The Reclining Figure

One of the most challenging phases of figure drawing is that of the reclining pose. It offers the best opportunity of all for design, interesting pose, pattern, and foreshortening. We forget the body as an upright figure for the moment and think of it as a means of flexible pattern for space-filling. The head may be placed anywhere within the space at your disposal. The torso may be regarded from any viewpoint. In the drawing of the reclining figure, as in the standing and sitting poses, avoid straight, uninteresting poses —the legs straight, the arms straight, the head straight. I call these "coffin poses," for nothing appears quite so dead. Unlimited variety is possible with the reclining or half-reclining poses. We brought the figure out of the "proportion box" early in this lx)ok. Never fit a box around anything that is an interpretation of life.

The impression is that reclining poses are extremely difficult to draw. If you are accustomed to measuring off so many heads, you must discard the method in drawing the reclining figure, for it may be foreshortened to so great an extent that it cannot be measured in heads. But there is still height and width in any pose. You can still find the middle and quarter points and make comparative measurements. From here to there is equal to from there to another point. Measurements are not standard and apply only to the subject before you.

Reclining poses are often neglected in art schools. The reason is usually the crowded room in which one student obstructs the view of another. Consequently the most delightful and interesting phase of figure drawing is passed over, and many students leave the school with out the slightest idea of how to go about drawing a reclining figure.

The appearance of complete relaxation is of first importance. A stiff-looking pose gives the observer the reaction of discomfort. The rhythm of the pose should be sought very carcfully. You know now how to look for it. Almost any model looks better in a reclining than in a standing pose. The reason is that the stomach falls inward and appears more slender; the breasts, if inclined to droop, return to normal roundness; the chest becomes full and high; the back, lying flat, is straighter; even a double chin is lost. Perhaps nature purposely adds beauty to the reclining pose. If glamorous appeal is needed in a drawing, nothing can give it more than the reclining figure.

If you arc using your camera, do not place it too close to the model, for distortion will result. Reclining poses should be selected with good taste. Crudity can send you and your drawing out die door in a hurry. See that the pose does not hide parts of the limbs so that they look like stumps; for instance, a leg bent under with nothing to explain it may look like the fellow with the tin cup. You cannot tell whether or not lie has a leg. An unusual pose is not necessarily good, but a figure can be twisted about for interesting design, or combined with draperies for unusual pattern. The hair can be made a nice part of the design. If the pose is complex, keep the lighting simple. Cross-lighting on an unfamiliar pose may complicate it and make it look like a Chinese puzzle. If bizarre effects, however, are wanted, it may work out at that. A high viewpoint may lend variety.

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