Listen to what Diebenkorn says about starting a painting. He articulates the struggle that is present for beginners as well as seasoned painters. It is the dilemma described by Durer in Melancholia.
Working from live models is an important experience for any visual artist, because of the complexity, the variety, the tradition and the opportunity to connect eye and hand without time for self-judgement in quick poses. Discern, draw, discern, draw.
This link from a blog by Catherine Kehoe (artist noted in re: to portraits) has several examples of loose and expressive figure drawing, as well as some ideas for gesture drawing:
Here is a slide show on a variety of figurative paintings:
And some dressing room figure paintings by Ken Kewley:
In 1949, David Park rejected Abstract Expressionism and the painting he had done in the 40’s to become a figurative artist:
This show, linked below, at the Getty focused on the relationship and sometimes the struggle between figuration and abstraction. The artists featured in the exhibit, Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerback and Kitaj, are worthy of further investigation for anyone interested in figurative art.