Treat Your Model Like a Well-Trained Pet

Figure Drawing Poses

I am kidding! So kidding! But I was thinking about this article and how I wanted to discuss working with a model, specifically how to position your model in a figure drawing, and what that position can convey both compositionally and as part of the narrative you are trying to present. In my mind, I broke down the positions into stand, sit, and lay down, all of which eerily reminded me of the commands I used to give my dog, Kosmo. But never mind that! Here are examples of three figure positions and what they are capable of suggesting.

Stand
When a figure stands upright there is a sense of alertness and potential for a variety of movements. Keep posture in mind when drawing figures. The less rigid the spine and the more relaxed the limbs, the more at ease a figure appears. For a more dominant or forceful feel in your figure drawing, making the body higher or taller, facing the viewer head-on, or spreading arms and legs to occupy more space can be effective.

Figure drawing by Rob Liberace.
Figure drawing by Rob Liberace.
Picnic by Anthony Ackrill, oil on canvas, 52 x 24.
Picnic by Anthony Ackrill,
oil on canvas, 52 x 24.

Sit
Depicting a figure sitting down is fairly conventional, so if you want the pose to imply something more, you’ll want to play with how the figure turns, whether or not the legs and arms are crossed, and the angle of the chin. A sitting figure can also be interesting if you go to the extremes, making the limb arrangement really compact or compressing the figure’s body, folding it in on itself, in a way that can energize a pose.

Catherine Inside by Kristin Kunc, oil on linen, 44 x 36, 2010.
Catherine Inside by Kristin Kunc,
oil on linen, 44 x 36, 2010.
Death on the Road by Kathe Kollwitz, charcoal figure drawing, 19 x 12.5, 1934.
Death on the Road
by Kathe Kollwitz, charcoal figure
drawing, 19 x 12.5, 1934.

Lay Down
A prone or supine figure drawing is obviously going to suggest vulnerability, sleep or relaxation, sensuality, or carnality. Extending the limbs can accentuate the grace of the human form, and having the model lying on his or her side emphasizes this. Depicting a figure head-on brings in the complicating factor of severely foreshortened limbs.

Sutherland Series #5 (Stretching) by Juliette Aristides, charcoal drawing, 15.5 x 21, 2005.
Sutherland Series #5 (Stretching)
by Juliette Aristides, charcoal drawing,
15.5 x 21, 2005.
Girl in Sun by Ben Fenske, oil on linen, 24 x 35, 2010.
Girl in Sun by Ben Fenske,
oil on linen, 24 x 35, 2010.

Figure drawing is one of the most intriguing, challenging, and exciting ways to pursue your art. And the capabilities of what the human body can convey are too numerous to count. But the more I learn, the more I want to know. If you are looking for sources for inspiring instruction that will help hone your figure drawing skills, you want the Figure Drawing Made Easy Collection. Gesture, anatomy, proportions–they are all covered in an accessible, helpful way in every resource you receive. Get your collection now! 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.   

4 thoughts on “Treat Your Model Like a Well-Trained Pet

  1. Courtney, Keep up the good work! Harold Speed really is one of the best teachers of drawing! If you have never seen the ArtPose aps (male and female) for the iPad, you really should check them out. For less than the cost of a wooden manikin you get some amazing capabilities and no, I don’t work for or have any financial interest in the company that designed them.

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