatomy class that is blowing my mind.

The class spent the first few weeks drawing skeletons; so much so I often felt I was drawing and designing Halloween-themed greeting cards 🙂

I’m poking a bit of fun but the reality is that the class has taught me so much about how to better render the human figure.

I feel like the class is really helping me improve figure drawing details.

Even though I admit I can’t remember all the Latin muscle names and groups, I do feel more prepared and confident when drawing the human form.

Another side benefit beyond improving my technical drawing techniques: I find myself visually appreciating, more than ever before, the unique shapes and beautiful forms that together compose the ultimate masterpiece that is the human body.

You can see more of my human anatomy drawings here in my portfolio.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Drawing Animals

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Chinchilla drawing sketch by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

I have nothing against drawing animals and will draw them if I have to.

But generally, drawing animals is not something I typically seek out to do.

However, in a recent children’s book illustration assignment for grad school, our class had to:

  • (a) realistically draw 20 animals, then;
  • (b) create three animal characters for a children’s book.

I’ll share the latter in a future post but for now, here is one of the 20 realistic animal drawings showcasing a furry chinchilla.

You can see several other animal drawings here.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson


Oil Painting: Toast for Breakfast

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Oil painting of toast breakfast dish by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

In the fall of 2017, I took my first-ever oil painting class as part of my MFA in Illustration with the Academy of Art University.

Needless to say, I had never oil painted anything in my life before the class.

But since having taken the class, I’ve become really interested in the medium (more about my oil painting interests in a future post).

This painting was done for a still life assignment.

Our class had to paint an object with a reflective light on it, hence why the knife takes center stage here.

While far from perfect, for not having painted much of anything before this class, this came out much better than I had hoped.

Thinking back on it ….

While there are some definite tweaks and improvements I could make to this, I was and still am pretty happy with how this turned out, given my then-limited oil painting experience.

What do you think?

~ Enjoy! 

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Female Figure Drawing: Charcoal, Then Photoshop

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Figure drawing illustration created using charcoal before digitization using Adobe Photoshop

Meet my model: Amanda

All kinds of sassy as she sported her old high school prom dress while posing for me.

Amanda, aka “Pandy,” is my phenomenal oldest daughter, illustrated here in her spunky, pink-dress badass mode.

Grad school assignment

Numerous times during my MFA’s Fall 2017 term with AAU, I was in need of a model.

More often than not, there was my Panda, ALWAYS willing to strike any pose I asked, wearing any wardrobe or physically-challenged direction I required.

Reference photo

In my photo reference below, we can see beautiful movement in Amanda’s pink dress while she kicked up her flowing skirt folds.

Assignment: figure drawing wearing clothing with dramatic fabric folds

To achieve dramatic folds, I had Amanda wear an old prom dress of hers and then posed her as you see above, looking into the distance while kicking up her gown.

Here’s my original charcoal drawing before I transformed the illustration into a digital painting using Photoshop

My drawing tools

To draw the above figure illustration, I used the following drawing tools:

(The original drawing shared above was slightly edited in Photoshop to brighten the white in Amanda’s eyes.)

Assignment feedback

My final drawing caused was well received by my grad school classmates as well as my instructor, who commented the following:

“LOVE this character, why not develop her and see where she can take you. Try a series of 10 drawings of her, put them out and see if a publisher picks up on your work. There is something so compelling about this character. “

Another classmate said:

“I totally agree with our instructor regarding this character. She is so quirky and elegant at the same time! There has to be a series or a steam punk graphic novel about her.”

And still another said:

“I think my absolute favorite is this girl! Your drawing of her has an elegance to it that is beautiful!”

So there you have it.

Amanda became famous in my figure drawing class 🙂 and I ended up with a wonderful, completed illustration of a young woman I adore.

~ Enjoy!


Mayra Ruiz-McPherson




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