Art mannequins are an essential drawing tool. When you want to double check your proportions or work out a composition, odds are you are going to reach for one. It is unfortunate that most of what you will find in local art supply stores is a disappointment.
I got back into art a couple of months ago (check out my paintings) after a long hiatus and so a decent art mannequin was on my supply shopping list. I was shocked to see the same stiff mannequins from my youth still being peddled in stores, so I decided to do some sleuthing for a better alternative.
People online were raving about the S.F.B.T. 3 from Japan so I decided to investigate. Apparently it was an artists dream as it could be manipulated into a myrad of useful poses and every youtuber I found who did a review was singing its praises. It is made up of hundreds of individual parts and really is impressive from a design perspective.
SFBT-3 ‘s are *very* hard to get ahold of. A limited supply are made available only a few times each year. When they do come up for sale you have to rush to their website and try to hit the “buy” button in time to snag one. I am freakishly determined when I’m ready, and I managed to score myself one just in the knick of time.
I grew up with this: so I was over the moon when my SFBT-3 arrived. Comparatively it was light years ahead of anything I had used in the past so I was rather impressed. I really did love it for the first few days. Then I started to have doubts about it when this happened…
Her arms drop off every time they’re touched. I have tried many tricks to remedy the problem: sticky tack, tape placed inside the joint etc. Nothing works. I wrote the company for help and their solution was to send the whole thing back. Mind you, not to the place I bought it from but to an individual at a different address. I was very leery of this option as I would then have no way of keeping track of it, could not converse with this person (presumably they only speak Japanese) and I actually *needed* the mannequin to draw from at the time. From where I live it would have taken about a month for the SFBT-3 to reach Japan and then a month to get it back and I could not go without an art mannequin for that long.
I asked the company if they could consider just sending me the joint so I could fix the SFBT-3 myself. They refused. They also initially said that I had to pay to ship it back. The SFBT-3 was $300.00 US, only a couple days old, and I felt like I was being penalized for their faulty product. The dislodging of the limbs had gotten so bad that the SFBT-3 has become only usable as a sort of muscle reference tool.
Disgusted with myself for paying so much money for something that turned out to be a huge let down, I began searching for other options. That’s when I discovered Armature Nine‘s drawing mannequins.
Right off the bat I noticed a huge difference. It is SO flexible and I can replicate any pose I want perfectly. There is honestly nothing it can’t do. As I played around with it, I realized that my SFBT-3 is actually not as versatile as I initially thought. Check out The Armature 9 and his SFBT-3 buddy’s contortion session below.
The SFBT-3 is much less flexible in the torso, pelvis and neck area. Her legs also have a limited range of motion.
Armature: “Hey, SFBT-3. Wanna try a Downward Facing Dog yoga pose next?”
SFBT-3: “Totally. Let me just… gack!”
Armature: “What the hell?”
SFBT-3: “Oh my god. I’m so embarrassed but my arm just dropped off.”
Armature: “Seriously? Isn’t posing the only thing you do each day?”
SFBT-3: “Yes, yes, but I was born with a slight disability. I’m still trying to figure out a way to work around it. ”
SFBT-3: “Say, could I borrow that stand you came here with?”
Armature: “Sure, but I don’t see how it is going to h…..”
“Ok, this is Awkward.”
SFBT-3: “Success! I’ll just drape myself over the stand like so, nudge my arms under my shoulder joints and then, voila! Effortlessly I slip into Downward Facing Dog. Say, can you pass me that other appendage?”
Armature: “Yeah, of course. Here you go.”
SFBT-3: “Sweet. You can tell that artist girl that she can start sketching now.”
(A few hours later)
Armature: “You know SFBT-3, this arm really is quite impressive. ”
SFTB-3: “Yeah, I know. I’m so glad you noticed! I love it when it’s taped to my body. Too bad you don’t have movable digits in your fingers like I do, though.”
(These new hands just recently became available!)
Armature: “Yeah. ”
As you can already tell, I use my Armature Nine all the time now. It’s durable (nothing has ever fallen off) can mimic any human pose without looking stiff (both realistic and the extreme) has numerous additional parts you can buy to customize it (want some horns? Check out the kits and bits section of their website) and the owner is lightning fast at responding to questions.
Armature Nine’s are made using a 3D printer, so as soon as the designer wants to make a product improvement, he does so. He doesn’t wait a year before releasing a new model. This is awesome as I am watching the product change almost monthly and it is designed to always accept the new upgrades. It sucks when you have an older model though, as you’re left drooling over the new updates that you currently don’t have.
My armature’s feet are my least favorite part of it, as I find the awkward placement hard to draw from at certain angles. Thankfully they just came out with several to die for upgrades. Behold:
The new movable hands and magnetic feet are currently on my wish list. I also really like their new wood-based model – the color is so gorgeous. I plan to one day buy a second model so I can pose two armatures at once and do some sketches of my figures interacting. Getting one is going on my vision board.
All in all, I am very impressed by Armature Nine and the Digital Double company. You should seriously consider following them on facebook, as their posts are always interesting, they frequently run contests for free armatures, and when they get a certain amount of likes on their page, they provide their customers with a generous discount on products. Currently, they have a %50 off sale (February 8th, 2016 – today only), so if you’re curious about this product, NOW is the time to buy.
I hope this helps others in search of a stellar art mannequin! Nothing else compares at this point, so don’t waste your money!
Just FYI – I purchased the Armature Nine and SFBT-3 with my own money. The thoughts expressed here are my own unsolicited and honest opinion of these products after owning them for many months now.
P.S. Check out my other blog where I feature my art: www.MeghanFineArt.com