How To Work As A Life Model

What do you need to work as a life model? A body, and someone who wants to draw, paint or sculpt you. And you need to be alive, and be able to stay still, and be paid properly for this vital service. And you may need some heating. What else? Let's see! We'll look at props, poses, pay, jobs, immortality and more.

Poses

What could be more natural? After a minute or two walking around without clothes feels positively liberating. A tutor or group may set poses, or you may need to choose them yourself. The length of time varies and is important in picking a pose. Short poses allow more dynamic poses that no one could hold for long, for example raised arms or frozen movements from dance or sport or theatre. With longer poses the trick is to know what you can realistically hold, which comes from experience. It's not always predictable what will work, or work for a particular person, so you learn your limits over time and build up a repertoire. For some wacky sponteous ideas try our random pose generator. Or for a calmer approach read here about meditation.

In some situations someone clearly sets poses for you, in others it is up to you to set them all yourself. It helps to vary the direction that you face and to mix sitting, standing and lying down, as well as leaning against a wall or furniture. Poses that work on two levels can be good, for example lying down with feet hanging off the podium, or lying down with feet up the wall. Adding some twist to a pose can be big plus, but you do not want to overdo it or injure yourself, for example overworking knees, ankles or back. It is fine to partially come out of a pose for a bit, just first telling people, for example "I am going to stretch my arm out for a minute". If you don't tell people you are going to move for a bit they will then start to fear fidgeting.

Props

Props can be used for support, comfort or just for show. A bamboo pole is often used with standing poses, or a else a wall, block or table to lean against. A rope suspended from a ceiling or wall can help keep hands up in interesting ways. Yoga blocks and mats, and cushions or upholstery material are good, and reclining poses may involve a sofa or mattress. Sitting on a block or stool allows artists to draw the model's back.

Some models like to bring their own props to try, such as skipping ropes, musical instruments, hats, yoga mats, tools, plastic swords, balls, bats, barbells, racquets, but preferably not pets. One man brought a bow and arrow to model on Valentine's Day.

Heating

Your are entitled to work in a properly heated space, which usually means extra heaters pointed at the model. The fan-operated ones that blow hot air are horrible, and cut out when they get too warm. Ones with electric coils can be best as heat comes out towards you. Insufficient heating can lead to hypothermia which is not easy to recognise and can even feel dangerously pleasant. Some models have found it helpful to sit on an electric blanket, or wear a hat and socks in winter.

Breaks and Timing

Be sure to agree what breaks you are entitled to and when, for example, ten minutes out of each hour, or a break every half hour. Some people will periodically call out the time, for example "ten more minutes to go." You may well be working for people who have never modelled and have little grasp of what is involved, and if their timekeeping is not good you may need to set a timer on your phone or watch to keep things on schedule.

Clothes

You probably want to bring your own dressing gown. Slippers or filpflops can be a good idea, because floors can be cold and can be very dirty where charcoal is in use for drawing. Headscarfs can be a nice touch, and some models like to bring their own cloths or various draperies to sit on, both for creative variety and hygiene reasons. A bag to put your things in and keep them near you is a good idea, if you do not have a secure place to leave them while modelling.

Tattoos?

Well, everyone will see them - and nobody minds nowadays. Some will completely ignore them and just draw the figure, while others will draw them in fascinating detail and give compliments.

Jobs

Where to find work and jobs for life models? Art models wanted and life models required ads for vacancies are not frequent, but art schools and colleges, artists' studios, adult education, holiday courses, gallery events, drawing groups, sketch clubs, and even hen parties all offer employment. In the UK for life model jobs you could join the Register of Artists' Models (RAM) but that involves an annual charge and may not generate any work, especially outside London. Job ads for hen party models sometimes also appear on Gumtree.com, and even ads for tutors and instructors. In the UK life modelling work should not usually pay less than £10 an hour, with RAM recommending about £12 as a reasonable rate for jobs for life models while acknowledging some regional variations. Cornwall offers a good amount of work for life models due to the large number of artists, art courses, and holiday courses in all of Cornwall, not just in Newquay and St Ives, and not to mention naturists. But has anyone seen a sign on the beach saying "Life Drawing Models Wanted"?

Reliability is important. If you don't turn up you usually don't get asked back. If you have to cancel do so well in advance and possibly put a friend forward to take your place.

Contacts and Confidentiality

Please be clear that your contact details are private and people employing you should not pass them on to others unless you have allowed them to. The best thing for employers to do is pass on to you the details of anyone wishing to hire you - then it is your choice to respond or not respond. There is a tendency for artists to write a model's first name on drawings and even use that as a title in exhibitions. But the truth is, most people's drawings will not look much like you! People really come to life classes to draw or learn to draw - if someone just wants to stare at bare flesh there is already an infinite supply of that just a click away without leaving home. Drawing takes a lot of concentration and for some people can be hard work, albeit rewarding.

Photography?

NO. That is a different job and that needs to be crystal clear at the start, and controlled by the person in charge. If participants ask to take photos, the answer is no, that is a separate job and may require agreeing much higher rates of pay for nude photographic modelling. And photos do not help anyone to draw or learn to draw, and act not as a shortcut but a short circuit, preventing the development and practice of the skill of drawing. The great artists of the past did not use photography.

Comments and Feedback

You may not get any. Or you may get a number of "Thank You" comments at the end of a session. Or you may listen to a tutor making very specific comments about your proportions, anatomy or colouring for the benefit of students. Or you may get individuals wanting you to slightly change a pose so they can see what they want to, though usually also they can change position. So you might wonder, "Am I doing this right?" and the answer is, there is no wrong way of doing it, and different groups and tutors have different attitudes when they draw, and it can help to be open to suggestions. And as for artists' work, some are happy to show their nude drawings and discuss them or their technique, while others prefer not to share what seem to them painfully imperfect images. It is often seen as a model's privilege to go round and look at everyone's work during the break periods.

RIP

Models must occasionally pass away when modelling, allowing for holding a pose for a very long time but creating dilemmas about the rate of pay and whether to clothe the model before calling the relevant authorities. So many famous artists such as Leonardo learned from dissecting and drawing corpses, but that is not common nowadays unless of course you leave your body to science. If you want to leave your body to art, the Bodyworlds enterprise will inject the veins with plastic and turn you into an exhibit. And just possibly if an artist or artwork involving you becomes wildly famous you will achieve immortality.