What makes a good pose

Its a question I get asked quite a few times when talking about life modelling, “so, what makes a good pose” and to be honest there is no straight answer. Truth be told you could ask any model,  Tutor or artist the same question and every answer could easily be different!

As an artist model rather than an artist, I’m technically not the most qualified to answer it, I have always felt its the artists or tutors that know better after all they are the ones that may have the thought running thought their head as I take up a pose “oh, that’s a good pose” but at the same time a few seconds into the pose or whilst adjusting to the pose I may think to myself “oh that’s a good idea”, “this could be interesting” or even “yes, this is pretty good”. Whilst an artist may think that a certain pose is great, I may think otherwise and vice versa. I always look to try and prise feedback from artists on certain poses at the end of a session but more often than not the response is that they are all wonderful and inspiring. Well, who am I to argue with that?

To me I always have a rough list in my mind of what I feel makes a good pose;

Holding Still

To everyone in the room this is the single most important thing for being a life model, staying where you started. If you cant hold still then its makes everything difficult for the artist to draw as they are constantly having to adjust for that wandering limb or body position.  Don’t get me wrong every model out there moves to some degree, we are human after all but if its bad artists get put off, drawings get ruined and its a bad day at the office for everyone involved. Essentially if you can hold still its probably 70% of the job in hand and I will always pose on the side of caution so that I know I have a good chance of finishing where I started. My golden rule is if you can stay still throw in one of the other from my list you are very close to a winner.

Challenging for the artist

Every artist I model for will vary from the complete novice to the seasoned artist. It maybe the first time someone has dipped their toe in the world of life drawing or it maybe that who you are working with attends a figure drawing class several times a week and has done so for last 50 or 60 years. Everyone needs a challenge in my book! Not to the point where every pose you come up with is full of foreshortening (many artists hate that one!) but I like to throw one or two challenging poses or elements into every session should I get the chance. It keeps the regulars focused and give the novices new skills come the end of something a little bit difficult.

Showing Structure/Tension

As a younger male model I am blessed with these things called muscles. OK, I’m no body builder but I may have more muscles than some artist I pose for are probably used to. Put them under tension and all of a sudden the artist is presented with a new shape, shadow or line that they may not be used to. This kind of helps each pose fall into the challenging or interesting list section but for me it gives each of my poses that little bit of “edge”. I’m not trying to be a body builder at judging show but if I can push a leg or arm into the ground, wall or a prop a little then my muscles will help transform my shape a little.  I try and fit as much muscle flexing or tension in each pose as possible however doing so can be tiring for loner poses so I have to be select as to when and where they can be used. Gesture poses up to a few minutes can be full of tension as I only have to hold it a short while, longer poses its much more difficult to sustain. Many a time have I started a short pose with tension only for a tutor or artist to ask if I can hold it longer that originally planned which soon becomes harder work than I planned, it come with the territory but its usually a good sign of the tutor  or artist thinking “”oh, that’s a good pose”.

Life models come in all shapes and sizes and artists love drawing anyone willing to strip off to their birthday suit and hold relatively still for a set amount of time. For me, I operate in a bit of a niche age and gender group and in short there are not many male life models my age so have the advantage of showing a body structure that many artist may not see very often. Groups often comment to say “oh we haven’t had a male model your age before/for a long time, models like you are rare” which automatically helps with putting me in both the challenging and interesting sections without almost doing anything, however I actively make sure with my poses that artist have a clear picture of my body structure and proportions by ensuring that I include a certain amount of stretching, flexing, tension, hard angles, straight lines and general “youngish maleness”. Most artists loosely side on that males are a little harder to draw than women which means artists often learn more when drawing them and are keen to draw more. I actually had one artist tell me they had learnt more in a 2 hour session with me as a model than drawing 5 different females and couldn’t wait to draw me again as she had learned so much. Complements like this are a wonderful reminder why I life model.    


Onto the last on my list. As I have briefly touched on my rare age and gender naturally help me fall into this category and probably why I tend to be a popular model choice however simply rocking up to a class or group doing the same old poses week in week out will soon become boring to any artist. If I rest on my laurels because of my age and the fact that I have a penis artists will soon get fed up and possibly get the impression I am being lazy.  This is the last thing I want to portray to anyone that is paying for my time.  Keeping poses interesting is probably the hardest part from this list and does require a little thought. I have always found when thinking about my next pose whilst in a pose how I can make that future pose a little more interesting which means I try to introduce perhaps a little torso twist, contrapposto or adjust a limb slightly before beginning my pose to give it that little bit more edge. It maybe that the chosen pose is interesting in itself and not much needs to be done to it but if I’m taking up a longer pose which cant be filled with dynamic flailing body parts then adding a slight turn to the head or angle in a wrist goes a long way.