Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting

I was late to the life drawing open studio today and of course on Saturday’s it’s packed with artists which is great, but I had to take what space was available. There were no sitting positions available so I had to take an easel and stand to draw. I was forced to think about standing versus sitting while drawing the figure and I found some obvious truths.

I’m not used to standing, I never do it because my feet tend to hurt a long when standing for about two hours. I could power through it each time though but it would distract away from my drawing so, I always choose to sit.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, warmup page
Warmup page

My warmup ovals were much more erratic due to standing. While sitting I’m able to rest the base of my hand on the board and add more control to the movement of my arm. This control was lost since while standing the only thing touching my board was the charcoal.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 1.5 minute gestures
1.5 minute gestures

I believe most of my drawing suffered a bit at first from not being able to rest my had on the board while making marks. Although there was a bit more freedom to my arm movements. Maybe a bit too much freedom as the control was not there.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 5 minute poses
5 Minute poses

These drawings didn’t go so well, I don’t think me standing or sitting would have anything to do with the lack of skill here. There something about these 5 minute poses where I become a bit confused about how much to finish and how much to gesture.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 5 minute pose
5 minute pose

Jeff Watts is a great example of an artist that does some amazing drawings while sitting. Here is a full 3 hour video of him drawing and answering questions while sitting.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 15 minute pose
15 minute pose

One of the supposedly best things about standing at an easel is that you can back away from your drawing but in real life situations it doesn’t always work out this way.

I’ve seen many artist choose to stand to draw yet use a tall stool, their position from the work then is no different than sitting. Weather your leaning back in a stool or leaning back in a chair to get a view further away from your work, its still 2 feet of extra distance at best.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 15 minute pose
15 Minute pose

The next problem with standing versus sitting is that easels at life drawing studios are never very structurally sound. If your an artists that likes to attach the board or press hard or thrash around in an artsy way then stick with a drawing horse while sitting, it provides much more stability.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, easel setup
Standing setup

Here is a rare view of one of my drawings in the Hipbone studio. This is a great studio, with a nice setup.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 30 minute portrait
30 minute portrait

I felt the lack of stability in standing while doing this 30 minute portrait the most. The model was costumed for this pose, but most of her clothes were dark, so I focused on a portrait. While trying to draw very precise lines I couldn’t seem to get my had and arm in the correct place to make the marks without shaking the easel.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 30 minute pose
30 minute pose

Standing Back Not Possible

Now, the biggest reason given for standing is the ability to stand back from your work a good distance. Maybe is a large classroom this is possible, but for a weekend life drawing class everyone is so packed in there that standing back from the work is impossible. Now that I think about it, in all my years of drawing from life I have found that in most cases stepping back from the work is not only impossible but could be distracting to the surrounding artists. For todays session I was standing on this raised platform and taking more than one step back would send me off the edge.

Figure Drawing: Standing Versus Sitting, 30 minute pose
30 minute pose

So regardless of standing I was able to do several good drawings. Was standing better than sitting? No. Is sitting better than standing? No, but I prefer to sit. In most cases I think it comes down to preference. If you have a bad back or your feet tend to hurt then sitting is better. If you like to be more expressive with your work and active while drawing then I think standing would suit you more.

I will say this, if you have been drawing while standing all of your life then it’s time to try sitting and vice versa. Always try something new and different, don’t get too comfortable, push your boundaries and you may just discover something you never thought possible.

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