Do you stand or sit when you draw or paint?

Do you stand or sit when you draw or paint? I had a fascinating discussion the other day with two artist friends; these are some of our thoughts on the issue:

If you usually stand, how would you feel about sitting? Why do you think it matters?

Sight-size/standing back from

When working in sight size it is usual to work standing up, and essential for a large drawing because it will be necessary to step back to make your observations. Given the length of time spent on sight size drawings it is likely that standing to draw will quickly become a thoroughly ingrained habit.

Altering the angle

When you stand to draw it is much easier to move a little way, perhaps a step or two, either side of your drawing position in order to clarify elements of form or lighting.

Embodiement and engagement

When drawing from a model there is a relationship between you and the model, how does that relate to your drawing?

When we watch sports our muscles actually make micro contractions mimicking the movements of the sports men and women we watch. It has been shown that this is so even when we watch on television (and no, that does not count as exercise!).

When drawing from a model we likewise have access to an empathetic/sympathetic reaction to how the model is posed. We can relate in terms of our own body how it feels to sit, stand, twist or crunch. I have heard this described as a pre-drawing exercise too, to bring an increased haptic sensibility to drawing

We can use this reaction in our drawing, one way to assist this is to relate to the model’s pose, to stand if they stand, or sit if they sit. This idea helps to create an eye level that is consistent with the model’s and relates to other social conventions; to sit when others are seated, or stand when they stand.

There is another more fundamental relationship to the model, one that has been developing since we were infants; the relation between sight and touch. In the beginning it is our sense of touch that trains our eye; it is why a child first draws a circle with dots an a line for a face and not triangularly spaced patches of shadow. So on one level our visual relationship to the model is also a tactile one, in the way that our sense of touch prefigures vision. What we see, and try to convey is that sense of our understanding of form.

Does this relate to our drawing in a sculptural or visual mode?


The decision to stand or sit to draw might also be governed by how your wish to portray your subject. One artist I met was making very ‘heroic’ portraits which were achieved by drawing from a very low angle to give the subject a commanding position.

Body of movement

When you’re standing it is also easier to make large, free, gestural movements; sitting, unless you are very attentive to your body, can tend to significantly constrain your movements.

Time, scale and setting

I find that I tend to sit for shorter poses, often because I tend to make smaller drawings. In a longer pose comfort plays a part too and I find that standing allows a more natural range of postures than sitting still for a prolonged period of time.

If I have an easel, I much prefer to stand. Somehow the easel changes the interrelationship between me, the model and the drawing.


Join the discussion in the comments………