Monday, March 2, 2009

What good is a 30 second pose?!

I occasionally help run sketch classes in a couple of schools around the city. I often end up with the dubious moniker of "30-second man." Despite what some of my ex-intimates may say, I earned that name because, when I run a class, I like to start out with ten 30-second poses. Now, most sketch classes will start out with one minute poses, so why cut that in half? As it stands, a one-minute pose is so fast...

When I was first introduced to 30-second poses, it took me a while to get to like them. I'd already been drawing nudes for a long time, years in fact, and never did anything shorter than a one-minute pose. It was in Nathan Cabot Hale's class at the Art Student's League in the 80s that I was first exposed to the 30-second pose. Hale, a relative of the famous ASL instructor Robert Beverly Hale, was a sculptor and an anatomist with a fierce demeanor and a good sense of humor. He felt 30 second poses were good for you, and since he knew his business, I thought I should give it a try. Besides, some of the other students would just sit out the short poses without even trying, and I didn't want to give up like that. I rarely refuse a challenge. I rapidly learned to love the 30-second because of how quickly my drawing improved. Why? Here's why:

--You just barely have enough time to capture the gesture, the movement & feeling of the pose. You can't get hung up on any of the details. This is more important than it seems at first. One of the problems a lot of people have is that their drawings seem stiff and woody. The drawing doesn't have the spark of life to it. It may even seem overworked. In 30 seconds, if you get much, it will mostly be that spark.

--You just have enough time to draw the whole figure. Which means you just have enough time to see the whole figure. Getting the parts of the figure all in proportion to each other can be a very difficult thing, and the trouble is that as we draw, our attention gets hung up in the details, as whatever part of the body we spend more time on can come out bigger on paper (usually the head or hands). You can even see this happen on drawings by some of the great artists, even Prud'hon.

--You begin to perceive the figure as a whole in your mind, and this lets you work more quickly.

--You begin to remember more with each glance.
--An inspired model can strike short poses that they could never hold for longer.

--After doing a few 30-second poses, the one minute pose seems like its five times as long, and you'll get so much more out of it.

Sounds like they're worth giving a try, now, right? After all, 10 poses in five's a little investment with a big return!


  1. You know, it could also be amusing to fire a gun at the feet of a model and tell them to dance...

  2. Ow! Thirty seconds, half a minute, is a long time, relative to gunfire...

  3. oh please, let's not get into that..asking art models to dance means you're in the wrong venue!
    btw it's nice you mentioned Prud'hon... I copied my favorite piece- his Divine Justice & Vengeance in Pursuit of a Crime and the flying angels indeed are bigger in proportion as compared to the murder victim!