On Being an Artist’s Model

I’ve been actively modeling for university level art classes, individual artists, artist groups, workshops and more for about 3 years now. I often get people asking, “So an artist’s model… you’re naked, right? It doesn’t bother you being naked in front of all those people?

To which I reply, “Of course. There are days when it certainly does. I’m a female.

I’ve got my days when I don’t want to be looked at. Days I feel like an absolute troll and the last thing I want to do is have an artist or a class of my peers sketch my achy body, but ultimately I’ve never really had many reservations against baring all and modeling in the name of art. I think because coming from an artistic perspective, my naked body isn’t a source of excitement. Instead, it’s a collection of shapes, curves and lines that they are trying to capture at that moment. It’s not about me. It’s about art.

Finding the job – 
If you’re considering becoming an artist’s model, know that you can jump right on it, you don’t need any experience. If you’ve ever wanted to be one of the girls in an art book, you will have to confront yourself with a question at some point – have you ever had the willingness to take your clothes off in front of a room of people? You’ll need that quality if you’re considering being an artist’s model but other than that, it’s relatively painless, I promise. Artists and art classes are constantly looking for different forms and figures to capture. Also, some classes may need portrait models, which will not require you to model nude. Contact local art schools and university art departments about getting on the modeling roster. Also, look into local groups for figure models. I’m currently a member of the New Orleans Models’ Guild, which has been a great help in providing me with jobs.

When contacted to model, find out all the details you can. What class/artist is it? Is there a specific format? Is there an instructor or is it self-led? Will I be modeling clothed or nude? Where will the class be held? What time? One time or how often? Keep these details and contact information all together to keep yourself organized. I find it helpful to put it on my calendar which syncs to my phone. A reminder set 6 hours and then 2 hours ahead of the session will ensure that I remember and am prepared.

Pre-session preparation- 
Before I get to the session I make sure to stretch since figure modeling can be very exhausting. Holding a pose can wear you out so be sure to limber up. Also, drink a lot of water. Hydration is key. I also have a small snack before I head to the session. Something substantial but won’t make me bloat. I love rice cakes with Nutella on them and a few slices of apple. I also make sure to have a small snack in my bag, along with a robe, a pair of flip flops, a small pillow and I never forget to grab a bottle of water on my way out of the door. These items will serve you well as an artist’s model. Keep the robe and flip flops in a bag in your car if you’re scheduled frequently enough, that way you won’t forget them.

Get to the studio or school several minutes early. Once you get to the studio, take a moment to calm yourself. If you go in frazzled, it’ll show in your posing and general being. Finish listening to that song you really like. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few moments. When you’ve opened your eyes you should feel at ease. Grab your bag and head inside to where the class is and greet everyone. There should be a room or area for you to change. Change into your robe and flip flops and head out to where the stand is located.  The instructor will probably already have lights set up and may make adjustments to them. Either set your timer or the instructor will set the timer for you to begin.

It’s showtime – 
Now, it’s the moment you’ve been so nervous about. You take off your flip flops and shed the robe. You’re nude! You feel the chill of the air on your body, see sets of eyes peeking from over a sketchpad with a pencil poised in-hand and the instructor announces it’s time to begin. You dive right in and start out with an easy pose. Most sessions begin with short poses, anywhere from 1-2 minutes, and then gradually get longer in length. Often times from 1-2 minutes to 5-10 minutes to 15-20 minutes, but can vary depending upon the instructor or format. After 20 minutes of posing you should get a 5 minute break to do some quick stretching as holding a pose can often put some strain on your limbs. Feel free to use the small pillow you brought with you to put down to ease any extra stress on where you are putting pressure. When posing, always have a next pose in mind when you settle into a pose.  Try a variety of poses, especially ones that portray an action or gesture. There are pose guides available to browse that can help if you find yourself lacking inspiration on poses. Also, consider breaking out a yoga pose or two. Not only will it help you stretch while modeling, but some do look pretty darn aesthetically pleasing. As you model for more classes or artists, posing becomes easier and you find yourself letting your mind drift. I’ve actually put together a to-do list while modeling for a class. Of course I had no pen to write it down, but mentally putting it together made it easier for me to do it later.

The Payoff – 
A good thing to keep in mind is that this is not a cash-cow, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t get rich but it’s a great process to be apart of and can lead to pretty consistent work.  You are also creating art which is priceless, in my opinion. Typical artist modeling rates are somewhere between $15-$20 per hour, which tend to be pretty standard across the board. I encourage models to establish a great working relationship with the artist(s). This can lead to them hiring you for personal projects. Also, if you’re comfortable enough, don’t be bashful about inquiring if you’d be able to keep some sketches once you have a few sessions completed. Sometimes you can come away with your pay and artwork for your walls as well – artwork with a story behind it.

If you’re ready to try it out, give it a shot. There’s nothing to lose, but your clothes, so ditch them and create some art!


3 thoughts on “On Being an Artist’s Model

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