Being a life model is a lot of work and indeed requires a few essential skills that not everyone possesses.

Let's face it, most of us have become experts in covering ourselves up as we try on clothes in changing rooms at the shopping centre, or as we get undressed and into our clean clothes in the gym locker room. We are just not accustomed to baring all to strangers (except those who are naturists or nudists, but even they will only go 'au naturel' when in a suitable environment like a naturist beach or holiday camp or in the privacy of their own homes).

It's funny to think, however, that we don't bat an eyelid when we see models and celebrities wearing next to nothing in magazines and on our Instagram feeds, so why are we so much more prudish when it comes to our own bodies?

It all comes down to how we perceive beauty or masculinity in the twenty-first century, yet if we could only look at ourselves like artists do - as a work of art - then we'd soon realize that every human form is amazing thanks to its diversity and the astonishing things it does just to keep us alive and breathing.

So, you either need to be confident in your own skin or realize that your body is simply an object to those drawing you - a representation of 'life' itself.

Either way, 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.

Being a life drawing model isn't as easy as it looks. It takes hard work.
Being a life drawing model isn't as easy as it looks. It takes hard work. Source: innamikitas, Pexels
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What Is The Purpose Of The Model In Life Drawing Classes?

You might be modelling for a dozen to fifty artists wanting to produce a portrait, a sculpture, or a painting of your nudity in order to represent the human form and anatomy. It's really important, therefore, to remember that these individuals are only looking to represent your image, rather than to judge your appearance. In fact, if all bodies looked exactly the same, then art would be incredibly boring and repetitive!

For artists, life models can play a very big part in teaching them about the form and anatomy of the human body. As much as they can learn about the makeup of the human body in Biology classes and practice drawing people in the street, it is almost impossible to really understand the body without seeing it in real life. During sessions with a life model, the person posing will be asked to position themselves in a number of different ways to showcase different parts of the body, display different sets of muscles and expose different angles.

While photographers can unveil images of the human body, defining structure and tone,  they simply cannot express the life of a human in the same way as one can by illustrating it. Every breath the model makes or tiny shift in movement will impact the shadows you can see on the skin. Furthermore, photographed images will only show surface detail, yet not capture the weight and gesture of the life model, which is why life models are a vital process to artists learning how to draw the human form.

Many artists will set out to learn how to human beings with accuracy in order to improve the way they draw non-figuratively.

Who Sets Out To Become A Life Drawing Model?

A lot of actors and models 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. It also goes hand in hand with their choice of career, in the way that they use their body, expressions, and movements in an artistic way.

Just because a model or actor decides to life modelling does not mean that they are interested in nude/topless photography or porn films.

Other than those wishing for a career in the limelight and looking for ways to make some cash while they wait for their big break, many artists choose to be life models for the very reason that they understand the importance of such a class. Artists are often far less nervous about stripping off in front of a group of people because they already hold the view that bodies are a thing of beauty, and it is already in their nature to examine the human form in this way. Moreover, artists are usually more relaxed and understanding about the different poses that work for life models and those representing them.

However, you don't need any specific qualifications to become a life model so, in theory, any old folk can apply to become one! There are, of course, a few conditions to meet though before you start out, which we'll detail below.

So what exactly is required to become a life drawing model for drawing lessons and what you should expect for an art workshop?

Life drawing models can have a long career.
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).

To learn more about this art form, check our life drawing guide.

How to Become a Life Drawing Model?

Becoming a life drawing model in Canada can bring up a lot of questions. It's not a typical job where you might see a job posting. It's also not that common to be a life drawing model, so you don't have someone to ask. It can be confusing when you're looking to get started. Life drawing models can also be stuck on where to start. Below we've listed the numerous ways you can find work as a life drawing model in Canada.

University Art Programs - Universities need life drawing models for a few of their classes. Sometimes they post jobs on your typical job board, but a better solution to getting hired from a university is to get in contact with them directly. You can start by reaching out to the art director of the program. Most universities post their staff contact information on their website. A quick email can go a long way.

Colleges - Colleges also need life drawing models for their programs as well as some colleges to offer community art classes. You can have the opportunity to be a part of both. Colleges may find their models from job boards, but again a direct approach with the art director can go a long way.

Art Studios - Not all art studios are going to be looking for art models. It's important to do some research to find out if they are looking for life drawing models. The best way is to stop by when the studio owner is in and introduce yourself and explain what you do.

Other Life Models - Having friends in this industry can help. Other life drawing models may be aware of more places that are looking for models. They can even ask around the places they model for and see if they're hiring. The more people you can connect with the more knowledge you can have of open opportunities.

Connecting with other life drawing models can be a great way to find jobs.
Connecting with other life drawing models can be a great way to find jobs. Source: Cuncon, Pexels

Job Boards - A lot of places won't necessarily advertise there looking for a life drawing model, but some places do. It doesn't hurt to check a few job boards every once in and while. You can even set alerts on these job boards to notify you when a place is hiring.

It can nerve-wracking reaching out to places directly, but it's the best way to get hired. The worst-case scenario is they say no and in the best-case scenario they want to hire you. if you're serious about becoming a life drawing model the more comfortable you are with reaching out the better you'll be.

Now, that we've mentioned the places you can reach out to the next step is getting hired. There a few things you have that will make your chances of getting hired easier.

  1. Auditions - Although you're posing, most places will have you come in for an audition. They want to ensure you can hold poses and feel confident. If you've never held poses for 5-10 minutes, it's best to practice. It can be very strenuous on the body if you haven't done it before. Even lying still can cause some discomfort if you're not used to it. Being confident is also an important quality to have at the audition. You need to show you have what it takes.
  2. Portfolio - Life drawing models do not have naked photos in their portfolio. They have photos of them clothed holding poses. Having an array of photos with different poses can show off your skills. Having your portfolio photos taken by a professional photographer can be beneficial compared to taking them yourself.
  3. Recommendation Letters - Having a recommendation letter shows you have the skills and good at life drawing modelling. Your recommendation letter can make it easy to prove to your job prospects you have what it takes.
  4. Experience - Experience is not necessary to become a life drawing model. Like anything having experience can be beneficial to get hired, but you don't need it. Every life drawing model will have started with no experience.

Be Confident: Perfect Bodies Aren't Artsy

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 figuring 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 all life drawing classes follow 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:

  • No one touches the life model, EVER: this rule is capital and should never be broken even if you are life modelling for a private session with a single artist.
  • Only artists (and instructor or teacher) should be in the room: it is a standard rule that the art class be close while a session is in progress as no one would want some random student having a peak and disturbing the art class.
  • No comments: all artists present during a life drawing workshop will refrain from making any comment on the model's body.
  • The model should be comfortable: that includes having a comfy chair or seat to be able to take poses for a long time but also simple manners like being introduced to the class by your first name, simply to create a friendly and relaxed work and study environment.
  • A model should get naked or change privately: meaning that a bathroom or changing room should be provided for the artist to undress and put on a robe before making his or her entrance into the studio.

Find drawing classes on Superprof here.

Nude model for life drawing session.
Models pose 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.

For those more interested in drawing than modelling, check out our guide to online life drawing classes.

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Life Modelling Etiquette

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:

  • Be on time: that is true for every position you will ever have, but when it comes to life modelling it is also better if you arrive a few minutes earlier, to get set up for the session.
  • Be creative: find poses that will be interesting for the drawers or painter to sketch on their canvasses, nothing as exotic as the downward facing dog is required but knowing classical poses is a good start. A lot of models practice at home in front of the mirror and learn to hold still for extended periods of time, but with time it should come to you more naturally.
  • Don't be a hero: if a pose becomes too hard to hold, say it and ask to take a break. No one will be upset about that but no one like to see a model struggling to maintain a pose.
  • Cover up: if you're having a coffee break in between poses, or even if you are stretching (which is highly recommended), wear a robe or a piece of fabric to do so, being clothed on breaks is the rule.
  • Don't: read a book or listen to music with earphones, look at one of the artists directly (it could be awkward for the both of you) or talk too much while posing as you do not want to disturb the class. Life drawers tend to be very focused on you and their work.
Iggy Pop poses for life drawing lesson.
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.

What To Expect When You Become Paid A Life Drawing Model?

Before we explain what to expect when you become a paid life drawing model it's important to know what you should be getting paid. They pay can all different ranges. Being a life drawing model can also be volunteer work, so it's important to ask these types of questions when your applying to be a life drawing model. The average hourly rate in Canada for life drawing models is $20. This is the average hourly rate some life drawing models can be paid less and some more. The difference between prices can be a few things. The most common ones are the institution your modelling at. Local art studios can pay more than universities. Another common difference in pay is private lessons vs group lessons. Attending a private session should pay you more than attending a group session.

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:

  • Going to the bathroom before the session and every time you get a break.
  • Make sure you have something to eat beforehand as a hungry stomach could be awkward during the class.
  • Make sure you are comfortable on the chair or structure that has been provided for you to pose on.
  • Make sure the temperature suits you, it is common for studios to offer model a small heater at their side to keep them warm or to get the air conditioning on if they're too hot (which can also happen when you are naked).
  • Stretch, before, during and after the session, will avoid you getting cramps and sore muscles.

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:

  • Reclining poses: the poses are in theory the easiest to hold as your body is supported, but the floor or a stage and gravity is what keeps you still (mostly). However, if a reclining pose involves holding arms or legs straight, they might prove quite tiring.
  • Seated (or semi-reclining) poses: one might think that seating on a chair or a dais is relatively comfortable and though very little muscle is required to hold a seated posture still, the primary limiting factor will be your bum. Indeed when we sit, we usually move around to release the pressure on our posteriors, but as art models that is not an option. So make sure whatever you are sitting on is comfy, soft and well padded.
  • Standing poses: these will be difficult to hold especially if you just started modelling for life drawing classes. All your weight will rest on your legs, and no chance there to shift the pressure from one leg to another as one might naturally do. Sometimes a standing pose will be made easier thanks to a pole but if you don't think you have what it takes hold a standing posture without support for at least 20 minutes, better be honest about it and tell the instructor.
  • Kneeling poses: probably the hardest ones to hold for long periods, kneeling poses can be particularly strenuous on the back and limbs. These poses are usually kept short unless models are mainly fit.

The trick in 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.

Almost naked life model.
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)

Canadian Resources for Life Drawing Models

Having a few resources can be useful when working as a life drawing model. These resources can provide helpful tips, job opportunities and other helpful things to benefit you when your working. Here a few resources to keep in mind as you begin working as a life drawing model in Canada.

Facebook Groups - There are a number of Facebook groups that are for life drawing models. It's a great way to connect with other people in the industry. Being a life drawing model is just like any other job having people that can relate to you, can help you de-stress and relax. These Facebook groups can also post jobs and tips to help your life drawing model career.

Art Model Tips - They are a popular website that will offer you lots of useful information about life drawing models. They have a large Canadian resource of jobs available to models. They also have tips with video demonstrations to help you practice. Artmodeltips.com is a great resource for all life drawing models.

Start Being a Life Drawing Model in Canada

Working as a life drawing model can be a unique experience. It may feel odd when considering become a life drawing model, but you're providing artists with the experience to learn and get better. You're providing a needed service in the art world. We hope this article has helped you start your direction in becoming a life drawing model in Canada. If you have ever thought about it, now is the time. It can even be a great way to make some extra income whether it's part-time or casual. People have built careers around life drawing modelling. It's possible if that is your goal.

Maybe working as a life drawing model isn't for you, but you want to get better at drawing. Superprof has 100s of drawing tutors all across Canada that are ready to help you. They've worked with so many students from all experience levels. They know the best way to teach you. Supeprof tutors also have the experience and knowledge to help you become a better artist. They offer lessons online and in-person giving you the freedom and flexibility to learn to draw when you want to draw. You may just find yourself drawing a life mode one day.

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Chester

You can usually find me writing at a cafe sipping on coffee or working out at the gym. I fell in love with writing a few years ago and have never looked back. I love being able to share my words with the world.