The importance of natural poses

Julian- 4

This life drawing session made me think the importance of drawing a pose that looks natural. Models can bend and stretch and settle in all sorts of poses. Depending on the result that the artist wants, strange poses might be useful. How easy is it though to capture those poses and plot them realistically on your paper?  This time we had the opportunity to explore life like poses as well as a slightly strange one.

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Date:05/11/2018, Author: Iasonas Bakas, Time: 3h


  • Step 1: Pulling the rope
  • Step 2: Begging
  • Step 3: The odd one
  • Step 4: Pulling sat

Step 1: Pulling the rope

The classes started with our model tying the rope to the steel post again. A similar pose was set up by a previous model few weeks ago (see here). Surprisingly, there were no warm up exercises. Our tutor informed us, this time we will do 4-5 poses of 25 minutes each. This worked alright as it provided just enough time to complete a rough drawing while we still had a variety of different poses.

The main element of this pose was the way the feet touched the ground and maintained the whole body’s balance. The model was leaning forward slightly and the rope kept him from falling. Additionally to this, his legs and feet where arranged in a way to support his centre of mass. I decided that I would spend more time getting this right rather than any other detail of the pose.

To highlight this “fragile” balance between rope, legs and body weight, I decided to omit the steel post. The frame is “heavier” towards the model intensifying the pose.


Step 2: Begging

The second pose was a bit easier for the model I guess. In reality he was supporting his elbows on a high stool. While drawing I realised that I quite liked the pose without the stool. Gave me the impression of the human begging and I decided to not spend any time on the stool.

I had a very good view of the model’s back and ribs. Also, to create more interest and depth I tried to get the tones of the arm in the back ground right. I feel that foreshortening is the one thing that makes the figurative drawings look 3 dimensional; the second is the correct use of tone.

…foreshortening is the one thing that makes the figurative drawings look 3 dimensional; the second is the correct use of tone…


Step 3: The odd one

The previous poses all looked quite natural. You see people pulling a trolley or begging. The body doesn’t really suffer to follow those poses. The one below though seemed too unnatural. It took the model some time to find a comfortable way to hold the pose (no surprise…). When we started drawing, I found it quite tricky to capture the pose. I just couldnt let my hand free; I couldn’t loosen. I caught myself thinking about anatomy again and again.

This pose though was so strange (I don’t think anyone would sit like this to rest…) that it got increasingly challenging to draw it right. The model was sitting on two stools, which I haven’t drawn. That probalby makes it look even more odd.


Step 4: Pulling sat

The last pose brought us back to something we were more familiar with. This sitting pose was quite sculptural as the arms were in a distance from the main volumne of the body. The neck and chest muscles were stretched. Also, the ribcage structure was quite exposed. The pose would look very unbalanced without the chair so I decided to add a notion of support under the model.


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The Artist says:

“The less time you have available for drawing, the more playful, light and vivid it becomes. I think, I have started enjoying the short poses even more than the long ones!”

Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves!


6 thoughts on “The importance of natural poses

  1. This might seem an odd question, but I’ve not done a life drawing class so please bear with me.

    I agree about the poses which were more natural, you’ve captured the movement, the strain, etc really well.

    The question I have is that really none of them are natural at all. How often do you see a naked person begging or pulling a trolley? Why aren’t these sessions clothed? Surely there would be more benefit to drawing a realistic situation whereby the folds and shadows of cloth around the form would be more natural?

    I know this is “how it’s been done” for hundreds of years, so it is down to my inexperience to be asking. I do see a benefit in this modelling to capture muscle and form, it’s just that I also see a benefit in what happens in the real world.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve,

      I get your point completely. In real life you wont find anyone pulling the steel post with a rope being naked. In this sense most life drawing classes are by definition “unrealistic”.

      My point was mainly focused on the realistic and life like pose of the body itself. Although they are fully dressed…you get people lying on a bed or pulling and pushing stuff all the time. By saying realistic i mainly meant…realistic gestures, pose and movement.

      Now coming to your question “why naked”, for me there is a very simple answer. It is pretty much the same reason why you learn how to draw the skeleron before you start drawing portraits or human scenes. Drawing the human body is the very basic, the first step if you like. The artist needs to learn the structure of the human figure and arguably there is no better way than observing it naked.

      Of course there is the argument of the pure beauty of the body itself. Many artists get fascinated about the human form and they need no clothes, objects or background to express it! This, i think is personal taste and differs from person to person and from artist to artist.

      Thats how I perceive “life drawing” as a form of artistic expression.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, good to get the insight.

        For myself I’m probably doing it backwards, whilst I have drawn the muscles behind the face a couple of times I’d drawn many more portraits before that. As far as I’m aware, I don’t put that much thought into the underlying structure when doing them even now, it’s more a case of observing the light and shadows.

        Perhaps that would be a good step for me though, to put in that level of thought whilst drawing a portrait might bring an extra depth. I’ll give it a go on the next one 👍🏻

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I am sure loads of people havent spent the time and energy to go in deep detail with the anatomy. I find it quite useful though to have an understanding of the simplified anatomical forms.


  2. Hi Iasonas

    It is very extremely rare that I am “put” into a pose, let alone an unnatural or unrealistic one. I will always accommodate the artist, as this is what I am paid to do.

    However, if the pose is unnatural, the drawings will, in my opinion, always suffer in terms of bearing no likeness whatsoever. Often the artist will get an idea in their head, and their enthusiasm and almost excitement will cause them to get the model to pose in a quite ridiculous pose.

    Rather than tell the artist that the pose is not realistic or, is simply clumsy, I have in the past always attempted to accommodate. I do admire the passion exhibited by most artists, so tend to forgive their strange requests.

    Not any more- I find it impossible to inject any life into such a pose and I am never surprised at how little the drawings reflect the pose.

    I need to put 100% into each and every pose that I offer, because otherwise, from my point of view, life modelling would be a waste of my time. If I do not leave the studio exhausted, then it has been a complete and utter failure on my part.

    Also, it is a complete waste of the artists time, as most life drawing classes are no more than a couple of hours. So now, I decline daft poses, and a result of this is that I am not asked back to the studio. This suits me as I can spend more time offering very challenging poses which whilst still tough, painful and testing, nearly always yield fabulous drawings. Interestingly, I am not hired by artists who favour seated, relaxed .poses. these to me are about as interesting as a glass of water.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Julian,

    First of all, many thanks for taking the time to write such an extensive reply. It is great to have the model’s view regarding this session specifically, as well as the issue of unnatural poses in general.

    As described on my original post, trying to draw an unnatural pose, just made it so difficult for me. I can’t say I am a massively experienced artist, however, having drawn a number of poses and models; the more life like the pose is, the easier it gets for me to capture it. The structure of the body is very specific, and despite its flexibility to bend and stretch, in reality humans in everyday life follow very specific patterns of movement and posing. This is just what we are used to seeing and I guess easier to perceive when trying to copy from a life model.

    On the other hand, I understand and appreciate that artists’ imagination is limitless. Sometimes a strange pose might be what the artist wants and despite being difficult or odd we can’t argue against it. It is of course in your discretion as a model to offer it, reject it or suggest an alternative.

    To close this one, I agree that some poses are much more interesting than others. A simple sitting or standing pose gets quite dull. Again though, it depends on how the artist captures it, where the focus is given, how it is executed in terms of mark making, colouring, tonal variation and so on. I personally prefer standing poses where limbs are not attached to the main body volume. I find those much more sculptural and interesting.

    Again, it is so great to have your views on this one. Hopefully, we will see some great poses from you in the near future!

    Best regards,

    Liked by 1 person

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