How to avoid stiff poses and drawings?

Have you ever been told that your drawings are stiff? And you didn’t even know what that means?  Do you always end up with a drawing that is totally unsatisfactory even to you no matter how hard you try? Don’t worry! You are not alone in this. Many artists get to this problem in some stage of their drawing development. In fact, it is one of the stages you usually have to get through in your way to master drawing.

How to spot stiff poses or drawings?

Defining stiff poses & drawings is a bit tricky. While there are many definitions for that in books and in the web, the focus of this blog is to explain things in a language that can be easily be understood by the normal person. And I will do my best to explain it that way. So, to make things easier. I am going to introduce multiple definitions. Any drawing that falls into one of the following categories

  • A drawing that feels unnatural in a way that wouldn’t usually happen happen in life. This could range from an impossible poses to upright ones that people rarely take if ever.
  • Drawing that lack motion. Ones that make you wonder what the character is actually doing when you look at them.
  • Drawings that are too symmetric, which is not wrong but is so  “boring” in art terms. They drawings that were drawn for the sake of drawing, without making the object at the picture do anything before start it.
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In most cases, it is much easier for others to spot the stiffness in the drawing than the artists herself. Which is why she can feels confused about it. And it is usually like “What did I do wrong”. One of the easiest way to have the ability to recognize such drawings is to keep looking at other people’ drawings, and to try spot the dynamic in the picture or how stiff they are (depending on the picture). If you feel confused by what I am saying right now, don’t concern yourself with the exact meanings of what is mentioned here. Instead, try to feel and imagine what the picture you are looking at is about, and if it looks right to you or not. It will feel a bit awkward to do that at the beginning. But you will develop your own sense of judgment eventually as you keep doing it.

Tips to avoid such stiff drawings

  • Decide on a pose before drawing at all. This includes deciding on what the character is doing, and object or a person the character is interacting with. Then proceed with techniques like stick figures, gesture drawing and guidelines to create your drawing.
  • Say no to straight lines, and never use them in your human and even animal drawings. The human (and animal) body consists mainly of curves. From the spine to the toes.
  • Study figure drawing, and compensate any lack you have about anatomy: – I find it impossible to draw the human body correctly without excessively observing it at the very least. Knowing some anatomy is a must to make realistic drawings. Even if you draw realistic characters like Anime or Comics, you still need to get to that. Albeit to a lesser degree.
  • When you draw, create your lines by moving your arm instead of just your hand. This won’t only help you create better and smoother lines (which is great for guidelines). But it will also make the lines feel less contrived. It is also worth mentioning that this will help you prevent any injury that can result from stressing your hand as well.
  • Never hesitate to ruin a drawing, this may be hard to do when you are just beginning and you treat every drawing as if it was a gem. But eventually, and at some point in the future, you are going to have a huge pile of drawings besides you, so a particular drawing, no matter how great it seemed at the time, is probably not that important actually. Just remember, no matter what your current level at drawing is, that reaching a higher level that allows you to create drawings that you are proud of is much more important than saving a drawing that is probably not that great. A good way to think of this is to imagine that is imagine that drawing as a single person, and your skills and the rest of your drawings as the nation that the person belongs to. No matter how we think of it. Who do you think is more important to be served, the interests of nation or of that single person?
  • Don’t press the pencil so hard, which can result to lines that aren’t easy to erase and correct. Which kind of makes it a matter of luck to end up with a good drawing. Fine lines, on the contrary, cannot only be erased, but you can use these lines to make better lines by drawing over them (This tip may seem irrelevant, but it can be helpful in more than a way).
  • Instead of drawing your character alone. Draw something she is interacting with. And if your character is looking at you (or at the camera, you could say), then you are the object the character is interacting with. Make sure you put some emotions on the character’s face (and maybe put something in her hand). No one would be interested in looking at a character with a blank face. If you can, create a background behind your characters. There are tons of times that I saw very good artworks that are really well made but are not that interesting simply because there is no background behind the characters in them. I personally made that mistake a lot in the past, I must admit ;)
  • Observe people and pictures of them to know how they look like, the more you do that, the better understanding you will develop about the thing you want to draw.

~For those who read this advice from me many times already, but this pretty much summarizes a big chunk of drawing in my opinion~

  • If you are coloring your picture, make sure not to shade the body so that it feels rigid, as if it was made of rock of wood. This usually happen by colouring the soft parts of the body and make them appear harder than they really are. For the sake of the lools, take a look at the exaggerated example in the following picture: –

    Coloring can produce stiff poses as well. No matter how good your lines are, you can make your characterr appear like rock if you colored them wrong. This includes making the soft parts of the body appear harder than they really are.
    No matter how good your lines are. You can make your character appear like rock if you colored them wrong. This includes making the soft parts of the body appear harder than they really are.

  • Take Art classes if you can. I personally don’t think you have to take them to be become a great artist really, specially that you could learn tons of things by studying on your own or by interacting with other artists. But attending one can help you a lot. Because this way, it is harder to get astray in your pursue of perfectness, as your teacher will be there to give you tips and all.
  • Use a reference to help you get the drawing right. And avoid doing any guessing at all. If you are looking for a certain picture or a pose and you never found it. Use a reference picture that’s close to the one you went o draw. Also, there’s always the option of posing for yourself or making someone you know make that pose for you. A good site for finding poses is PoseManiac
  • Learn about Gesture drawing: – This is a topic that requires a post in its own, if not a whole book. The key aspect to gesture drawing here is that you use it to practice new poses all the time, it is a good practice to draw tons of 5 minutes and 1 minute poses to learn about them. Preferably try out a certain pose before draw it for real. A good analogy I like to use to to explain learning different poses is to compare it to learning new words in your language or in the language you are learning. Like you must learn a certain word before you could use it. And the more words you know, the better you are at speaking that language. This goes for poses and drawing in general. Your repositories of poses are what make you able to draw better. With that analogy, we could venture saying that stiff drawings are ones you didn’t know how to draw in the first place.
  • Check your proportions: – Generally speaking, balance of the figure, proportions and the flow of the character movement work together, mess up one of them, and the picture will pretty much end up stiff. If you have a problem in one of them, then this is where you need to work on until you perfect it.

Finally, Here Is A word of encouragement From Me

I can totally understand how frustrating it is to have stiff poses or drawings But to give you the credit. The fact that you acknowledge this problem marks the first step toward solving it. This is a stage that any artist must pass through, and only people who are serious about drawing and really want to get through it are the one who reach mastery. Just remember that you need a lot of practice in order to end up getting to create dynamic artworks and drawings. And always remember, practice makes perfect. It really works, and it works better if you set up a plan using the tips above and any honest tip you may get from anyone knowledgeable about art. Finally, Keep in mind that having this problem does not mean at all that you didn’t learn drawing well, or that you are not qualified. In fact, I expect you to have a great future if you did the right thing about fixing the problem. And I wish you all the good luck in the world~

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SweetMonia
I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

4 Comments

  1. Everything in this article is true, but you have left a lot of errors. The largest one I have seen was under the bullet, “Take art classes if you can”, which states, “I personally don’t think you don’t have to take them to be become a great artist really, specially that you could learn tons of things by studying on your own or by interacting with other artists.” Instead, you should’ve written, “I personally don’t think you HAVE (caps to show where the correction is) to take them…” because the original sentence is confusing and does not convey the meaning you are going for based on the surrounding paragraph.

    1. Hi there Dormir,

      I am glad you like the post. You have a point it has some errors. It was one of the first posts I made here, and I probably should go over it to fix them. I fixed the one you pointed out by the way~

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