Figure Drawing Poses: Tips for Artists and Models

figure drawing posesThere is no better way of learning the human form than through regular figure drawing practice. Whether you have a model (or are a model yourself), or you are looking to draw your own figure, there are many things that you need to keep in mind when choosing the poses that you will draw in a figure drawing session. While you can learn all the basics of figure drawing with this Udemy course, the only way to really develop your understanding of the human body, to develop better artistic techniques, and to create great art is by regularly practicing your figure drawing techniques.

Understanding Different Types of Poses 

There are two basic types of poses that are used in figure drawing sessions: short and long.

Short poses are used for gesture drawings – that is, quick sketches that take under two minutes or so to complete. Short poses will usually be more physically demanding, and may require some physical exertion on the part of the model, such as stretching muscles or contorting their body into unusual poses.

These types of poses are great for examining the human musculature and skeletal system, and the way that it interacts with the skin. Only very physically fit models, or models with a lot of experience, should attempt extreme poses for any longer than a few minutes. These drawings are also often done in pen and ink, as not being able to alter or change the drawing can make the process more freeing. You can learn more about pen and ink drawing on Udemy.

Longer poses are used for more detailed drawings. Often, the model will be placed in a seated or reclined position so that they are able to relax while they are being drawn. With these types of poses, the model is encouraged to place his or her body in unusual positions. They may stretch their arms or legs, or twist their torso to reveal the musculature of their side or back.

If you don’t have a professional model at your disposal, but you do have friends or family members who are ready and willing to model for you, try to think of poses that will be comfortable for them to do, but that will still give you interesting and unusual poses to draw.

If you know somebody who is an athlete or a dancer, you may consider going with him or her to a practice. Their warm-up time can offer you a great opportunity to get some practice in.  Otherwise, consider posing people in front of the television, reading a book, or taking part in any other activity that will keep them still long enough for you to draw them.

A Note on Lighting

Lighting can play a big role in the appearance of a person’s body. If you find that you are running out of ideas for poses in your figure drawing session, consider changing up the lighting by moving it to the side, moving it below the figure, or by reducing the lighting in the room to a single, bright point that will add high contrast lights and dark shadows to the human form.

Using Artist’s Dummies for Reference 

That little wooden stick fellow at the art store isn’t just for decoration. While it may seem pretty simplistic, a wooden artist’s model can actually be a great resource for coming up with poses. You won’t be able to get any more detailed visuals regarding musculature or skin movement from an artist’s model, but this is a good way of developing your eye for proportion and for coming up with poses for the characters that you are drawing.

 Using Photographs for Reference

 Unfortunately, not everybody has access to a professional model for his or her figure drawing sessions. While every artist should take the time to enroll in a figure drawing class at some point, it can be just as effective to have a friend or family member volunteer to pose for you.

While photographs can be great reference points for drawing the figure, they don’t offer you the same depth as a live model. They also come with one other major downside – you can’t alter the lighting or the pose, and you can’t see them from another angle.

If there is a specific pose or a specific type of lighting that you need for your project, then you may consider taking photographs yourself. This is a good option for those that have people who are willing to model, but who do not have the time or the patience for an extended modeling session. Many find black and white photography to be best for creating their own reference material, as it will offer you very high contrast lights and darks to draw from. Consider checking out this Udemy course on black and white photography for more information.

Using Yourself For Reference 

If you’re in the mood to sketch, but don’t have a model on hand and are having difficulty finding photographs of a pose that you want to draw, you always have one resource at your disposal – you. While it can take a little contorting to get it right, you can do figure drawing poses all on your own. All it takes is a mirror, a little bit of patience, and possibly a camera or video camera.

Simply set up your camera to take a photograph automatically – or to take several photographs all at once, if your camera has that option. Then move into the pose that you want to capture. It can take a bit of doing to get right, but it’s a great way to get a reference picture, fast.

A Few More Tips for Models 

By now, you should be ready to put your figure drawing poses into action. Here are just a few more things to keep in mind. While your model will likely be nude in a formal figure drawing session, it’s understandable that your volunteers might not be so forthcoming in helping you with your project. It’s still important to see their bodies, so encourage your models to wear minimal, skin-tight clothing such as leotards, tank tops, thin t-shirts, and shorts.

Never keep a pose going if it’s beginning to hurt – even if you are in the middle of a drawing. While art may be pain metaphorically, it shouldn’t be painful in the literal sense. Be sure that models are hydrated, especially if they are sitting under hot lights for long periods of time, and always listen to the model if they express discomfort.

Figure drawing poses can range from the comical to the bizarre. The more contorted a pose is, the better, as it allows you to exaggerate the form and create more interesting drawings. Be sure to continue practicing, something you can do by enrolling in this great Udemy course that will teach you valuable secrets to improve your art skills.