Friday, December 10, 2010

Be Still

One of the main things you need to master when modeling for artists is to be still. Regardless whether the pose is short or long, the more still you remain, the better. I see it as one of the main differences between modeling for drawing, painting, and sculpture versus modeling for photography.

To maintain stillness, you need to choose your pose carefully considering how capable you are, and how long you need to hold it. For gestures of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, you can go quite wild with your pose choices, but remember to watch your balance and make sure you have good traction. Sometimes, after 15 or 20 seconds, you will find a muscle quivering, or a pinch of pain or numbness somewhere. For a minute or two its usually bearable and often a pain or cramp will subside after a few seconds. If it’s too much, a minor tweak of your position is your best choice. There is not a lot of subtlety in gesture drawings, so a minor adjustment in your position is not going to ruin anyone’s drawing nearly as much as falling, or breaking out of the pose will.

For longer poses, the artists are investing more of their time into their drawings, and maximum stillness is mandatory. Be sure to choose poses that you can maintain for the duration. Experience is the best teacher, so expect a few surprises. Always spread your weight over two or three load-bearing points to help avoid pain, numbness, pressure, and redness.

This pose in the picture above was held for about 2 hours total in 3 segments of about 40 minutes each, with 10 minute breaks between them. In this position, the weight of my head was partly carried down the bones through the forearm, to the shin bone, to the floor; and partly carried down the torso to the seat. The other arm also carries some torso weight down to the other leg, and both legs carry weight along the hamstrings, into the seat, and down to the floor through the shins. With imperceptible little shifts during the pose, I was able to change the distribution of my body weight around a bit and avoid fatiguing any one point.

When you are setting up a pose, remember that the force of gravity and your own physiology will work on it, and prepare yourself for those inevitabilities. As you decide your final position, take a moment to feel the pull of gravity on you, relax yourself into it, and you will wind up sinking less over the next 30 minutes. If you are in a twisting pose, consider how your stretched muscles will pull against the twist, and back off just a bit.

It’s helpful when you are in your final pose to mentally note background landmarks to help you keep your position. For example in a pose your arms held up, use your peripheral vision to look at what lies beyond your fingertips and remember where your hand is relative to that background object. It allows you to check your position over time and make adjustments if necessary.

When done, move out of your pose SLOWLY. After a pose your body will tell you very clearly which parts you need to stretch out, and which need to be relaxed. Stillness is not always as easy as it looks, but it is one of the most obvious and important hallmarks of a good art model.

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