Figure drawing is the art of drawing the human figure. Figure drawing is used in any visual artwork that depicts people. It is especially important in illustration (e.g. book illustration). Many artists, especially painters, avoid figure drawing and prefer still lifes or landscapes, while other artists, for example William-Adolphe Bouguereau or Norman Rockwell, specialize in portraying people.
Realistic figure drawing usually begins with drawing nudes because this is essential to learn human body proportions and anatomy, while at the same time removing the burden of dealing with the complexity of drawing clothing.
The term figure drawing actually encompasses two different skills: drawing from a life model, and drawing from imagination (without a model). Cartoonists, comic and animation artists naturally need to focus on the second skill, while painters and draughtsmen who do portraits need to focus on the first.