Over the next week or so, I’ll be doing a few posts about models and posing, so I thought I'd start with the most mega-retro method.
A great way to get reference for a painting a character is to pose yourself in front of a mirror and make a charcoal study on tone paper. I learned this method from Tom Lovell, whose work I have always admired. There’s a full-length mirror mounted on a piano hinge on my studio wall just for this purpose. I set up the drawing paper on an easel and act out the pose, sketching a little at a time.
A few years ago, I needed to create the character of a warrior riding an armored dinosaur. I took the pose myself, wearing a wig and scowling in front of the mirror. During a break I forgot to take off the wig, much to the amusement of FedEx man, who chose that moment to come by the house.
Here's a detail of the final painting, which appeared as a gatefold in Nintendo Power magazine to announce the Dinotopia GameBoy game “Timestone Pirates.”
This picture of Will Denison from Dinotopia was also based on a mirror study. Even if you’re not exactly the right type for the character you’re portraying, you can make plenty of little adjustments. What you’re looking for is the basic action of the pose, something to begin with.
The final painting appeared in Dinotopia: The World Beneath.
Artists have worked from mirror studies for centuries, and it’s still a viable method as long as the pose is possible to hold for a while. It's just about as fast as shooting scrap. Although in recent years I refer to photos a lot more than I used to, I still like working from drawn studies when I can, because they give me only the information I need, unlike photographs, whose details can be compellingly seductive.