In the atelier, we are fortunate enough to have a full-time model coordinator who meticulously screens and hires models, then recommends them for our program. While this is mostly advice for potential/current models, it is good information for artists, model coordinators, and monitors to bear in mind when hiring/working with models.
The Women's Life Class
Alice Barber Stepens
1858 - 1932
Full disclosure: not only am I an artist with several decades of life drawing/painting experience myself, but I am also a professional artist's model with 8 years experience and a former model coordinator. It is with utmost respect to both artists and models that I offer the following advice.
Can I Model?
Of course you can! Individual artists do have specific preferences, but models of all ages, races, genders, and body types are valued and appreciated. Do bear in mind that modeling is a physically strenuous activity akin to isometric exercise or yoga. Most artists will look for someone who is aware of their body (dance, yoga, and theatre experience are plusses) or someone who has experience working from a life model themselves. If you already have prior modeling experience, make sure to provide references.
Arrive On Time
The most important thing about modeling is that a model is there, on time, and ready to work. Arriving 10-15 minutes early gives you plenty of time to stretch and discuss the pose(s) with the artists involved.
Stretch, Stretch, Then Stretch Some More
Modeling is serious physical exertion and it can result in aches and pains afterward. Stretching out limbs, shoulders, neck, and back before, after, and during breaks keep the model limber and allows her/him to curb any ouches that may arise.
Communicate with the Artist
If the artist and/or group does not communicate which type and/or duration of pose they want, make sure to ask. If you have any bodily issues that refrain you from taking certain poses, let the artist and/or group know up front.
If anything is making you uncomfortable, make certain to communicate this to the artist, instructor, and/or monitor.
Strike a Pose
Instructors, artists, and monitors usually have a pose in mind-- but if they do not, make sure to ask them what types of poses they prefer.
Gestures are quick, creative, highly expressive poses-- ranging anywhere from 1 – 5 minutes --that offer the opportunity to put your body into positions that you wouldn't be able to hold for longer periods of time. From there, poses can range from 10 – 20 minutes and can continue on as extended poses that may run for multiple sessions.
Extended poses can range anywhere from a standard 2 -3 hour session up to a total month or more. While some artists may enjoy a solid, straight-forward pose, the bulk of artists like something with a bit of twist and interest that engages folks from every area in the studio. Make sure to know your body and what pose you are comfortable with when assuming an extended pose: the body does have a memory and little aches can develop into full-blown pain in a relatively short period of time. Supportive props (like poles, stools, or pillars) allow you to balance weight during an extended standing pose, while cushions allow you to redistribute weight in a seated or reclining pose.
If the artist allows you to assume the pose yourself, draw on inspiration! Drawing inspiration from expressive dance, yoga, and/or theater are great ideas here, along with adopting poses culled from art historical references or talented models you have worked with in the past.
Remaining Still and Passing Time
This is possibly the most difficult part of modeling... aside from the physical strain. Clever tricks range from meditative breathing (my personal favorite) to singing mentally to oneself to balancing one's checkbook in their head. Remember that small stretches are allowed if the pose is particularly strenuous.
Getting Back into the Pose
If you are getting back into an extended pose, the artist will mark or tape you. This is essentially what it sounds like: marking or taping around your body. Make sure that the artist has given you adequate marks to allow you to get back into the pose after a break.
Adjusting your head position is simple: just look at a point on the wall or floor and reassume your gaze with each pose.
Once you have gotten back into the pose, it is not uncommon for the artist to verbally adjust you. Don't worry about this: you are a human being and not capable of assuming an exact replica of the pose each time. Simply follow the artist's directions and you are golden.
While posing, assume the mentality of a statue. Unless it is absolutely vital that you speak (comfort issues, etc.), you should remain silent.
Exercise caution to not doze off during comfortable poses. This is often difficult when in a particularly cozy (temperature- and comfort-wise) reclining pose, but remember that you are being paid to hold your position... and even the most careful sleeper will shift significantly.
Do also remember to clothe yourself with comfortable clothing or a robe when on break.
While it should go without saying, models should practice good personal hygiene before arriving for their job.
Please refer to “Working with an Artist's Model” to understand what is expected and required from groups who employ a professional artist's model.