Just like playing sports or the piano, when you’re drawing it’s essential to pay attention to the position of the body, especially the hands and fingers. Most people don’t realize it, but good posture allows you to draw faster, more precisely, and for longer periods of time.
You can always draw with bad posture, and maybe you can even do it well. But if you start out with good posture it will eventually become an automatic habit that you fall into without any extra thought or effort. Thanks to a solid basis (literally and figuratively), your skill level will rise more rapidly, and your drawings will be both more beautiful and more expressive.
Let’s compare good posture with the bad.
Good posture means:
1. A good posture is a stable posture – GOOD POSTURE
Straighten your back, then lift your head up and lean it slightly forwards. This gives you a complete and clear view of the entirety of your work zone (which includes your paper and other materials like pencils and markers).
2. Turn your paper, not your body! – GOOD POSTURE
It’s not uncommon to turn a page 200 times in one session at the drawing table.
When just starting out people tend to draw using the dominant hand’s wrist as their main axis of movement. In an effort to draw properly, beginners will keep their paper very straight and fixed on the table, perfectly lined up in front of themselves. Then, to sketch difficult curves, they attempt some pretty impressive contortions around the (still unmoving) paper. It’s a useless if valiant effort, as all the strange poses in the world don’t allow you to draw as freely and smoothly as simply angling the paper. It may seem like a simple solution, but sometimes simple works best.
Try it yourself:
Place the hand holding the paper steady at the top left corner of the paper. While the drawing hand holding the pencil moves, the drawing hand constantly and lightly brushes along the paper in order to steady itself*.
Enhance the movement of your wrist by using your elbow and shoulder. For the really large strokes, your chest can come forward and back slightly as well.
* You will find more details and some practical exercises in the posts dedicated to drawing straight lines without a ruler and sketching curves without the aid of a French Curve (a drafting tool designed for tracing curves).
Bad posture means:
1. one arm “fencing off” the work zone – BAD POSTURE
A leaning the body on the table with one arm “fencing off” the work zone. Sometimes we choose this position in an attempt to concentrate better. Instead, we end up with the opposite effect. The upper body has a limited range of motion, and thus all movements are limited. The arm that encircles the paper can also create an undesirable shadow over your work.
Try it yourself:
Open your arms to free the work surface and welcome the available light. Your brain will also become more open and creative. A bigger clear space will make your paper appear smaller. In turn, you will dare to draw bigger.
2. One arm as a pillow – BAD POSTURE
Like the previous example, here’s another bad posture where the elbow rests on the table. Here, the head is propped on the non-dominant hand, which is thus rendered useless (except as a pillow). You cannot use it to turn your paper while you draw.
3. putting the head down or snoozing on the table – BAD POSTURE
Due to fatigue, you’re lowering your head more and more, dooming your range of motion to become increasingly restricted. As this happens, your drawings get progressively smaller. You lose the correct angle from which to view your drawing and tend to slow yourself down by focusing too much on details. With your neck at an unnatural angle you’ll get a skewed vision of your drawing.
Try it yourself:
Slouch down and lean your head on a folded arm. Then, draw a circle. Sit up again and you’ll find that you’ve drawn a terribly wonky circle that looks like it might actually be a strange sort of ellipse.
4. An untidy or overloaded desk? – BAD POSTURE
In these situations, the elbows and the shoulders are sometimes held too close to the body.
Wider, grander strokes are lost, and the drawings shrink as the body tenses.
Keep only what’s strictly necessary at your work station. A drawing area is not for storing materials. If possible, plan a shelf for storing things like your pencils, markers, and books.
5. The entire body is too relaxed – BAD POSTURE
If you don’t pay attention you’ll risk falling into this position without even realizing it. The back bends, the head bows, the legs lose their supportive stance. After several hours of drawing, the body really just was to chill out and relax. However, the more you relax the more your effectiveness will be compromised. Once you really relax, it’s hard to get back into a good posture.
TRY IT YOURSELF:
If you know you’ll be working long hours, plan regular breaks and include some simple stretches. It will allow you to keep a constant and high potential of effectiveness.
This list doesn’t cover everything. The point is to illustrate the importance of good posture while drawing. Adopt it to begin with and posture will simply become a helpful part of your routine.
Check your posture. If it’s not correct, try to straight up your back, experiment and let me know the change in the comments 🙂
Feel free to download the Designer Starter Kit to know more good habits to take when you sketch !