Pose for Yourself

In one of her blogs on Artist Daily, Marion Boddy-Evans observed that it is a good idea for portraiture artists who are trying to achieve a sense of naturalness in their work to pose for themselves. When I read this, I felt like I had been poleaxed…not that I really know what that means. But seriously–pose for ourselves! What a genius idea.

    Self-Portrait by Ben Fenske, 2010.
Self-Portrait by Ben Fenske, 2010.

Portrait artists so often struggle with the subtle nuances of the figure in their paintings because it is those almost imperceptible details of the body that make a portrait painting look so real. The differences between a beginner portrait artist and a professional aren’t really color choice or how well the portrait painter can paint features. It is that the professional who has painted portraits before knows the subtleties of the body. When done right, these details make a figure look real…or not so real.

That’s where posing for ourselves comes in. In portrait art, the way a person sits or holds their shoulders back or positions their hands is what an artist really needs to focus on. And if you are in the position of developing portrait art and you find yourself struggling with these areas, look to yourself.

Get in front of a mirror and re-create the pose of your figure. You’ll find that your body position has much in common with your sitter. The shadows indicating the bones in your hands or the folds of skin around the bend in your wrist are the same ones your sitter has. Get these details right, and your portrait paintings will come together again and again.

Self-portrait by Kate Lehman.
Self-portrait by Kate Lehman.

Also look to invest in resources that can teach you more about how to enhance your portraits with an added sense of realism, like The Art of Self: Essential Lessons in Self-Portraiture. You’ll learn how to imbue your portrait paintings with a sense of the personality of your subject, which can make all the difference in the believability of your painting. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.