Contrapposto – The classic pose

It’s not long to go now until our exhibition for the Chorlton Arts Festival! A big thank you to everyone who entered work to be exhibited – we’ll be in touch shortly with more details and to arrange payment for the frames from anyone who hasn’t already done so. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy another mini art tutorial – this week, we’re looking at the role the pose plays in composition.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all of the skill of a well-executed portrait is in the hands of the artist. However, the posture and stance of the model plays a key role in creating a balanced and pleasing piece. One of the most widely used poses in classical art is known as Contrapposto.

Manchester drawing lesson - DavidContrapposto is an Italian term meaning ‘counterpose’. It’s used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that the shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed appearance. It can also be used to refer to multiple figures which are in counter-pose (or opposite pose) to one another. The leg that carries the weight of the body is known as the engaged leg, the relaxed leg is known as the free leg.

Contrapposto can be seen in a number of classical paintings and sculptures, most famously in Michelangelo’s David. The first known usage was c. 480 BC in an ancient Greek statue from the early classical period. The pose was revived during the Renaissance by Italian artists including Da Vinci, Donatello and Raphael.

From this basis, artists began to explore how poses can communicate a variety of emotions and attitudes. The next time you sketch a model, have a think about what their pose may be expressing and how you can capture that with your treatment of the scene.

As ever, here is a selection of your sketches from last class for you to enjoy; hope to see you next time!

Last chance to enter our exhibition

As if you needed reminding, it’s your last chance to enter your work in our exhibition for the Chorlton Arts Festival! Simply bring your piece in to the class on 30th April to enter it, either framed or unframed. If you bring it unframed, we can supply the frame – please ask for prices of frames.

If you can’t make it to the class on 30th April, you can still enter your work by emailing, or to make alternative arrangements. We do need to collate all the work this week though so please get in touch sooner rather than later!

As ever, here’s a selection of your work from the last class, with some great sketches captured, particularly of the notoriously difficult reclining poses – enjoy!

Light & shadow

Well, the sun has finally shown its face in Manchester, hope you’re all making the most of the rays! In fact, we’ve been inspired by the weather to post a quick tutorial on light and shadow – hope you find this useful.

Understanding how forms behave in different light conditions can help you achieve added realism in your work. Light striking a geometric solid such as a sphere or a cube creates an orderly and predictable series of tones. Learning to identify these tones and to place them in their proper relationship is one of the keys to achieving a look of solidity. The ‘form principle’ is the analysis of nature in terms of geometrical solids, which can be rendered according to laws of tonal contrast.



The two photographs of the sphere show two classic lighting conditions: direct sunlight and overcast light. Each has a different set of tonal steps from light to shadow, known as modelling factors. In the direct sunlight, there’s a strong division of light and shade. The light side includes the light and dark halftones, the centre light, and the highlight.

The terminator, or ‘bedbug line’, is the area where the form transitions from light into shadow. It occurs where the light rays from the source are tangent to the edge of the form. If it’s a soft, indirect light, the transition from light to shadow at the terminator will be more gradual. The form shadow begins just beyond the terminator.

And as always, here is a selection of sketches from recent classes for your viewing pleasure! Don’t forget to bring your in to the next class to enter in the exhibition – all details can be found here.

How to enter your work for Chorlton Arts Festival

chorlton-artsThanks as ever to everyone who came down to our class to sketch our model Jo – a selection of your pictures are posted below. A reminder that we are putting on an exhibition as part of Chorlton Arts Festival and we need YOUR pictures to make it wonderful! Here’s how to enter:

Bring the picture you want to exhibit to any of our classes in April – dates are 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th April. Speak to John, Joe or Chris at the class to enter.

Rules for submission

1. Your submission must be your own work.
2. The submission must be an example of life drawing, either completed in the class or based on sketches made during the class.
3. We must be allowed to exhibit the work for the duration of the festival. Your work will be returned to you once the festival is over.
4. You agree to cover the cost of a plain frame – we can supply the frame, which you will be able to keep after the exhibition. Frames cost around £6 for A4, £14 for A3 – for exact prices, please speak to us at class.
5. The deadline for submissions is 30th April 2014 – work submitted after this time cannot be accepted.

The exhibition will be staged in the Edge Theatre & Arts Centre for the duration of the festival.

For more information, email or

How to draw hands! & your pictures from last class

Thanks as ever to everyone who came to our last class, where once again we made use of the theatre spotlights to throw some very striking shadows on the model. A big thanks also to art teacher Elena Cortes who came to help out at the class – more about Elena can be found on her website.

We thought it would be useful to post this quick guide to capturing that most difficult of appendages – the dreaded hand! Hope you find this helpful in your sketching efforts.

How to draw hands


Enter your work in our exhibition!

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Chorlton Arts FestivalChorlton Arts Festival approaches – the annual celebration of all things creative is due to take place this year from 16th – 25th May, and we’re excited to announce that we have an exhibition to put on at the Edge Theatre and Arts Centre! We’d love to exhibit some of the pieces created during our classes, so if you want to be involved, don’t hesitate to contact John, Chris or Joe to find out more. We only have a few weeks to assemble the exhibition so time is of the essence!

There was plenty to put the attendees through their paces at last week’s class, with a number of very short poses, interspersed with longer poses, some experimentation with different light sources, and another challenging walkaround by the model. As ever, here is a selection of your work from the class, hope to see you next time!

Twelfth Night

Well we are in Chorlton; literary references abound. And it is the twelfth of March.

Maggie was the model for this evening. CAA have certainly had a lucky streak with models, as Maggie proved. A number of short difficult poses, followed by longer less difficult ones. Most of the poses we do have been no more than 20 minutes. Most people seem happy with this, we are alternative after all, but if you would like longer poses, why don’t you message us here, or on Facebook.

We mentioned a number of points, but perhaps the one that may interest most people is the idea of an exhibition. We have not developed the idea in detail, but it would be included as part of The Chorlton Arts Festival. More news soon!!!

Theatre Night

Our second night in the theatre upstairs. We are beginning to get used to the lights and space.

If anybody has any idea how we could use it better, then give us a shout.

We decided to go to the LLoyds pub for a change….but next week we are back to The Parlour…if you want to chat to people that mainly talk about art… should join us for an hour…Manchester life drawing Manchester art classes art classes in manchester manchester art classes drawing classes in manchester life drawing in manchester beginners art class in manchester manchester drawing for beginners fun art class manchester art social group manchester chorlton beginners art class art classes for beginners chorlton art classes for beginners chorlton art classes for beginners chorlton chorlton art lessons art lessons in manchester art lessons in manchester manchester drawing lessons life drawing class chorlton life drawing in south manchester south manchester drawing class art class near didsbury drawing classes near didsbury south manchester art group art group near didsbury art lessons near didsbury life drawing in south manchester drawing class chorlton

More pictures and styles….

We put people’s drawings on our website for a number of reasons..
One of the key ones is that it gives everybody an idea of how diverse drawing can be…
Some are drawn fast and free, others detailed and considered…….everybody’s drawings are as unique as their signature…

These are more examples from last week….