Just the other day I was speaking to one of my colleges about figure drawing and how important it is for every visual artist to experience drawing from the figure. Some how we got onto the topic of college students learning how to figure draw using tablets. TABLETS!!!! That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard in my life. Yes tablets are very nifty tools that if you haven’t experienced working with one you should, because it really is amazing what you can do with one. But when a person learns how to draw they don’t go straight to the tablet. No, they use a piece of paper and a pencil.
If your starting to figure draw get the traditional materials that the old master used (well not the exact things, but close enough) a 18″ x 24″ newsprint pad and charcoal. Using a tablet you don’t get the same feel or understanding of form as you would with the traditional materials. A bigger pad forces the student to think about the composition, the size of their figure and really use their whole arm movement. Charcoal is a great material to work with as well because it’s easily erasable with a needed eraser. You can also get different line weights (how dark the mark is) and different line sizes. Plus if you use the charcoal on its side, the beautiful shadow masses that could be created.
The most important reason why you should start traditionally before digitally is that you always have a basis to refer back to. Every year technology changes and computers and programs get more advanced. That means each year a professional digital artist has to upgrade to the latest software. If they don’t then their images over time would look out of date. Even if you are mainly a digital person your mind is still referring back to a time when you used a sheet of paper as your main/only medium. If you can master the basics then it makes the digital world much much easier to use and understand.