Life model stories - exclusively from Life Drawing Happenings, Hertfordshire UK.
I guess I am not the usual shape for life modeling as I have dwarfism and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be confident about my body image.
I am not in bad shape and always tend to get unwanted attention from the public when out and about. When asked by a few friends why I wanted to do it I couldn't really answer with out sounding a little odd. I guess it was just the thrill or the drive to do it for me. I really don't know where the drive to try it came from, but I guess it's from wanting to be accepted in my raw form with no preconceptions.
I started to look at modelling and found a few adverts on a forum, after that I also placed an advert about modelling. I mentioned the dwarfism and the replys I got really put me off. Then After asking on a reputable forum I was given contact details to try, I got in contact with a few good art clubs etc. Eventually got a reply to asking if I wanted to model. it was quite away from where I live on purpose but I accepted the offer and with it being a month away I had plenty of time to prepare/ get scared/over think. To prepare I researched poses and stances that I could use. Disrobed in front of the mirror and held poses. Eventually the day came for me to model. I have never been so nervous in my life about anything and now I would be standing in front of strangers with nothing on and bare. I nearly pulled out 10 times over that day but said I would go through it. like with anyone trying it for the first time I was nervous.
I got the train to the art studio and when it opened I met the artist. very nice and welcoming. I got shown where I could change and where I would be posing. There were a few artists already setting up and a few gave me a friendly glance as if I was an artist. I smiled back. I made my way to the changing area and into my gown and flip flops. I had rehearsed this loads of times and many times at home it was really happening and took a deep breath and made my way to the stage area. A quick run through with the tutor and it was nearly time. When I first arrived there were 2 artists, there were now 15 all ready.
They realised I was the model for that night and nothing changed. they all looked on at me intently Part of me had expected a reaction of some sort, but nothing, I was impressed. The time had now come to take the robe off. I took my flip flops off and then removed the robe, I placed it on a stool and stood on the stage. I was now completely naked in front of a group of strangers. I took a pose up and the timer began. At first I was thinking oh dear, what am I doing here, they'll just laugh or giggle, then I was thinking, they are just drawing. After the initial shock I was ok, I had done it, everyone in that room had seen every inch of me. I held the pose for 5min and kept thinking of the next pose and counting.
My biggest fears were people laughing or taking photos, not being able to hold the poses, and not looking good enough to model. Each pose came and went and I got more comfortable each time. Growing in confidence it was now about giving interesting poses and the nakedness was no longer an issue. so after the first half I got to put the robe on for a break. I was relieved and also happy. Some artists starting asking about my experience and were impressed I had the bravery to try it for the first time. I had actually found it quite relaxing for a change. So the secound half came and went and finally after the longer poses in the class were done I could relax. I was impressed at the size of the class and the fact I hadn't been photographed or laughed at. The worry was always I would be photo graphed or see someone I knew. The class tutor called time and I got up to get changed. I now felt comfortable naked and would have walked home like that. I went to the changing room and got back into normal clothes. When I left the club the artists were all so nice and thanked me, some mentioned that they couldn't tell it was my first time. On the train home I couldn't stop smiling. I had finally done what I had wanted to do for years. it was a safe place to try and it worked. For the whole of that week I was going to wonder if I was good enough to do it again or if this was a one off, was I going to be asked back or was it a "lets see if this dwarf is any good for a trial class.. To my surprise I got a message the very next day asking if I could model again. I said yes and am going to be looking forward to doing it again.
How do you think you’d feel if you woke up on the first day in a new job, knowing that one of the first things you’d have to do when you got there would be to take off all your clothes? Well, I can tell you that I didn’t feel very well at all. I couldn’t believe that I’d committed myself to something so unimaginably appalling. But there was no escape now – I had to go through with it.
Looking back at that day some ten years down the line, my reasons for applying to the local art college for work as a life model don’t look very convincing, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Having been at home caring for children but otherwise master of my own time for many years I couldn’t face returning to office life – all the gossiping and office politics and having to wear tidy little suits and smart shoes - but a job of some kind was becoming a financial necessity. The idea of being an artist’s muse, spending time with a wild but profoundly fascinating being who would share his deepest thoughts with me as I posed, draped in silken cloths and lying on a velvet chaise longue, had an undeniable appeal. It certainly beat the hell out of the prospect of being on a till in Tesco.
What never entered my mind was that the average model spends his/her time mainly in front of classes of up to 30 strangers. And what I didn’t know was that the local art college, far from occupying the gracious old building I’d envisaged, had been rehoused in a semi-derelict office block, with icy draughts from broken window panes and the dust of ages still lying on the floor.
I was lucky. Taking pity on the pale and trembling middle-aged woman before him, the tutor in charge assigned me to a class of adults doing a part-time degree course, so at least I was spared the added horror of facing hordes of 18 year olds. The students couldn’t have been kinder, introducing themselves and having a friendly chat to help me relax, but the fateful moment couldn’t be put off indefinitely. I was shown the corner of the room, roughly screened with a tatty old piece of cloth, in which I was to undress. By this stage a sense of complete unreality had set in, but it wasn’t enough to calm my thundering heart. As I emerged clothed in my huge dressing gown, I still nursed the crazy hope that perhaps it was a mistake – that they didn’t really need all my clothes off. But they did. And I was shown to a rickety old wooden chair, and asked to sit down.
Nothing at all had prepared me for what came next, which was the total, unnerving silence of intense concentration as fifteen pairs of eyes zoomed in on me, and my cellulite. It was so quiet I was sure they could hear my heart thudding. As the morning wore on, and some kind soul brought me a cup of coffee, I slowly started to calm down a bit, though relaxation was short-lived once drawing after drawing began to be stuck up on the surrounding walls! Wherever I looked, there I was.
By mid-afternoon I was actually relaxed enough to start to feel a bit dozy at times. The sounds which were to become so familiar, the soft scratchings of charcoal on paper mingling with the background hum of traffic and the gentle drizzle outside, calmed my frazzled nerves and a sense of achievement began to creep in.
By the following morning though one of the drawbacks of posing had become apparent – I ached all over! Learning which positions are possible to hold, and which aren’t, is something that really only comes with experience, and the experience can be painful. A good tutor will sometimes warn you if you’re undertaking something which you might regret, but on the other hand they’re looking for models who will inspire their students, and the most inspirational poses are generally the hardest to hold.
Many years down the line, I’ve posed in a huge variety of locations, ranging from luxurious studios in private schools to a platform suspended 30 feet above a warehouse floor! Generally the privacy of the model is well protected, but occasionally something goes wrong. I had a colleague who was asked to stand, facing outwards, on the windowsill of a studio in central London, just in time to wave to the top floor passengers of a double-decker bus as it crawled slowly by!
Feel like trying it for yourself? Bear in mind that the myths about the pay really are myths – you’d be far better off financially working almost anywhere else. But there’s no doubt that it can give you a tremendous sense of empowerment, so much so that nervous trainee actors and opera singers are sometimes advised to do a stint as a life model, on the basis that nothing else that they might be asked to do would ever be quite so scary! Also, being part of the creative process, particularly with the young, provides a buzz and a sense of fulfillment hard to find elsewhere. And finally, it will give you a tiny stake in posterity. In quite a few homes, my image will be gazing down from the wall for years to come. Cellulite included.
A few hints for new models:
The best way to start is to make enquiries at your local art college. The pay might be modest but you’ll be in secure surroundings, invaluable when you’re starting out. Some of them ask models to come along for interview, and a few ask for an audition. This can be a bit unnerving but you have to remember that the staff are also looking out for the safety of their students, particularly in colleges of further education where the students are under 18, and they need to get an idea of what sort of person wants to work with them. If you want to work in colleges like this, you’ll be asked to complete an application form for a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, so the authorities can be sure that you pose no risk to the students.
Unless you’re male and very confident, or you know the artist extremely well, don’t even consider going to someone’s house or studio to pose on your own. No reputable artist will object to your taking a friend/partner along with you for security.
I recommend that you think about joining RAM – the Register of Artists’ Models. They act as a forum for modelling work, and help keep standards high. The website is www.modelreg.com, and contains some helpful advice for “wannabe” models.
I first thought about becoming a life drawing model some years ago whilst being a not very good artist at classes. When I retired from my day job I wanted to do something different to the office based jobs I had been involved in for decades and applied to RAM which led to my first time as a model with Life Drawing Happenings.
Although it was August the weather was awful and I remember feeling nervy as I drove through torrential rain and on part flooded roads. It was a relief to arrive at the venue with time still to spare. I found that I was starting to relax a bit as the class was friendly and I recall our chat which helped particularly.There was a huge transformation in a few minutes once the session had started and I soon realised that I definitely wanted to be a life drawing model and concentrated hard on keeping still while posing in the hope of being booked again.The issue of being nude faded away very quickly once the session got underway.I am always comfortable with being nude at an art class other than on cold winter days if the heating system is not very effective although it's never been too bad.
There is no such thing as a standard life drawing class -- each one is a unique experience so it can never become dull. The occasions that I remember most vividly are my first time and two others.One was a one hour repose pose at a happenings session. I always find that the chill music helps and I got into a remarkable state of serenity and timelessness. I really felt that I could happily continue for hours. The other time was in a gym holding a rope with one hand and leaning back as far as I could with my free arm stretched out behind. Serene it was not but it was a great pose to experience.
Not surprisingly art tutors and artists are creative people who tend to be collaborative and so sessions are usually friendly with a nice half time break. My first session flew by and I have often found that time passes quickly at life drawing classes. Keeping still for long poses has never been a problem to me and i find the shorter more challenging poses to be harder work although they also bring variety and can be developmental for the model. It's nice to be able to choose poses in the early stage but I am also happy to pose as instructed.
I anyone reading this is thinking of becoming a model I would say give it a try sooner rather than later as long as you are comfortable with posing as instructed in the main and are comfortable with posing nude and can hold a pose for a while.
It was about six or seven years ago when my daughter, who had modelled a couple of times, asked me, would I stand in for her as she was unable to get to a life drawing session. My first response --- oh no, I don't think I could! But on second thoughts - I'll give it a go. My first group was with a lovely lady who had double booked the models! So it was me and an older guy I'd never met before. I did pretty straightforward poses, and everyone was very encouraging.As I had drawn before at life drawing groups occasionally, I did know some people from a few local classes, so one thing seemed to lead to another..it was a bit of a surprise when I was modelling instead of drawing, for some people . But I think having drawn the figure gave me an advantage.
I love the art world, and always find it fascinating to see how many different interpretations of the model there can be in one group. Over the last six years, I've modelled for sculptors, drawers, painters and photographers. I've sat outside all day with another model in the rambling garden of a country house, sat for a group of portrait painters, spent a day with a photographer who took pictures of me standing in front of battered old silvered mirrors, posed as models from different paintings such as Gaugins tropical women and Fusilis 'Nightmare'. I have never been bored or restless- on the contrary, I love the challenge of keeping still in a challenging pose. It's like a meditation- and it has made me very comfortable in my own skin. When I was walking in the sand dunes recently on holiday and came across a scattered group of naturists sunning themselves it felt absolutely normal to chat with them though of course in this instance they were nude and I was clothed! Sometimes, as I get to work and get undressed, it crosses my mind that this isn't exactly a 'normal' job...then I'm modelling in Milton Keynes, lying on a bench covered in silky cloth, five guys are drawing me, Kirsty MacColl is playing on the CD, and the atmosphere is one of concentration.... and I think how very lucky I am to be part of such a wonderful history, the history of the art of the human form.
Hope you like my story--
I am a life model and who do i tell??
After 13 years of becoming a regular life model, i still face the issue of how people will react knowing that i take my clothes off for a living. Over the years close friends and some family i have disclosed my profession but always feel slightly awkward in new people knowing this. I have come across people who admire you and the ones who ask question after question. The main reaction is 'you are naked'? followed by don't you get embarrassed? Are there any people who are weird with you?? (i can only think this is in a sexual way) then once i explain, life modeling isn't just about taking your clothes off. You are the artist muse, you get into a pose which can be for some time, artists are very respectful and you are greatly appreciated. I have modeled in a class that the participants have applauded me when the session ended. How many jobs can you say that this happens, not very many and certainly not my regular office job. I love the fact artists no matter at what level are so thankful, i walk to my car after a session with a big smile on my face and think how lucky am i to have such a brilliant career.
Life modeling has been a career choice for many over the years but is never promoted upon leaving school. You cannot study for it for even gain a qualification.
13 years ago I was asked by a close friend, who happened to be an art tutor would i help him. Of course, I said without knowing what it was! He asked me if i would model for him with a swimsuit for his art class. I found the experience fairly easy and realised the hardest thing was not being nude but was to actually stay still. The following week I was invited to watch a life class and thought i would actually give a life session ago. Looking back this was the best decision I ever made. I have met some wonderful artists over the years and some that are no longer with us. Gained a small art collection of myself to look back and think how interesting and wonderful my career has been through life modeling and may it continue......