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June 23, 2022

Drawing poses from imagination

 Originally written in December 2021

Drawing poses from imagination

Notes from a comment by Moldy Slug on Reddit

  • Build a visual library of poses

  • Get more comfortable improvising

  • Visual library is built through close observation. Drawing people from life is good because they move around, which helps train your memory short term. What did they look like before they shifted?

  • Do at least 20 minutes of gesture drawings as a warmup to get a feel for the things you want to draw. It helps loosen up.

  • Memory training

    • Get a reference and observe for 1 minute

    • Put it away and take 5-10 minutes to draw it from memory. 

    • Do as many iterations as it takes to get familiar with the pose.

  • Cloud watching: scribble, then find a drawing within it

  • The illustration process:

    • Gesture warmups

    • Thumbnail sketches and cloud watching

    • Test out good poses

    • Look up refs with similar poses


This is extremely humbling. It exposes the reality of how little I really know about anatomy and poses. When I study the pose for 60 seconds, I think I know how it looks, but as I try to draw what I just saw, I quickly realize I didn’t truly understand why the pose looked the way it did. And after several iterations of guess work, it is clear I do not have a visual library of poses in my mind. I can observe, but can I remember?

I think it’ll be helpful to rotate through memory exercises with regular drawing practice. It’s like studying, and then the test is drawing the pose from memory. I think what I learn in one exercise helps me learn about the other, and I can effectively build my skills from there. I am also encouraged by how challenging this is. It feels like I am exerting myself. It’s hard at first but it’s proof that I am growing as an artist. This may be another game changer!

Now, the question: Should I do gesture class first, then the memory exercise second?

  • Class, then memory: Warms up my gesture drawing skills

  • Memory, then class: I’ll be more observant of the poses

I’m excited that I have something to work on. All this time I’ve just been doing warm ups. It’s about time I’ve actually started exerting myself. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

The reason I think memory training will help, is because I’m studying the pose, drawing with and without references, while comparing the two. As I get to know the particular pose better, I have clearer observations and grow to understand why it looks the way it does. And then, I should be able to derive my own poses from the original reference material, slowly building up a visual library in my mind. Well, that’s the plan, anyway.

So far:

  1. Copy the pose for 1-2 minutes

  2. Draw the pose without reference

  3. Draw the pose with reference

  4. Compare and identify mistakes

  5. Draw the pose from memory again

  6. Draw the pose with ref again

  7. Repeat more iterations if still necessary

The more I compare the two, the better pose I can draw. I can also modify the pose to my personal liking.

The hope is that when I doodle mindlessly, I’m recalling the poses I drew during memory training. The only things I can doodle are ¾ heads and random anime eyes. If I try to draw a pose, I have no idea what I’m doing! I need references. The goal is to not rely on refs as much as I currently do. I use it as a crutch more than I should, and I need to push myself to do better.

My goal is that more memory training = recalling the reference material better. That 

would demonstrate a true understanding of the pose.

It’s meant to simulate the part of the illustration process when I have to come up with an original pose. It’s very stressful, especially if it’s an obligated piece, and I feel so put on the spot that I freeze up and don’t draw. This should hopefully get me more comfortable with drawing from my mind.

I do think this is very promising. When I draw a pose, it feels like I’m actually exerting myself.  Have to recall the information from my mind without the visual aid. It quickly shows me how much I actually understood the pose, which isn’t a whole lot. It’s incredibly humbling.

 It’s training me to see more information in the pose. I realized that when I go back to regular gesture drawing, I’m just mindlessly copying. Which is really great because it’s become second nature to me., but I’m also not really processing what I’m copying. It’s similar to copying a paragraph while note-taking in class. You don’t really think about what you’re writing- all you’re doing is getting from Point A to Point B.... and as soon as you transfer the information to the paper, it goes POOF! Onto the next thing.

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