Common Art/Life Modelling Terms

Contrapposto
Usually characterised by holding body weight all on one side of the body, causing the shoulder and hips on that side to be closer together. Can be standing or sitting.
Classical examples: Statue of David, Birth of Venus

Foreshortening
Foreshortening refers to the phenomenon where parts of the body closer to the artist appear larger than parts of the body further away. Foreshortening depends on the point of view of the artist; a model lying on a bed will appear long, and all parts approximately the same size from a side view, while from the head looking down the body, the feet will be proportionately much smaller and the head much bigger.
Classical examples: The Mourning over the Dead Christ

Open pose
Open poses refer to poses with an open aspect, usually arms spread wide, head up. They frequently display a hopeful mood. Imagine giving an important speech.
Classical examples: Cicero Denouncing Catiline

Closed pose
Closed poses usually have a shrunken, curled, or compact appearances, the limbs often cross one another and sometimes the face is hidden. The mood of a closed pose if often sorrow, grief, shame or fatigue.
Classical examples: At Eternity’s Gate

Gestural Drawing
Many life-drawing classes and sessions will start with short, dynamic or gestural poses. Gestural poses usually display the act of doing something; e.g. running, dancing, swimming, playing tennis, etc.
Classical examples:
Degas’ Ballerinas, Matisse’s The Dance

Figurative
Generally any art that is clearly based on something real, a scene, object or idea, that is representative of an actual thing. As opposed to abstract or surreal art, which do not always represent real objects.
Further information on Figurative Art.

Negative space
Everything that is not the model is characterised as negative space. If an artist requests ‘negative space’, usually they are looking for the spaces between the arms and body, or legs and ground or chair. It can be very useful for correcting proportions.
Classical examples: Discus Thrower

Classical pose
Generally speaking a classical pose will be a pose which brings to mind classical artworks, or classical positioning. It’s hard to be definitive about what a person might mean by classical, so best to ask for further clarification on what they mean.

Dynamic pose
Usually refers to an expressive pose with a lot of tension and energy. Poses of shorter duration, two and five-minutes, are much more dynamic than longer poses.
Classical examples: Lacoon and his sons, La Danse

Model Opening Address/Introduction
Many models take an opportunity at the start of all sessions to introduce themselves by name, and to reiterate the expectations of the session. In particular to emphasise their boundaries, such as not allowing photography, which applies to all life drawing sessions.

Perspective
is determined by the position of the viewer (artist) to the model and room. the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.
Further information on perspective.

Proportion
Refers to the dimensions of a composition and relationships between height, width and depth. Proportion also describes how the sizes of different parts of a piece of art or design relate to each other. Often tutored art classes will describe techniques to get proportions right, something that is especially difficult with the human body.
Further information on Body Proportions.

Medium
The term medium in art can refer to the material(s) used to create an artwork, for example paper, canvas, charcoal, pastels, clay, oil paint etc. It could refer to the type of artwork, for example painting, sculpture, printmaking etc. In some cases, it can refer specifically to a thinner/solvent used to work with oil paints.

Plinth or pedestal
Generally a circular or square column, box or platform. Often used to display a statue or sculpture but can also be used for a model to pose on.
Further information on plinths.

Background/Foreground
The background of an artwork is everything that is far away from the viewer/artist. The foreground is the part of the artwork that is close to the viewer/artist.

Chiaroscuro
Refers to a specific treatment of light and shade, often associated with the strong contrast in Renaissance paintings.
Classical examples: Bagglione, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Goya

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lifemodelssocietymelb

The Life Models' Society (LMS) is a collective of artists' models. We were formed in 1989 to provide a means for life models to get to know each other, and as a support group to standardise rates of pay and to improve our working conditions. Although we do not have the resources to act as a booking agency, we publish a list of available artists' models which is sent to all our subscribers, and updated several times a year.

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