Artists sometimes forget the model is a human being too

One thing that I have always prided myself about my group is that we treat our models like gold. It is very disturbing to me when I find out that some artists have been unkind or disrespected one (or more) of my models. Yes, I confess, I still think of these people as “my” models, and I am very protective of them.

I think it is because when I was in University I remember some of the comments made to the models by other students that horrified me, comments made to me by my models when they worked at other places about how they were treated. I could see how these things affected them, and I don’t accept when it happens to others. MOST ESPECIALLY when these are people who have graciously consented to be a model for our benefit. Yes, they are paid, however, just because they are paid does not give ANY ONE license to be rude or unkind or ungrateful.

Now what exactly do I consider rude or unkind or ungrateful? I am going to be very blunt:

Comments that have to do with a person’s appearance – how they did their hair, how old (or young) they are, what their body type is, how thin or not, physical challenges. THESE things you keep to yourself, and keep your mouth SHUT – how would you like it if they were said to YOU?  If you don’t like what poses they go in to – then the NEXT pose, ask them for something specific. For THAT pose, deal with it, you’re an adult, aren’t you? Our models have been trained, either by me, or someone else, to ask the artists if they are working on something specific, and if you say nothing, then that means you will go with the flow. So go with the flow!

When a model is going in to position, unkind remarks, impatient remarks, or inconsiderate remarks are not appreciated. Remember that modeling is definitely not easy. Models can not read your mind, they can not see what it is that you want, and remember most especially that the body will only bend certain ways. Remember that not all models take pilates or yoga and no one is Gumby. If you become impatient with any model, or make any unkind remarks, I am sure I can arrange for YOU to be the model that day. Imagine THAT for a second. 🙂

If it is a regular session (ie poses 20 minutes) and you came prepared for one or two hour long poses (ie you brought one canvas) quite frankly that is YOUR problem, not the models, so don’t complain to them, or to anyone else. If you have been attending these classes for some time, then you should know what the routine is, you know where the calendar can be found (and if you don’t, it is here.). Don’t expect everyone else to bend to your agenda. Come prepared next time.

If a model needs to do stretches (most do), and you don’t like to do gestures, then don’t come for that period, or learn what gestures are really about and make them work for you! Gestures and short poses are a way for the model to enter in to their modeling “space” or “mindset”. Honour that! If you don’t like the pose, then find a creative positive way to deal with this challenge, make it work for you! Muttering under your breath, or chatting up your neighbour is not the thing to do.

All I can tell you is that rude or ungrateful comments are very hurtful to any models. Remember they are few and far between, and we are extremely LUCKY to have the people we do. I do not enjoy writing posts like this however it is necessary, and maybe someone will benefit from the description of drawing class etiquette.

So what is drawing session etiquette? Well, what follows is a fairly general list, but one that seems to work very well for Livessence:

  1. You come to class about ten minutes before and get set up so that when drawing session starts, you are ready to go. This is for your benefit, not anyone else’s.
  2. During the set up time, see if you can make contact with the model and tell them of any projects you are working on, to see if they can give you the specific poses you are looking for.
  3. During the session, the model will usually ask if there is anything specific the artists would like to see – use this time to communicate to the model (if you haven’t already) about your requested pose(s).
  4. Talking or not talking is up to the people who are there. If the majority are not talking, then consider keeping your chatter to a minimum.
  5. Bring an ipod or other music device with earplugs. Please try not to sing, or dance. 😀
  6. Bring all your own materials and do not mootch.
  7. During break, feel free to talk to other participants, ask about their methods, consider trading materials if it comes up.
  8. Be respectful of break times.
  9. Keep personal comments to a model to a minimum or not at all. Consider viewing the model as a member of royalty far above you, and you should be grateful and feel lucky to draw them. 😉

I don’t think there is ever a problem in erring on the side of politeness and respect, in any sort of dealings. Be polite. Be kind. Just because you are the artist, you are not above the model, they are not your servant. Remember, the model ALLOWS you to draw them.

I welcome comments of any kind.

Notes on being a life drawing model part 2

I received an email the other day asking about what to consider when being a life model, and what sort of tips I could pass on. I wrote the gentleman back, and was very honest and open and direct about the expectations of what a person can expect when they become a life drawing model. I have very high standards for life models because I value them that much. A good life model is an invaluable resource. Anyway here is my response:

Dear XXX, Thank you for your email.

I do run some model training here in Kelowna. Currently, I do not have any sessions set up until the new year, likely in Jan or early Feb. For your info as well, a friend of mine who has modelled for me for about five years now may be setting up some regular model training sessions. I don’t know what her costs are yet, but let me know of your interest.

I am going to be a little harsh in this email. Please note that this is not directed at you but simply a statement of how it is – at least from my eyes – and I have gone through a great number of training sessions and have handled many many questions over the years. I am going to include the most common ones for you. Again, this is just information for you to consider, so that you know what the scoop is, and what the expectations are, okay?

To get you started – please visit our drawing society webpage – and click on the link for Model Information. There are some videos you can watch done with the drawing group and a few of our current models. Lower left hand side.

I suggest you sign up for Model Mayhem –, and as well, consider doing a general websearch for “life drawing models”, as there is a ton of information out there. Another thing I would have you do is to look at artists either in the library or on the web, who’s work focuses on the human form. Consider why they do what they do, what is it they are looking to express in their work, what is it that you see.

I would also be interested in why you want to be a life model. If it is to get an artist rendering of you, I would suggest you go the commission route rather than putting in the time to be a life model. It is my time you are using as well as the time of about five other artists in your training. For commissions, take a look around at the members of Livessence or other artists in the community find someone’s technique/voice that you like. Lots of photographers in the Okanagan area work with the human form too. This may be more satisfying for you and Model Mayhem would be a good starting point. If I train you, I expect you to model on a regular basis, if that is not your intention, please do the commission instead.

When you model for us, we pay you hourly. You sign a waiver giving up all rights to any artistic images produced during your modelling session, and what happens to them afterwards. You do not automatically receive artworks based on you and we do not appreciate it when models ask for them. Some artists are generous and offer works as gifts, and that is what they are – but please do not ask for them for free, as it indicates a lack of respect for the artist’s ability and the work itself.

If you are concerned about erections, I suggest you pose in front of friends or even family, and remember that there is absolutely nothing sexual about being a model, we artists can be quite clinical. We don’t speak (usually) during a session, our interest is in our artwork, not you personally, and during drawing, you could be a piece of fruit for all of our interest. Think of it this way, we are taking down your information with as much sexual or sensual feelings as we would your driver’s license. 🙂 Sorry to be harsh, but that is the way it is. During breaks or before or after class, we are happy to get to know you as a person, but during sessions, we are focused on the art and the expression of that art.

Simple rules of modeling: Be reliable, be on time, no gum chewing, drinking or eating, adjust until you are comfortable in the beginning then hold the pose, be aware of your form, if you need a break say so as we don’t like to see our models faint. Don’t be a superhero and think you can hold a pose when it is obviously physically impossible. No hitting on or flirting with the artists. Ask artists if they have something they are working on. Remember to change attitude (ie who you are facing) each time – if person A has a back next they get a front, or side etc. Bring a kimono or housecoat to sit upon. No leaving the room wandering around unless you are fully dressed. If there is a break, put your kimono on, as there is a very clearly defined time when you are posing and when you are not.

Regarding poses, anything you would find in a nudey magazine is not interesting – we aren’t looking for the “come hither”. For photographers, it may be, depending on their own artistic goals, but for us, it is not.

Some of these are the realities of being a life model – it is best you know this up front. But having said that, there is more to being a model than just being nude or posing. You will discover this as you go along and gain experience.

Hope that helps, and I wish you all the best.