In my years of drawing from the model in life drawing sessions, as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts through additional classes at the Delaware Art Museum School, the Fleischer Art Memorial, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Plastic Club, the Delaware College of Art and Design and other venues, I’ve learned a couple of things about artist’s models.
One is that posing for artists is much more demanding than outsiders realize. There is a tendency to think that modeling is “just sitting there” or “standing still”, and as such should be easy, but that’s simply not the case, particularly not when well done.
That’s the other thing I’ve found — that some models take it quite seriously and work to be very good at what they are doing. From an artist’s perspective, it makes a big difference.
Often in open studio sessions, as opposed to more formal classes, there is little guidance from the proctor other than length of pose or standing, sitting, etc., and it’s left to the model to invent the poses. Ideally, these should be interesting, with some suggestion of movement or dynamics, but not so off balance as to be difficult to hold for the pose sessions (usually 20 minutes at a time, often with the same pose repeated over several sessions).
The best models manage to be creative in these situations, as well as knowing how to hold a pose — again, not as simple as it sounds. I’ve never had a problem with models who will “shake out” in the middle of a pose, and then resume it accurately. Models who are not good at holding a pose are more likely to gradually slump into a different position over time, like a melting glacier.
Poor models will also make it obvious that they are bored, or just biding their time until they’re paid. Good ones make it obvious that they are doing what they do well, with thought and attention to the pose, even if they’re mentally in another world while holding the pose.
Artist models are generally not paid well, certainly not in comparison to the skill that some bring to the task, in particular those with a bit of dance or theater training who know how to use the position of their body expressively.
Artists who are fortunate to work with a good model, however, have a much better chance of producing interesting, expressive work. At its best, it’s something of a collaborative effort.
Models, however, remain something of a forgotten element in the art community (even though some of them are also artists), with fewer resources available than for artists in general.
It’s nice to see a new (to me at least) website called artmodeltips.com that collects a number of resources of interest to those in involved in life modeling, as well as those who run drawing sessions or classes and hire and work with models.
It includes links to resources for life drawing sessions in 40 countries around the world, books and videos of interest to models, life model guilds and associations, instructional materials and other items of interest both to both models and to artists who do life drawing or painting.
The resources include The Art Model’s Handbook, and the Figure Drawing Classes, Workshops, Open Studios website (which I have written about previously), in itself a considerable resource for both models and artists.
Directory of Figure Drawing Sessions
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Two other resources worth a look are Undressed Art, Why We Draw by Peter Steinhart and Live Nude Girl, My Life as an Object by Kathleen Rooney. Steinhart points out in his book that a union and minimum wage were successfully initiated, at least for a while, on the west coast a number of years ago, an idea that failed to take root in the east where multitudes of unemployed actors and dancers in New York were forever stepping forward to take the chronically low-paying jobs.
The Art Students League in NYC built a great deal of its course offerings on figure drawing. The list of famous people modeling there is almost as impressive as the artists and included, among many others, Charleton Heston, Gregory Peck, Kevin Bacon and Madonna.
I hadn’t though about famous people posing as artists’ models. That’s bizarre.
Lest I be misunderstood, all of those named posed long before they ever became famous. But some experiences hinted at later attributes. Madonna, I’m told, was considered “difficult to work with.”
An invitation to all artlovers:
SPECIAL EVENT SERIES
Free Memorial Day Community Weekend
May 25, 2013 – May 27, 2013
10 am–4:45 pm
Free all three days.
Join us for the MFA’s Memorial Day Community Weekend to celebrate “Boston I Love.” The MFA opens its doors — free of charge — to visitors from Boston and beyond for three days, May 25 to 27.
Enjoy special exhibitions—including three paintings on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art—art making, gallery tours, family activities, and a community art project. All on-site contributions this weekend will be donated to The One Fund Boston.
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