In a typical life drawing session the model will be nude and pose for one, or more artists. In a classroom setting, whether instructed or untutored, the general routine is to have the model start of with short poses and work up to longer and longer poses towards the end of the session. [This is the typical set up for Life Drawing Moncton sessions.] For private sessions, typically where a single artist has hired the model for a specific project, poses are likely to be for longer durations.
Poses can be suggested, or directed, by the artist(s), but in a classroom setting the model will more often be required to come up with poses without direction.
To come up with poses, the model will need to have a little bit of acting skill, a general awareness of typical human activities and behaviours, and an understanding of what poses artist typically like to draw. The use simple props can give some inspiration, add some fun, and help give context to the pose.
Poses once selected should be kept for the duration of the allotted time period. Care should be taken to not allow your body to “drift”, whether by unwinding a twisted position, by slouching, or by moving your head, because your eyes are looking around the room.
A bit of pre-planning is required to make sure poses are not repeated, and that the pose can be held for the whole time specified. (Remember, even five seconds can be too long if you are not experienced in holding awkward positions, and staying still!)
Warm up, or gesture, poses
Warm up poses (warm up for the artist, not the model) are very short poses, and can be in the range of 5, 10, 30 and 60 seconds. These poses allow the artist to do gestural types of sketches where they try to capture the essence of a the pose — recording the movement, posture, position and mass of the body — in a few lines of various weights and thicknesses.
Warm up, or gesture type, poses will often have the model use certain muscle groups and position the body so that the weight is not evenly distributed. These types of poses can be very dynamic and expressive, using the whole of the body, and be in positions that the model would only be able to hold for that short allotted time. These poses can portray swinging a baseball bat, or golf club, caught mid swing; the act of lifting a heavy weight; dragging or pulling on a rope; leaning on a stick; or reaching for something just out of reach.
Short study poses
Short study poses are generally in the range of 5, 10, 20 and 30 minute poses. Poses for this time period allow the artist to bring a drawing to a semi-finished state, and experiment with different media, or techniques.
Short study poses will be less extreme than the warm up poses, where they need to be held longer, but can still involve a fair bit of twisting or contortion.
Long study poses
Long study poses start at an hour, and can go on for many hours with scheduled breaks. These poses allow the artist to bring the artwork to a finished state, whether as a working drawing for another project, or a final, sellable piece.
These types of poses are generally sitting, reclining, or involve some sort of comfortable support to allow the model to maintain the pose for a long duration.
Timing of poses
At the beginning of a drawing session the model will find out how the session will be run. This will involve the number of sets of poses, the length or number of poses in the sets, and the duration of individual poses in the sets. For example, a two hour session could have sets of ten, 5-second poses; ten, 30-second poses; five, 5-minute poses; four, 10-minute poses; and two, 20-minute poses.
It will depend on the set up of the session whether the transitions between poses and sets are called out for the model, or whether the model will self regulate. Be prepared to time all your poses by yourself. Warm up poses should be timed by counting the seconds in your head. Short poses can by timed by using a wall clock, watch, or cell phone, but remember that your pose may not permit you to easily view your choice of time keeping. Also avoid wasting time fiddling with a timing device to get it set up, and, if you choose to use alarms for longer poses (5, 10 and 30 minutes), avoid using annoying sounding alarms for your timer.