Poseable Drawing Figure Research and Testing

I am often thrown for a loop about the passage of time. I’ve written in many posts here about such and such amount of time flying by since drawing something, and how it never feels like so long ago. I’ve had a similar feeling when I started writing this one. Although it seems like only a couple weeks ago, it was actually back in August when I first started thinking about drawing figures/models. Primarily, that write-up was about some cool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. But I mentioned a couple times how I stumbled upon an ad in my Instagram feed for poseable art figures. Well, maybe “stumbled upon” is not quite right…I’m sure there was some smartphone app data harvesting at work. Anyhow, that lead me to start researching drawing models.

The research actually took some time, since I really didn’t know anything about them. I’d seen those old school bulky figures before, but that’s not really what I was looking for. I wanted something with more detail and musculature. As an artist, I don’t have an intuitive feel for correct body positioning or proportion. I’ve attained a solid grasp of head-and-shoulder portraits, but creating a natural body pose from my imagination is not in my comfort zone at all. I can do it from an example though, and that’s what I found compelling about poseable figures. If I could get more practice drawing bodies, maybe it would become easier over time, but for now I was interested in finding something adaptable I could use as a crutch.

For this investigation, I started where I often do nowadays for consumer products; Amazon searches. My criteria were fairly simple; I wanted something flexible, generic, and with as realistic proportions as possible. Apparently, this type of thing is somewhat popular because Amazon returned quite a few results. I branched off from Amazon once I learned some useful keywords and started browsing through Google and YouTube reviews of certain figure brands. Eventually, I settled on the Figma Archetype figures as the best match to what I was looking for.

Because the Amazon versions of these figures were about $40 each, I decided I would risk the wilds of Ebay to see if I could find something cheaper. I knew by chancing Ebay, I would greatly increase my risk of disappointment, but I was not looking to spend $80 on this little venture. So, my first attempt took some some time (about a week of combing through a saved search), but I managed to find both figures for $20 total. I made the purchase…and never received them. I actually had to open a dispute with Ebay to get refunded. On my second attempt, I again found a male and female package for $20. This time, I did receive the figures! Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure they are knockoffs – some of the pieces and how they fit together seem a little off to me. You get what you pay for I guess.

Figma Archetype Next She, Model 04 (according to the seller).

Figma Archetype Next He, Model 04 (again, I have my doubts).

Anyhow, now that I had my hands on these figures, I thought it might be good to take some measurements. Here’s what I came up with:

MaleFemale
Full length:13 cm12.8 cm
Head:1.8 cm1.6 cm
Ratio13.8%12.5%

Depending on where you look, many art references indicate that a normal person is 7.5 heads (13% ratio) or 8 heads (12.5% ratio) tall including the head. According to the Wikipedia article on body proportions, “an ideal figure, used when aiming for an impression of nobility or grace, is drawn at 8 heads tall” while the 7.5 heads measurement is more often used for an average person. I found that interesting in the context of the Figma Archetype model proportions. Essentially, the female figure seems to align more to the ideal/graceful proportion. The male figure is closer to that “average person” proportion.

The position I used for these sketches. I tried to crop out the clutter of my desk in the background.

Despite the fact that the models I bought are probably Chinese counterfeits of the Japanese brand, I’m actually pretty satisfied with them. Both figures have bizarre necks that are different than the real product’s images (male’s neck is abnormally thick, female’s defectively aligned). And a specific limb and hand want to fall off pretty often. But aside from some smaller details like that, they are pretty solid. When standing, they seem to position into somewhat natural stances. The joints are pretty flexible and they can be posed into a wide variety of positions. And based on my measurements, the proportions are good enough for me to use as a reference.

With all that out of the way, the next step naturally was to attempt a sketch. I decided to go the boring route (of course) and just pose the figures sitting on a pencil sharpener. I wanted to try a natural position, and couldn’t really think of something more interesting. Here’s how my drawing turned out:

This was an engaging experience from my perspective. First off, I can see that these figures will be very useful to me in the future. For scenes that I don’t have a reference, and aren’t confident enough to rely totally on imagination, it will be great to have these models to lean on. I believe my first sketch worked out better than I initially expected. I thought I may have some issues with the joints and other areas that look mechanical, but that really wasn’t an issue. The musculature on the figures was useful to reference, particularly when it came to shadows.

One aspect that I found interesting was the overall mood I ended up with for the characters. At first, the faces I sketched had sort of a neutral tone, but somewhere along the way, I made them look miserable. Well, either miserable or sick. I’m not sure why exactly I pushed forward with that, but I was thinking about how tired real people would be with my indecision posing and re-posing them. So, I guess this is how drawing figures really feel about having to sit around while people sketch them!

As I said, before I started, I thought this might not have a good result. But I feel encouraged by how it came together. And it made me think about some other “mostly from imagination” sketches I’ve done in the past, and how I would have benefited from having these figures. I remember when I was working on a sketch inspired by the Secret of Mana video game how unsatisfied and frustrated I was by my inability to figure out how to position the characters. It was one of those moments that highlighted that, despite improvements I’ve made, I have a long way to go to improve as an artist. Going forward, if I decided to try more video game-inspired sketching, these figures are going to be fantastic to have.

Although I didn’t take very many progression photos, I did have enough for the usual .gif:

I’m not sure what’s next on tap. I’d like to use these figures a bit more, maybe for a less boring pose. I’m not really sure what to do with them though. It might be cool to utilize my newfound crutch for some sort of video game or book related project, but I’ll have to think about that one a bit.

14 comments

  • I like these figures. I think the female looks cheesed-off and the guy seems expectant, as if he’s about to get up or lean further forward.

    • Thank Claire, I like the figures too – I really was on the fence about them at first, but I think they’ll be pretty useful. While I was sketching I had a moment where I thought, “Oh wow did I mean to make them so surly?” And then, “Yes. Yes I did, let’s make them highly displeased with this situation.”

      It all makes sense because my oldest daughter was helping me pose them and one of their legs kept falling off. That would sure make me irritated as well, so I empathize!

  • Interesting. I have always been tempted to get a model. These seem a little “tense”, over-musculated, but I’ll bet they are mostly used in cartooning, where superheroes are always ready to strike. I think you did well with them.

    • I’m with you about how exaggerated their musculature is – I was actually trying to find something that was closer to an average person, but surprisingly this was one of the least extreme I found. This type of model is apparently very popular, but they do trend more towards animated or comic book style builds. From what I gather, people do use them for art, but collectors also take these basic gray or peach models and paint them into action figures. Like there are YouTube videos of people creating movie characters and so forth from them.

      Have you come across any similar figures that are a bit more realistic or at least less superhero-ish? I might even consider not being a total cheap skate if I could find something great that other artists vouch for. If you do ever opt to try one, I’d be curious to see what you pick and how you like it!

      • Did they do the larger donut eating couch potato model?

        Mr Potato Head represents the real world figure.

      • Dude I would 100% buy poseable figures of different body types if I could find them. For a guy with my skillset (i.e. poor artistic imagination) I need some reference to help me along. The Jon “Body by Pizza” Amdall edition wouldnt be a best seller, but I’d use it!

      • Will just have to get yourself standing in that superhero pose and have someone take your picture for reference. Maybe holding aloft a pizza slice in triumph.

        I’d go for a ‘asleep in front of the telly, mouth agape, perhaps starting to drool’ 😂

      • This is an idea whose time has come! I wonder if I would be able to get my wife to stop laughing long enough to snap this photo?

  • I really like what you’ve done here, I’ve never seen the results of these really being used other than the ‘ideal world’ promotional promises.

    Good stuff 😀

    • Thanks Steve! Have you experimented with using figures/models as a learning tool at all? Just curious if you’ve found some good ones that you could recommend. I mean, I do like these but clearly they have their weaknesses. It’s just so convenient to have an immediate reference at hand.

      • No, I’ve looked at the basic cheap ones that are in every art shop and wondered if that was more of a novelty thing. I did see adverts for fully poseable ones but the price of those decided I didn’t need them.

        Your eBay ones sound reasonable though…

      • Yeah I hear that, man. The full retail price is pretty steep I think. But the eBay may-be-a-knockoff listing isn’t really bad for $10 each!

        Passing this link is by no means an endorsement, but here’s the one I bought that actually showed up in my mailbox:
        https://www.ebay.com/itm/Figma-Archetype-Next-He-She-Action-Figure-Collection-Anime-Model-Body-Toys-Doll/152996838139

        Like I said, I definitely suspect it’s not a genuine Figma brand model. But it shipped from China to Louisiana surprisingly fast (for free) and was pretty inexpensive overall.

        On the other hand…I would avoid any listings by eBay seller yalonl_0. That order never even shipped, and I couldn’t get the seller to respond to me at all. I had to submit a ticket with eBay to get a refund. It wasn’t a cumbersome process, but it did waste a couple of weeks of waiting.

  • Thanks so much for sharing. This gave me a lot of ideas

    • Absolutely – thank you for checking out the post! One of the things I love most about this WordPress ecosystem is seeing ideas and inspiration flow around. I’ve learned so much from other blogs, it makes me quite glad to hear if something I shared might be useful to someone.

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