Shake a Leg

The current issue (Fall 2008) of American Artist Drawing Magazine features an excellent article written by my dear friend Dan Gheno. It discusses the challenges faced by artists in drawing legs, and Dan, as always, offers solutions, tips, and detailed descriptions on this efficient, yet beautiful, part of human anatomy. Our glorious gams! Brilliantly engineered, ingeniously designed for their function and, in many cases, great to look at in both men and women.

I can’t possibly add anything more to Dan’s article that would be of help to artists with their drawing. He’s got it all covered. What I can do, though, is add a little bit of art model insight to the strength, versatility and yes, expressiveness of legs. What would we do without them? Not a hell of a lot.

Art models rely heavily on their legs. I know I do. My legs are probably my best physical asset. Thanks to regular squats and lunges (well, semi-regular), they are strong enough to sustain me in long standing poses and generate dynamic movement, elegant lines, and springlike support in short poses. When I’m working, moving from quick pose to quick pose, I am always conscious of my leg muscles and try not to take them for granted. Sometimes, when I strike a one minute gesture pose in a spontaneous fashion, I feel like I’m silently communicating with them. “Thanks guys!”, I say to myself. “Hamstrings, I need you now. You’re up!”. They carry me, move me, push and pull and handle the ambitious expression and motion I demand of them. Just the sheer interplay and cooperation of the quads and hamstrings in assuming shifts in body weight, handling pressure and tension on one side while the other side takes a breather, are a testament to the beauty of our legs’ construction.

One of the many interesting points that Dan makes in his article is about the connection between the legs and pelvis. They are literally connected. A person can bend forward – or raise the leg up with a bent knee toward the torso- with the pelvis barely moving. Try it yourself. You’ll be amazed at how still the pelvis remains. But backwards motion is a different story. It’s very difficult to push your leg behind you without it bringing the pelvis back as well, up to a certain point. That’s why when I do a standing pose with one leg stepping forward, I usually lift my back leg up onto the toe (or the ball of the foot). If that back foot sits flat with the heel on the ground, the pelvis pushes back in a weird, awkward, and uncomfortable way. It’s also a strain on the calf muscle. Ballet dancers can do it easily though because they are, well, incredible. But an art model serves a much different purpose of course. The pose I just described simply looks nicer and more artistic with the back foot up on the toe. And the artists have a useful study of one leg supporting weight and the other more relaxed, which is a great drawing practice.

Drawings by Michelangelo and Caracci are among the many marvelous works you can view in Dan’s article, along with some of Dan’s own. But there is one pair of legs that doesn’t appear in Dan’s article (although he has drawn them many, many times). So here they are, as an addendum to the already impressive legs in the magazine. Hmm . . . who could these belong to? I wonder . . . 😉


10 thoughts on “Shake a Leg

  1. Rog says:

    That leg pose is quite the creative one. The hand positions and shapes make the whole pose a unique thought.

  2. ColdSilverMoon says:

    Excellent pose, Claudia! You do have lovely legs! That is a great photo and really accentuates your “assets.” And you are correct about the reliance upon our legs as art models…standing upright in the same position for an entire 4-hour session, even with breaks, makes you realize how important they really are….

  3. Merrel says:

    For this interested, since there weren’t any links in the post, you can check out the magazine online at

    Now, back to Art Basel planning!

  4. Ron says:

    Nice legs, whoever they belong to. Nice rest of the body too!

  5. dougfromcanada says:

    Hi Claudia, I understand your comments well and appreciate the strength and balance of the legs that are required to provide interesting poses for the artists but that are also practical enough to survive and accomplish what we want to give them.

  6. artmodel says:

    Rog, thanks! Glad you like the pose. I’ve done it, or a variation of it, many times for drawing, and people seem to like it. It’s fun to do!


  7. artmodel says:

    ColdSilverMoon, thank you too! I appreciate the compliment. With all the lunges, my legs better look good! 🙂

    But even more important than looks, is the strength, stamina, and trustworthiness of legs for our line of work. Totally essential, especially for those 4 hour standing poses you mentioned.

    Thanks for your comment.


  8. artmodel says:


    Oh my god, what would I do without you? I’m so stupid. How I neglected to include a link to the magazine is nuts! Thank you, thank you! You’re the best 🙂


  9. artmodel says:


    Friend, I think you know very well to whom those legs belong 😉 Glad you like them!


  10. artmodel says:


    Yes, our legs are incredibly capable of handling everything we inflict on them, either in art modeling or everyday life.

    Thanks for commenting, as always.


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