Last weekend I got to do something fun and exciting: model BJJ poses for artists. No, I was not nude. I was in a gi, and had to hold poses while I was being sketched. I’d not heard of jiu jitsu folks’ experiences doing this, so I wanted to share about it as well as give some advice were I to do it again. For reference, I’m the one with short hair and the white gi.

I’d like to thank Mike Stewart of Jankura International Artists Community for inviting me to participate in this special drawing session. Mike graciously shared his art with me, and I’m including it with his permission. Information about Jankura will be included at the end of this post.

The first, 5-min pose. Not too bad!

The first, 5-min pose. Not too bad!

It was a 2 hour session. The format was: five 5-minute poses, three 10-minute poses, and two 20-minute poses. I invited some jiu jitsu folks to model with me, but all that fell through, so I ended up partnering with a friend who had never done jiu jitsu a day in her life, which added a level of difficulty.

I discovered that dynamic poses are incredibly hard to hold, and 20 minutes is near agony. Anything where your head is lifted up or at an angle gets excruciating, even after only 5 minutes. For one of the 20 minute poses, my feet felt completely asleep and I couldn’t stand up afterward.

Another 5-minute pose. We rested our heads on one another.

Another 5-minute pose. We rested our heads on one another.

I sacrificed some accuracy for the sake of comfort – both for myself and my partner. Some of it was just relaxing, some of it was having too much space, or not engaging your hooks, or just flat out putting your head on the mat. The reality is that comfort > accuracy when it comes to holding poses, because if you’re super accurate and it isn’t comfortable, you just can’t happily do it.

This wasn't bad for a 5 minute pose. Note my head laying down.

This wasn’t bad for a 5 minute pose. Note my head laying down.

Excruciating to hold this for 5 min - limbs and neck hurt a lot.

Excruciating to hold this for 5 min – limbs and neck hurt a lot.

Things to consider when modeling for an art class

1. Find out the format. I hadn’t realized that I would have 20 minute poses. I thought I would only have 5 minute poses, and I would have chosen a little differently.

2. Practice the poses. I realized early that my partner had no clue how to hold her body or hands, so practicing with someone so I could figure out exactly what to have my partner do was important. We also met a little early to check out the space.

3. Have too many poses planned. The space we were in had a raised platform that made some poses difficult or impossible. On one or two, there were limbs hanging off it.

4. Make use of time between poses. Stretch. Drink water. Walk around.

5. Rotate. Those artists are sitting in the same place the whole time. Sucks if all they get to see is your butt and back the whole time. Change it up.

 

This wasn't too bad for a 10 minute pose.

This wasn’t too bad for a 10 minute pose.

6. Relax, but don’t shift. When I was holding my partner in scarf, it was incredibly difficult to relax because I’m so used to HOLDING the arm. Not tightly, but just holding her arm I noticed my grip would get increasingly stronger, so I’d have to consciously relax.

7. Color coordinate. I wore a white gi and a blue belt, my partner wore a blue gi and a white belt. It made the limbs easier to distinguish.

8. Use a partner. Steph mentioned that without a partner, BJJ is little more than squatting and sitting. And any “cool” poses – like going inverted – totally unrealistic to hold for that long.

9. Be aware of the time. Have access to a stopwatch–visually or have someone call time, or measure time by songs. Pop songs or the like can be wonderfully distracting. Dreamy, sleepy music feels like it is going on for ages and not recommended.

**Edited to add 10-13

10. Smell nice. When you’re holding your face next to your partner for 20 minutes, you really want them to smell nice. Bring mints for between poses, shower that day, etc.

11. Remember it’s not a photoshoot. You’re being drawn, possibly crudely, possibly without a face, possibly without any distinguishing features. That means that even if you did wear perfect eye makeup, it won’t show up on a sketchpad.

12. Vary the poses. Make sure that you alternate between standing, sitting, laying, etc. You’re going for what’s visually interesting, rather than what’s effective in jiu jtisu.

13. Bring reference material. This could be a book with photos. It could be your list of moves to do. If you blank on what to do next, this is your saving grace.

Ultimately I had a great time and would do it again. I was grateful to my friend for stepping up, but next time I would prefer doing it with another BJJ person. That way I wouldn’t be responsible for every aspect of the posing, and it would be more of a shared experience that could include brainstorming good poses.

This was a 10 minute pose. It worked well and could have done it for 20.

This was a 10 minute pose. It worked well and could have done it for 20.

The bottom one was the first 20 minute pose. My arm got very tired.

The bottom one was the first 20 minute pose. My arm got very tired.

This wasn't TOO bad, but my feet fell COMPLETELY asleep by the end of 20 minutes.

This wasn’t TOO bad, but my feet fell COMPLETELY asleep by the end of 20 minutes.

About the artist: Mike Stewart studied at the Hartford Art School. He has a B.F.A. in fine art printmaking. Mike has been living in South Korea since 2003.  In 2012 Mike opened Seoul’s first foreign owned and operated art academy/share studio, Jankura artspaceThank you Mike for sharing your art with my blog and my readers!

About Jankura artspace:
Seoul’s first foreign owned and operated artist share studio and art class space for adults with the expat community in mind. We are located just a short walk from Itaewon Station, so if you’re interested in art, want to join a community of creative people, or just want to gain a new skill, stop by Jankura artspace!

Have you ever done modeling like this? Anything you’d add?
**Edited to add points 10-13.