|Artist Quang Ho seeks out a natural, effortless pose with his
portrait painting models. Photos by Manuel Rodriguez.
I’m a lounger by nature. Why stand when I can sit? Why sit when I can curl up on the nearest comfy couch? This has made my posture the bane of my grandmother’s existence, but it has put me in good stead with artist-friends who need a model that doesn’t stiffen up. Having attended demonstrations and been in classes where really good artists work with models, the quality that those artists almost always try to tease out from their sitters is an implicit ease; a natural, unposed quality that seems effortless yet is visually interesting for their oil painting portraits.
From my experience, the best way of putting a model at ease is to just give them time. Anyone can freeze up like a statue for a few minutes, but giving models the opportunity to relax and get familiar with the artist they are working with and the environment they are in will usually help them to unwind. I was at a Quang Ho portrait painting demo some time ago, and his model was a little tense at the beginning of the class. But before he started painting, the artist gave a 30-minute portrait instruction lecture. By the end of his talk, the model had gotten comfortable, and when Quang turned to her, he announced to the class that he was ready. He didn’t alter her position at all—she was sitting naturally in a way that was characteristic to her, which is what he’d wanted all along.
|Allowing models to incorporate clothing
and jewelry that indicate their personal
style can put them at ease while creating
a unique visual treatment in your portraiture.
When you have your sketchbook and are out drawing or taking inspirational photos of places and people, think about the kinds of poses you are drawn to. Is the figure compact and curled up or loose-limbed? Supine or prone? Active or at rest? For me, I have always been drawn to more compressed poses that hide more than they reveal and that put asymmetry into the human form. It’s certainly not a classical treatment, but it’s what my eye finds engaging.
I sometimes draw inspiration for model poses from magazines, but more often from other artwork, like the paintings featured in so many articles in The Artist’s Magazine, which continually covers interesting artists who use different kinds of portrait set-ups and figure positions. There’s also always a lot of discussion about how to create a composition that features the figure in a convincing way, and this comes straight from the artists themselves. Studying portrait painting allows you to really think about the range of motion, stances, and poses a body can create in an approachable way. With a subscription to The Artist’s Magazine, you get a sense of how the human figure can be featured in your artwork and create a rewarding and engaging way to learn. Enjoy!