Action Sketching: Changing the perspective of your human subject

Many of us can get good views of sports, but the perspective on how we see the players might not be the way we want to sketch them.

Indoor volleyball, for example, often causes a problem for illustrators because the view of players is from a balcony looking down, rather than seeing players straight on.

Reference photo of a woman serving a volleyball from

In the example above, the volleyball server is seen from a balcony, with the focus on her right shoulder. If you wanted to illustrate aspects of this game, you might prefer action references from photos taken on the floor.

To correct reference shots from the wrong angle, or try to imagine a specific moment from a different view, use a fully-jointed mannequin to depict what you would like to see.

In the photo example below, I set up a mannequin to duplicate the stance of the server. Next, I took multiple photos of the mannequin from straight-on, turning it for each shot.

Three poses of a mannequin that references a volleyball serve

In the following example, I chose the third pose for my quick sketch as it was the direct opposite of the first.

Sketch by Karen Little showing how to see a reference image from a different stance

Could you have used your imagination to sketch a pose directly opposite of the photo reference? Possibly, but for most people, that would be difficult, especially leg placement and body bend.

Working with a Mannequin:

Fully-jointed mannequins are delicate and fall apart easily. To guard against that:

  • Loosen joints before bending by heating them with a hair dryer.
  • When joints become too loose, tighten them with a tiny screwdriver, like the type used to tighten eyeglass stem joints.
  • If joints cannot be tightened (or parts are falling off), reattach them using standard modeling clay.



This article was written by Karen Little as part of an ongoing series of blogs on Action Sketching. Published on March 12, 2020.

Reproduction of this article is free to non-commercial websites (or other media) with permission and attributes to and the article’s author.

All other material on Littleviews (with noted exceptions) is copyrighted on the date of publication or as noted in credits.

Questions? Ask Karen Little at

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