Being a life model is a lot of work and indeed requires a few essential skills that not everyone possesses.
But if you think that you can strip in front of an art class and hold poses for half an hour time or gesture repeatedly in your birthday suit then maybe you were born to be a figure drawing model.
You might be modelling for artists wanting to produce a portrait, a sculpture, or a painting of your nudity in order to represent the human form and anatomy.
A lot of actors and model go through this job, as it is usually better paid than working in hospitality or retail and all in all it requires a lot fewer efforts.
So what exactly is required to become a life drawing model and what you should expect for an art workshop?
Paul Cronin has been a life drawing model for more than 40 years and he is still in high demand from artists. (by The Berkshire Eagle).
You might think that to become a life drawing model you need a 6-pack, a perfect butt or big muscles.
Not at all!
On the contrary, drawing classes and their instructors are more likely to look for people that aren’t the “perfect” humans that fashion magazines put on their covers.
Round people, older people or life models with a unique physique and body types, that is what art schools are looking for when it comes to figure drawing.
Artists are looking at unique features, such as lined faces, curved bodies, even tattoos or scars. Life drawing is about representing the human body and the human figure in all its shapes and forms.
The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your body, nude body that is. You won’t be cat-walking in front of hundreds of people and dozens of photographers, but you will be posing nude in front of at least half a dozen art students.
Most of the people that pose for the first time in front of an art class, get nervous, but who wouldn’t. So it is normal to sweat a bit when you are a beginner in this line of work but remember that life drawing classes follow a strict etiquette.
The instructors and often the students themselves will make sure that the nude models they will be drawing feel comfortable and there are a few universal rules when it comes to these classes:
Models poses naked in front of classes all the time. They have to hold poses, sometimes for half an hour, without moving.
Usually, those sessions have a designated facilitator, most of the time the teacher, who will make sure that all these rules are respected but who will also be the one talking to the model if necessary.
A pose might need to be corrected, or it is time for a break, the session guide will be the one looking after you.
All these rules are there to guarantee that when you are posing naked, you do so in a professional manner and everyone can enjoy their time in the art class.
As Anne Noble-Partridge (founder of London Drawing, a collaboration between professional artists, tutors and performers) says to her models, her students are here to represent the model’s image, not judge your masculinity or feminity.
Being confident in your naked body is just the first step to becoming a life model. Only like rules apply to the artists that will be sketching you, being a life model also entails some duties.
Many people who come to art modelling do not choose it as their primary career. It is often a side job or a temporary solution to financial hard times.
Students fresh out of university might be looking for their first job, actors in between roles or still searching for their breakthrough will turn to art modelling rather than waiting tables.
Not that there is anything wrong with waiting tables, but art modelling is just like acting. You have to perform in front of an audience; you have to be creative about the poses you adopt, about the gestures you choose.
But whatever the reason that brought you to take on a figure drawing model job, there are a few things that will be expected in every life drawing class you will work:
Iggy Pop once posed for life drawing students in his birthday suit. ( by Brooklyn Museum)
If you stick to those rules when you start life modelling, you will be regarded as professional and competent, and as many of the art modelling gigs you will get will be from recommendation, it is vital to keep up a good reputation.
But always remember that artists and models should always be equally comfortable and respect each other.
Most figure drawing classes unfold similarly and you should get used to it pretty quickly.
These painting and drawing classes can last up to 3 hours, so be ready. A few rules of preparation include:
Regarding how the session is divided, it usually starts with the model taking short poses, from 30 seconds to a few minutes and artists will draw quick sketches as a warm-up.
This artistic drill is where you can show that you worked on your poses and gestures when you are new to this it is likely that the teacher or instructor will guide you but as you do model more and more, and practice at home, you will eventually come with new postures.
Practice makes perfect!
After this warm-up, it is time for serious poses. From then on posture will last 20 to 30 minutes and artists will take their time to draw s many details as they can. That is where your training will pay off as holding a pose for this long is not as easy as it seems.
Poses can be divided into four categories:
The trick in all maintaining any pose is to make sure your posture is right. Life modelling is not nearly as easy as it seems and being rested beforehand will make a huge difference.
Life figure modelling is not as easy as it looks as models have to stand and keep poses for a long time, more often than now completely naked. ( by Cindy Schultz)
If after all this information you are still looking to find a job as life drawing model, there are a few websites very useful to get going:
“Every time I await a model, even when I am most pressed to time, I am overjoyed when the time comes and I tremble when I hear the key turn in the door.” – Eugene Delacroix
If you are based outside London it will probably a bit trickier but not impossible. Just get in touch with local art schools, local studios or art centres.