Paint Schoodic

Join us in Acadia National Park in August. Click here for more information.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

That finely-tuned, whole-body drawing machine

Bella and Jake practice standing in counterpose.
Yesterday, I stepped up to Jake’s easel to demonstrate stealth gesture drawing. Our subject was Bella, who was deeply absorbed in drawing tiny redbud blossoms. Bella, who is athletic and graceful, was standing like a column in front of her easel, a perfect plumb-line from her head to her pressed-together high-tops. “How do you even do that?” I asked her. “I would fall over.”

What is perfect for gymnastics or dancing may not be perfect for drawing. Nobody would ever accuse me of perfect posture. Nevertheless, I work standing at an easel for hours at a time.

I pondered my own stance while drawing. My non-dominant (right) leg was bearing my weight. My left foot was turned so the outside of my toe-box was touching the ground. This provided a pivot point to control my position, allowing my spine to move in concert with my drawing arm. Not that I stand like this all the time, or that any two successful artists do it the same way, but a good drawing stance is dynamic.

The Peplos Kore, c 530 BC, was clearly drawing (ahem). She’s also standing in counterpose (contrapposto). Although she’s using her left hand, her weight is on her left leg. (Acropolis Museum, Athens)

“Bella,” I said, “try standing on one foot and see if it changes your drawing style.” The difference was significant. Her mark-making was immediately lighter and more controlled.

Jake didn't just stand around in counterpose... he also drew this house.
We all know that painting while seated yields different results from painting while standing. (The former gives better control; the latter yields freer expression.) So it stands to reason that standing differently gives different results as well. The human body is a wonderful, finely-tuned machine. Change one parameter, and everything else adjusts to fit. 

(On that note, did you know there is not one but many arches to the foot, and they act as springs? Awesome design, that!)

We have a good time in the studio, on the street, and in the park.  And if you're interested in joining us for a fantastic time in mid-Coast Maine this summer, check here for more information.

1 comment:

SqUaNg said...


That is why I made you do the arm stretch exercise.

[in reference to dynamic stance for an artist]