A On being a life model

A life model is someone who poses for a life class, usually drawing or painting – whether in an educational setting, within a workshop for painters, sculptors, sketchers or yes, even photographers.

I have trained a number of life models, and I look very carefully at a number of things. I always ask them why they want to be a life model, and if they wish to be draped or undraped (clothed or nude). For most it is a self-development thing – a confidence in their own body that they wish to increase. For others, they are intrigued by the mystique of the artist’s model through out history, and it gives them a charge to be the focus of someone else’s expression. And for some it is just another job.

Please visit http://www.livessence.com, and go to the Model information page. A few of our Livessence members discuss drawing, and one of our models, discusses being a model. There are four or five videos and they are about 3 minutes long each.

First, they are required to go through a training program. It is fairly loosely set up, with much room to manoeuvre, but I do have a few rules.

Self Perception is key

I suggest they read Ways of Seeing by John Berger. What this book does, is makes the potential model aware of some ideas:
a. how they perceive themselves
b. how others perceive them in their gender role
c. how others may perceive them in their role as a life model.

My regimen is fairly simple. They read Ways of Seeing, we talk about it for some time, and I answer any questions they may have, or direct them to somewhere they can find their answers. I also require they go in to the work of some well known artists whose specialty was life form, so that the potential model may see what the final artwork/expression may look like. I also inform them that the final artwork may not look anything like them (for example Frances Bacon), as the purpose of art is expression not replication – unless of course the replication is the artist’s goal. We discuss what gesture poses are, what is expected in the lower minute poses and ideas for each. I have quite the library in my studio, so we do a bit of flipping through some books to find someone they admire, and then I send them to the library to get some books out and study them. This helps the model get in to the brain and soul of an artist they admire – it adds to their modeling experience because they understand what is going on. It also adds to our working experience because the model is “aware”.

Training sessions

After they say they are ready to come and start the training sessions, I set up three or four sessions with as many artists, mixed genders. This training session takes place in the privacy of my studio, with the door blocked. (I am in a public building, and would prefer not to have Joe and Mary walk in on a model session. It is highly embarrassing for the model and the visitors.) As I run drawing sessions twice a week for the local artists, I approximate the setting in the Painting and Drawing Room here at the Rotary Centre for the Arts in Kelowna (google it!), as much as possible. We go through the first hour of a drawing class – involving gestures, and the smaller minute poses, and then do at least one twenty minute pose.  After each training session, the four or five artists, myself included, give the model feedback for future consideration. Usually I only have three training sessions and the model is confident and ready to face the class. The first class is generally the hardest for them, but we are such a good group, that any tremours are calmed down by the first long pose.

Biology in Life Drawing – It’s just Life!

Male models can sometimes have an erection while modeling for a life drawing class, but with experience and maturity, this soon subsides. There is nothing sexual about modeling for a life drawing class, as the model is only interesting for the light and shadows available for us to draw. Females can sometimes have their period, and there are two options to address this: the first is to model draped, and the second is to use tampons with the string cut so that it is out of sight. We are all human, we know biology, and this is just life.

There is a terrific resource available for artists and models who are located in London England, http://www.artmod.org, and Model Mayhem http://www.modelmayhem.com is a good site to get connected to as well.

Part 2 of this subject is located at http://juliatrops.com/blog/2009/11/22/lifemodelpart2/

One Reply to “A On being a life model”

  1. Hello,I was sent to you by Rand.We are aquaintances.This expression of artistry has always appealed to me.I have modelled in live fashion shows and acted in a play.I sing,not make art.I am very at ease in my body,celtic,so fair skin,greeneyes and thick wavy,red hair. Im 54.happy for an opp. thanks

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