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Old 01-26-2002, 10:22 AM   #1
Deborah Chapin Deborah Chapin is offline
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Joined: Oct 2001
Location: Washington DC Metro area
Posts: 8
?s about setting up the model

I'm primarily a plein air painter so you'll have to excuse the ignorance of this question. I'm participating in an Academic Atelier at the Nat'l Academy and I've noticed that no one ever gives instruction on how to set up the model and lighting. Is there some source for this information? It seems to me that 1/2 the battle of doing a portrait or figurative work is the lighting on the subject and the pose. What is the thinking and decision making process of setting up the model?

Thanks in advance
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Old 02-18-2002, 12:08 AM   #2
Anne Hall Anne Hall is offline
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Joined: Feb 2002
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 33
Ideas for setting up model

As with so much in art, when it comes to setting up the model, much of it depends...on your setting, on your model, on what you are trying to achieve. I share studio space with a group of friends every Monday and together we set up both morning and afternoon models. I also study locally and nationally with different teachers. The following distills my experience.

1. Setting the pose: have the model try several before you decide. Avoid crossed limbs and use sufficient padding to keep his/her body parts from going to sleep. Turning the head in different direction than the shoulders often adds movement, gesture to what is by necessity a still pose. Look at the pose from different vantage points as you decide on what looks right and excites you.

Some members of our group only want to do head and shoulders and want to settle on the pose fast, but this IS a visual medium and the time spent "visually editing" has almost always paid off. The poses we select right off the bat have sometimes backfired, requiring dramatic adjustments over the duration of a 6-week pose because the model couldn't hold the pose or had to go to the chiropractor or a variety of reasons. So even a set pose may not be truly set.

Remember that models are living breathing humans and the way they look in the first five minutes may change as they settle into their poses, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Don't ask an inexperienced model to try a standing pose for more than one session; it is MUCH harder to hold than it may appear.

2. Using props in the pose: have the model pick up and handle to see what comes naturally (if a comb, run through hair and put down; glasses, put on and take off, etc).

3. Placing position of model in your point of view: whether your vantage point is high and looking down, straight on, or low looking up can convey a lot in your picture. Consider the meaning conveyed by placement of models in da Vinci's "Last Supper" vs. the picture known as "Mona Lisa."

4. Lighting the pose: again, be open to trial and error before you decide. Setting the light very high or very low can create stark shadows and enunciate features in ways you may or may not like. Experiment with setting the light to the side to see how you like the modeling effects of a dark and light side to the face and figure. Natural light can be difficult if you are not in a north light setting as the passage of the sun across the sky during a model session can change what you see a great deal. If you have more than one light, try using the second to bounce light off the backdrop to create beautiful color effects and nice reflected lights on the model.

5. Timing: stick to a set schedule of 20 minutes sitting, 5 minutes rest, for 3 cycles, then take 15 minutes rest and resume. Take your own rest then too!

6. Taping: once you have set the pose and the lighting you like, mark them and your easel so you can easily resume after a break or at the next session.

7. Photography as a record: increasingly popular with the prevalence of digital cameras, but be sure to ask the model for explicit approval for your stated purpose (photographic models make a LOT more than artist's models and typically require detailed releases). Out of courtesy to other artists, try to limit photos to the very first or the last few minutes of a session. I haven't yet seen a printer that makes a digital print truly faithful to the beauty of the live model, so I recommend painting from photos with extreme caution if at all.
Anne E. Hall
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