Basic Poses for Art Models
When you have a human subject
to paint, it can be tricky to come up with an interesting pose, especially if your subject is not a
Listed here are some ideas on how you, as the artist, can help your models to pose properly.
1. Look normal. When working on portrait commissions in particular, most people prefer to give a photo as a
reference instead of coming to the studio in person.
It is important to the customer, especially if they do not particularly like the idea of spending time posing
for a painting. Respect your customer’s decision and preference, but if possible, do request for the latest
pictures that have your subject looking comfortable and if possible, when they are smiling naturally.
Nothing is worse than having to paint a strained smile or forced happy faces; unless those expressions are what
you were required to paint. Discuss in advance for more than one photo as your reference point to really capture
the essence of the subject you are going to paint, as a substitute for real-life observation.
2. Use multiple sources for pose reference. Discuss with your models what kind of emotion you want to convey in
the picture. If it is a fashion-like drawing, you might benefit more from observing the poses in glamour and teen
magazines, whereas a royal-looking bust-up portrait can take their cues from similarly themed paintings.
Browse through the newspapers and online photo websites, observe people going about their daily life for ideas
and inspirations. When you have found several poses that you like, give your model some time to practice it before
the start of the session. Find one pose that they do the best naturally and work your painting from there.
3. Beware of the body language and facial expression. Though it usually comes naturally for most people, the
non-verbal message that the model is giving might not be what you want for your painting.
Observe what is not quite right with the current pose. It could be that your model is too stiff and
unintentionally looks angry, or maybe or the facial expression does not match the body language. Point out what you
like and dislike about the current pose, and discuss with your model on how to improve it.
4. Pose comfortably. Make sure the pose you choose is something you model can stay in relative comfort during
the duration of the work. Even the best model could not do a basic pose like sitting up straight for 10 hours
Have regular breaks to allow both you and your model to de-stress. A cup of tea can do wonders for the stiff
face muscle and tired joints. A way to work around this would be to ask your model to pose for 10 minutes, in which
time you should do a quick sketch to capture the pose and expression of the model.
Afterwards, you can start putting on basic shapes and colors on canvas
while your model takes a break. You will only need the model again when it is time to put in the finer details of
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