Monday, February 23, 2009

Tips for art models

For the first substantive post to this blog, I expected I'd post information about some upcoming classes, or pontificate about the changing face of the drawing scene, or a nerdly article on pen points.

Saturday night, I got home from one of Michael Alan's looney Draw-a-thons in the wee hours, and chanced to check my email. There was one from a girl who was asking me if I could give her some tips on breaking into nude (art!) modelling. I spilled out my thoughts, and decided this was a sign... And so my fist post ! Mind you, I've never modeled, but I know what inspires me, and I know what I look for when I hire a model. I'd really love input from some models who know the other side of the pencil.


Best way to start, attend a couple of different classes, see how the models do and see how the artists respond. first off, you'll get an idea of what is expected of the models, and you'll also get to see what makes a good model, and what doesn't (as with any other profession, some people do their job better than others).

For artist's models, looks aren't necessarily important. Being able to come up with interesting poses, and being able to hold them, are the top skills.

Holding the pose is really important, since it gets very frustrating when you're 20 minutes into a drawing, and the model is slowly twisting into a different position. Not moving means not moving anything, including your eyes. Of course, your body follows where your eyes go, so if you fix your eyes to one point, you should be ok. Bored, maybe, but OK.

For sketch classes like mine, I don't do a pose longer than 20 minutes, but if you're posing for a painting class or a sculpture class, it can go on for a week or more (boring, I guess, but regular work!). In that case, the pose is typically broken up into 20-25 minute sessions, with a 5 minute break. At the end of the first 20 minutes, the monitor will usually put tape on the places where your feet are to help you find your place again. Being able to hold a pose is a highly regarded skill!

Being able to offer interesting poses will make you a desirable model! The best models have a good sense of motion in their poses, and that makes for exciting drawings. This is where dancers & yoga practitioners have an advantage. If you're familiar with ballet, think Jose Limon over Martha Graham. If that doesn't mean anything to you, one good way to create a sense of motion is to be asymmetrical, or slightly off balance. Or use the poses to act out a story, or express your inner demons.

Having fun will make posing, or any job, more easier.

Just remember that you'll be going for hours, so pace yourself, too.

As far as working conditions, most of the people you'll be working with will be pretty cool. Sketch classes traditionally have been quiet, meditative places, but there are a new breed, like Michael Alan's Sketch-a-thon, and Dr. Sketchy's in Brooklyn. These are more like performance art and/or burlesque, and usually have costumes, themes and music.

Hope that's good for a start!

If you go to the "files" section of the Meetup group, you'll find a PDF I created called "Classes around town." It lists all the classes I know of in the area. That ought to be a good start. Also try colleges with art departments (Hunter, CCNY, NYU, etc).

Good luck!



  1. -An art model isn't a mannequin!-
    The more alive you are for the artists the less awkward it is for everyone.
    And if you can't come up with interesting poses then you had better be an interesting person! That will shine through no matter how you take up space and that makes for better artwork.

  2. I agree, i'm an art model and i think being relaxed is the best thing you can do. if you are relaxed so are the artists and that produces the best work. Anyone know where i can find more work as an art model? i get quite a lot of art modelling work from but im always looking for extra opportunities if anyone has any tips?

    1. If you can travel to India, I can help you find good figure modelling jobs. I am a figure model here myself.

  3. I am a 26 year old female figure model myself. I do nude poses for art schools in Delhi and many private studios. I don't think life is as bad as depicted in this article. I get due respect from both faculty and students. They value my posing nude as it is difficult to get young, tall and beautiful model like me. I get Rs. 5000 for a session. Mid-aged women get around Rs. 2000 for a session. We just have to keep our work secret from the society. My family understands and fully supports my work. I also work as school teacher but the payment is insufficient. Payment from modeling compensates all that.

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