Tips on posing for life models

Life model posing tips

A life or figure model is a model that poses for people to draw. Often they do this nude, and for periods of time that range from 30 seconds to over an hour.

The best art models are the ones that can make interesting shapes with their bodies, and keep ever-so-still. You don’t need to be a gymnast, artists are looking for subtle and interesting positions. Turn your head a little, make your pose slightly asymmetric with an arm movement and your class will be very happy.

This is harder than it looks, and it is easy to pull muscles in a cold studio. Here are some tips to avoid discomfort.

If you only have to pose for 60 seconds, you can fling your arms out, stand on one leg or twist your head to an unnatural angle. Any longer than this and you will start to wobble, and eventually it will hurt.

It’s not so much aches and pains as pins and needles that cause problems on a long pose. Your legs and arms can go numb if the blood supply is hampered by squashing or twisting, which is why the simple poses are best for drawings of twenty minutes or more.

Practice these simple poses, and then when your tutor says ‘O.K. this next one’s for half an hour,’ you won’t be in agony halfway through!

Very comfortable (up to an hour):

  • A natural standing pose, hands hanging by the side, perhaps part of back or bottom supported by a wall. Weight evenly on both feet. Head can be turned gently to the left or right.
  • A natural sitting pose, hands resting on knees or crossed on knees. You can vary the positions of the feet quite a bit. Head turned gently to left or right.
  • Lying in a very natural position without arms or legs bent. It’s very easy to fall asleep in this position! Also lying on back with one knee bent and foot flat on floor.

Moderately comfortable (about half an hour):

  • Standing naturally with weight on both feet, but with arms loosely folded in front.
  • As above but with arms clasped behind back (one hand holding elbow or wrist).
  • Standing with one or both hands on hips.
  • Loosly curled on your side on the floor (make sure you are not lying on your arms).
  • Feet and bottom on floor, hands behind you on the floor.
  • Flat on your back, knees in the air, feet on the floor.
  • Bottom on floor, legs loosely crossed, arms crossed or hands on knees.

Ten minute poses:

  • These are poses that start to get uncomfortable after about ten minutes:
  • Standing, arms crossed over head (experiment to find how this is comfortable for you).
  • Leaning against a wall with most of your wieight on one foot.
  • Crouching on all fours (makes your neck ache after a while).
  • Curling up in a tight ball on the floor.
  • Balletic poses
  • Holding a stick in both hands (like a spear!)
  • Supporting or holding draped fabric with your hands.

Very quick poses:

Almost any pose can be held for a few seconds. Art teachers will often want a series of rapid poses for the students to ‘warm up’ with at the beginning of a class. If you dance or do sports this will come naturally to you. If not then practice ‘throwing shapes’ with your body. Spread your arms out, twist your head, stand on one leg and pretend you’re a rock god playing an air guitar in freeze-frame. Don’t panic or feel silly the first time you do this, as the class will be much more concerned with trying to capture the angle of your elbow than how much of a gymnast you are.

Remember to warm up for five minutes before you pose, especially if you are working in a cold studio.

Comments 1 comment

Jim 3 years ago

I did life modeling for a art class a couple of years ago.My sister takes art lessons and their regular model had not been able to make it that day.So they were looking for a volunteer.My sis pleaded with me and I finally said yes.It was embarrassing for the first few minutes of posing nude but after that it was ok. Not much to worry at all.

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