Art Behind The Scenes: The artist’s model

(reading time 2.5 minutes)

There is a certain stigma around the artist’s model, also known as a life model.

Of all the jobs one can do nude it is surprisingly modest. The working relationship is completely dependant on trust. An artists working with a model has their reputation to consider, should their conduct be less than professional it could ruin their chances of ever working with another model, and alienate them from their community.

This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the model as well, their conduct must be equally impeachable.

The lines of professionalism can and do blur. Sometimes with fantastic results, amazing works of art are born. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

Working artist’s tend to take a strongly clinical stance to the work they do with the figure. I have had many artist’s describe their relationship to the nude figure as being akin to that of a doctor- meaning that they are analytically engaged in their work.  

How does a model begin working for artists?

There are many paths that may lead to working as a life model. I began working for artists in my teens while attending group life drawing classes. We had hired a model who continually failed to come to work, leaving us all sitting there pencils and sketchpads in hand and no model to draw from. This was very frustrating and had occurred several times when I thought “I will do it!” I was broke, living in the city and needed the extra cash. As well I felt sure this was a thing I could do as I had worked from life models for years and was familiar with what was required to do it well. Now eighteen years later I am still working with artists. I enjoy it very much as I get to discuss art, see how other artists work, and ideally inspire art. When I begin working with a new artist I first verify their professional reputation, then begin consultations with them to understand whether we will work well together.

Is it easy to work as a life model?

The simple answer is no. The work is strenuous though it does not require strength and will work well for all bodies and abilities depending on what the artist has in mind. That being said It is mentally as well as physically hard. And here’s why; Whether a pose is long or short you need to know ahead of time what you are capable of “holding”. Sagging out of a posture is no good. As well you must be very confident and comfortable nude or clothed, as you will be closely examined. Often it is important to keep in “character” to some degree. If you are in a longer pose this can be challenging and mentally exhausting. This work is a kind of meditation which is a large part of what makes it so enjoyable, an element of discipline is needed.

Interested in discovering more on this subject?

For further reading I recommend following this link to a great blog from an industry professional.

Written by Andrea LeBorgne who models for internationally acclaimed sculptor Cathy Venter. Andrea created this informative blog inspired by her experiences in Cathy’s studio. Her blog describes her personal experiences and some of the simple joys of life modeling.


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