EDIT: I’ve had quite a few inquires about whether or not I’ll sell mine, I’m very sorry mine is not for sale.
I admit it… since I was a kid I have often been tempted to buy one of those wooden artist mannequins. I liked the idea of it, being able to have a little human on hand for all my drawing needs. Every time I go into a shop to see one in person I immediately remember why it was a terrible idea and I can’t put it down fast enough. They are kinda rubbish and makes you wonder why they are so widely adopted by artists! I’m no anatomy expert, but even I can see they are seriously pointless!
It seems a lot of people think that artists can just draw a figure in any pose/facial expression from any angle off the top of their heads, like magic… but let me dispel that myth, artists use references. Up until this point I’ve been using mirrors/webcams/cameras, my own hands, image searches, tried a few programs/apps (not to my likely), books and even forced my husband to stand in stupid ways while I take photos. I have done life drawing classes in the past, but it’s unlikely I’d be able to afford for someone to be on hand day & night to pose for me. Plus there is only so much a normal person can achieve… Not everyone can be a natural actor, playing child, martial arts, leaping, magic wielding, flying dancer! I know I definitely can’t, but not for lack of trying! =P But up until now I’ve got by ok with all these other resources, yet I still felt a physically thing in front of me would vastly help.
Figures I Found
However I don’t like to admit defeat so I took to the internet in hopes that someone had by now invented a better artists mannequin drawing aid. I found a few fab static models statues that showed more anatomical detail. They really do seem great, but posing was my goal so it was a no go. But thought I’d link some for prosperity:
Updated 31/5/2016! 2 possible contenders:
Bandai S.H.Figuarts Body-kun (male) or Body-chan (female) – Around $35-55 USD – More realistic shape.
Stickybones – frame but could be great for illustration & animation, looks very interesting – currently successfully funded Indiegogo (approx S90 USD), actual price TBD:
www.stickybones.com (also you can see my Stickybones review)
After a long search I saw someone suggest a poseable doll SFBT-3 (by M-field). I’d never thought about a “doll” before as a drawing aid! I found a great blog post about SFBT-3 here & their SFBT-3 English website:
It looks seriously amazing, despite the slightly strange breast shape & anime head. Kinda blows wooden mannequins out the water! For over a year and a half they said they were out of stock and it wasn’t clear they would be in stock again. I checked every once in a while with no luck (though my wallet is happy about not spending $300 USD). (Update: I have actually been able to buy one after years… see my new post the SFBT-3 In Depth Review). So a couple of months ago I finally started to look around a bit more for an alternative. Difficult since now I was starting to look at “toys” and collectors figures, that’s a whole other ball park. I only found one that was simple, natural and not too “action figure” that would work best for drawing.
Their website doesn’t have much information and so all I had to go on was people’s photos. The more I read the more I realised that again, these seemed super hard to get hold of even though they are reasonably priced and sold at conventions that I probably would never have been able to go to on the other side of the world rather than online! Darn I thought =(.
How I got a 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body
I found their FB page (www.facebook.com/1000toys) which seemed a lot more active than their website. Turns out that when I found that page, only 2 days later they were running a 24 hour competition for the chance to buy online with only less than 100 winners for the 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body (a special edition). I was reading comments on the page by collectors who had so much passion for the 1/6 figure, I thought I’ll enter but didn’t think I’d win a chance to buy, given how many people would have chopped off an arm for one!
Well I was proven wrong for sure! I was so happy when I got an email confirming that I’d won the chance to buy. I paid and waited a month. It finally arrived a couple of weeks ago and finally I have got around to blogging about it.
Though I am a bit of a geek, I’ve never collected objects like this, I don’t even have many “ornaments” in my home… I’m very practical. If I buy something it has to have some sort of use. So I’m very sorry to any collectors that see this blog, it’s gonna get used, sit on my desk, maybe get knocked about and utilized… no glass case for this little fella.
[ The Review ]
My review is really only from an artists point of view of what I see as a piece of equipment, so I can’t really comment on it based on other figures as this is the only one I’ve owned or handled.
I paid $160 USD (about £100) + postage. At first I thought, omg that’s a lot for a bit of plastic… but having just bought a Wacom and thinking about the price of art equipment in general and the priece of just a static artist statue, it actually does put the price into a different perspective making it pretty reasonable. It’s even better given how difficult it seems to find figures like this! It’s not every day you can say “I bought an action figure and claimed it as a business expense.”… it sounds so terrible even if it’s completely true lolz!
Unboxing & First impressions
After a frantic hunt for the box as the postman delivered it to entirely the wrong place, I was pleased it finally arrived! It was well packed and the doll itself is packed in foam. It was pretty much ready to go out the box!
Even though I’d played with action figures as a kid, this really was a different ball game. It’s more robust than I thought it would be! And even though I knew the height before I ordered it, it was taller than I expected. It took me a while to get the hang of moving the parts, but the joints themselves feel robust but still easy to move.
To be clear, I didn’t buy this to help with muscle drawing, more for basic structure. The first thing I thought was, I wonder how realistic the structural proportions are compared to figure drawing guides. While I don’t believe that there is a completely iron clad proportion drawing guide, the few that don’t seem completely terrible tend to use number of heads as a measurement. I also had to remember this figure was based on a manga about androids so they would have had to adhere to some of the original art.
In general, everything seems as I’d expect roughly 7.5-8 heads tall for a male and joints vaguely in the places I’d expect. The only negative was that even without measuring, the neck felt too long which was confirmed. While the arm outstretched is 4 heads wide as expected, the upper arm feels a little short and the shoulder feels like it should be closer into the body, but in general that’s minor.
I tend to draw in a cartoon way and often don’t even use 7.5-8 head measurements so the proportions are more than fine for my needs.
Lets get some of the negatives out the way, there aren’t many. I have only come across three major limitations and a few very minor ones.
1) The Test Body, likely suffers the same limitations as most poseable figures, when you want the limbs to be close to the body they can’t be. In a human you can squash up, so crossing your arms, crossing leg over knee or hugging knees or legs close together standing. These positions often can’t be achieved too easily with the Test Body realistically as plastic just physically can’t press together or it’s limited by the physical joint movement. For the Test body, I feel that it’s most affected at the top of the hip joint, limiting raising of the leg affecting bending over and sitting, and then the shoulder joint when raising arms meaning the twisting for the shoulder & forearm.2) A massive movement limitation is the wrist and forearm movement. Normally the forearm would twist which helps the orientation of the hand & wrist. The Test Body doesn’t have a natural movement in the wrist like the rest of it. While it can rotate and pivot separately, rotating the wrist pivot is pretty hard and a few times I have tried to manipulate the hands, pulling it beyond its natural movement causing the wrist pivot to split… though all I have to do is push them together again, but I’m pretty sure if anything were to break on it, it would be the wrists. I have a few times had to twist the upper arm and shoulder to get it the way I want, but affects the orientations of the elbow which often is not ideal. While the human wrist technically is not a ball joint, for the sake of the model a ball joint would be an improvement in the future.
3) The hands supplied are a little limiting (natural & fists interchangeable) and on the natural hand the little finger is a little too bent but acceptable. While it’s a big ask, if the fingers could move, it would be so helpful! To substitute I read someone used 1/6 Iron Man figure hands so I did actually buy some on Ebay. It helped for one piece so far, but they’re a bit big and loose but you can see a time when I used them further down.
Minor issues– Taking the mask off & moving the eyes is fiddly, I probably won’t be doing it often. The jaw also is a bit loose for my liking, but as I’ll likely be keeping the mask on it’s not really an issue.
– I often pinch my fingers between the hips and the spine as it’s the natural place to hold the model while posing.
– Some joints are stiffer than others, usually only problematic when moving things like the knee, you have to mess around with it a little more to make the bend even between top and bottom limb.
– I do worry slightly that if I keep handling it the joints may get lose, well let’s hope that doesn’t happen for a while.
Despite the issues I’ve found above, please don’t let that put you off, it is amazing! I have been using the Test Body to help me draw a few real commissions lately, and I have to say it’s helped even more than I thought it would. Of course the model can never replace a real person, but it has helped me negotiate some postures I’ve found a bit tricky to draw or failed to find references for.1) While it can be a little tricky getting the figure into the exact pose I want, in general poses really look natural really making it great as a drawing aid, as I hoped it would! 2) The fact that it can stand up on its own actually says a lot about it! It really helps to physically see how the weight needs to be distributed for the pose to work. I’m in love with the ankle, feet and toe movement which make it possible for the figure to stand. For more dynamic poses I do have to use a stand which is fine. 3) The neck and head movements feel effortless and natural, it’s actually a pleasure to move it around.
4) At first I thought I’d really not be able to get past the face, the red eyes and the clear mask… but as time has gone on I like being able to see the skull shape underneath from a drawing point of view.
There clearly is a gap in the market for an artists mannequin to replace the poor wooden ones. Until someone produces something specifically aimed at artists, collectible figures & dolls seems the only solution.
The Test body is a beautifully produced figure. Despite some of the movement limitations, once you get used to moving the parts you can create natural looking poses. Its proportions are acceptable structurally but still only as an “aid” that goes hand in hand with other drawing references. It’s clearly challenging to get hold of, but for what it is, it was reasonably priced for a piece of art equipment. If you’re an artist that has to draw a lot of figures beyond everyday poses, do consider a poseable model.
The 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body purely as an object is completely an amazing piece of art in its own right. I can completely see why they are collectible! The people over at 1000toys really should be proud of what they’ve achieved. I really hope they continue to make great figures like this one. The Test Body has found a permanent place on my desk.
I’m still going to keep looking out for the SFBT-3 (and other models like these). Let’s hope me having money coincides with stock in the future =) but for now I’m really happy with my Test Body! It’s very unlikely that wooden mannequins will ever cross my mind again!
Update 18 March 2018 – I was contacted random;y year years later by 1000toys, see what happened in Instagram! =D
View this post on Instagram
In 2014 I became an accidental toy collector buying a @1000toys figure in search of a better #artistmannequin with good articulation. I wrote a review about it more as an artist aid and thought noting more of it. A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I was contact by Don @datadub Kratzer at 1000toys. Apparently their web analytics had shown my blog post and they wanted to thank me for the review =O. I was so touched and was delighted to receive a very special 1/12 TOA Heavy Industries Synthetic Human Clear which I’d admired from photos never thinking I’d get a chance to see one in person! A massive thank you to Dom and #1000toys ! Do check them out they have amazing toys. It’s very similar to the original 1/6 #synthetichuman Test Body I bought but I love love how you can see the joints inside with the updated shoulder joint, shoulder shape and torso shape. While the clear ones that were 1/12 were exclusive, they are currently taking orders for their 3rd batch of their original 1/12 =D. They are proper cute please do check themnout here: https://1000toys.jp/detail.aspx?goto=product185 Edit: There are more photos on my fb page (link in profile)… Basically all the ones that didn’t fit the 1:1 Instagram ratio =P I didn’t know it at the time that the toy collection seed was planted in my mind. Now I make #desingertoys and see toy collection with new eyes. This all just shows me how crazy and random the world is sometimes =). I’m not sure what I did to deserve all this resent mountain of kindness from so many people lately. Gah it’s all just so touching! That 3 year old post continues to be my most popular: www.jessica-emmett.com/blog/a-better-artist-mannequin-one-sixth-synthetic-human-test-body-a-review/ #toycollector #toys
You can now see my follow up post [A Better Artists Mannequin – SFBT-3: in depth review].