Sunday Mailbag: Reference for Poses?

December 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I marvel at your ability to draw likenesses and your command of fundamental anatomy. But how facile are you at depicting more unusual human positions? If your assignment were to draw someone doing a backwards somersault into a pool, are you able to conjure up the image out of your head…or do you seek out references, either via online photos or taking your own photos a la Norman Rockwell? What do you do to depict the human body in more contorted poses…or, for that matter, even “standard” ones — bending over to tie one’s shoelaces, etc.

A: I usually take a crack at any odd poses, action, or positions in a given figure just right out of my head. That works a surprising amount of the time, probably because I have both been doing this a long time and my figures are supposed to be funny/cartoony so having really accurate anatomy is not that important… I’m trying to make the action funny in most cases so exaggerating the anatomy or pose both accomplished that task while it masks things being “off” of reality somewhat.

That said, I take a critical look at the figure I’ve drawn and if it is awkward or just not working, I’ll find a reference photo to help me out. About 75% of the time I will take a picture of myself doing the pose or action. I don’t really need the details, I just need to get a feel for the action or way the body works in that position. So, even though I am a big guy, my picture works if the subject I am drawing is a slim female, or a little kid, or whatever. If it’s a really odd action I will try finding a reference online, but that almost never works because it won’t be at the angle I want or show the right movement. What those pictures will help with is describing what the body does when it’s doing the action in question… if the back arches or the feet stagger or the torso twists, etc. Then I incorporate what I’ve learned about the body’s movements in that particular scenario into my figure and hopefully pull it off.

Thanks to Joel Kweskin for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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