Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Welcome Artist and Models...

What It Takes to be an Artist's Model

If you want to be a model, then practice holding still. That's not as much of an issue for photographers, but it is imperative for artists who draw and paint. And look for and try interesting poses. Some of the best models I know or have heard about study yoga. Models generally create the poses and sometimes are given suggestions by the artists. Good imaginative, energetic poses will get you hired more often that not. A typical drawing session usually starts out with about 10 one-minute poses. One-minute poses are considered warm-ups or short poses - often referred to as "gestures". This is the time to do the more difficult and interesting poses (reaching, twisting, contortions). Other pose lengths are 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and longer poses - up to 30 minutes. A good model spends time coming up with interesting, dynamic poses and takes pride in being creative in this area, which affects how often he is hired. A timer is used for longer poses, but the model usually counts in his head for the gestures and moves into the next pose automatically as the artists keep sketching and changing paper as needed.
I realize that I keep using the word "interesting." It is the most appropriate word because it can mean practically anything. From my point of view, interesting means not symmetrical. Symmetry is beautiful and has its place, but in general, I prefer the arms and legs doing different things. The difference can be subtle. Symmetry is best "broken up" by a surprise. Also, I like triangles -- so diagonals are prefered to horizontal and vertical poses. However, I see triangles in everything, so don't stress about this. I also prefer action poses to the usual sitting or reclining poses, especially for gestures.
One of my favorite models does wonderful things with her hands - bending wrists and also, each of her fingers moves in a different way (think Bob Fosse, for example). Another of my favorite models spent about two hours going through my dance books and sketching or taking notes on the poses he thought he would like to do during his future sessions. Also, when he works with another model, he actually works out the poses with her in advance. They know what they can do and what they are comfortable doing with each other. What a time saver and a joy. This is a model who loves his work and realizes the services he is providing to art and artists!
Many models contact me to say they are having a difficult time determining what is interesting to an artist. Let me just say, we all like life. Watch people as they move. Freeze a moment of this action. It does not have to be dramatic. Walking is interesting. Leaning against a wall can be interesting. Looking back over one's shoulder can be a great pose to draw. Look around you. And look at art. See what artists in the past have used in paintings. Pose like one person in a group portrait of animated figures. Bring your personality to the session - that is what an artist truly wants. Have a little fun while you are working seriously.

How Important is Physique?

Let me preface by pointing out that physique is not the main issue for an artist's model. Artists study the figure - all kinds of figures and in all age groups. (However, nude models are usually age 18 and above.) Some artists who have developed their own style and look (or have a specific IDEA they wish to convey in their work), however, may be interested in some shapes/ages/faces and not others. Do not take that personally. What IS important is that the model can hold a pose for a significant period of time. For painting and drawing that may be as long as 30 minutes at one time.

The Session

The spaces that are used often contain a modeling stand (platform), a light, and various props (pillows, chairs, etc). However, some models like to use their own props and that is always encouraged.
Modeling sessions usually last for about 2 hours (including breaks). For some sessions, you will do the same pose for the entire session (with breaks). During your pose, try to pick a point on a wall across the room to look at. This will help you hold your position and it will help you get back into position after a break. (During the pose, please do not stare directly at an artist unless requested. I personally find this very distracting.) Also, for the longer poses, I may approach the model (with your permission) and "mark you" before the first break of a repeated pose, which means marking your position, usually with masking tape on the modeling pedestal, pillows, or floor. The tape is placed in key points, such as where the toes, elbows, or hip hits the stand or other props. This helps the model get back into the pose after the break. Artists will also let you know if the position needs adjusting by saying things such as, "Move your right foot closer to your left knee."
During the breaks, the model usually puts on a robe or britches and may often walk around the room to look at the work being created. However, if in doubt, always ask permission before looking at someone's work in-progress. Most of the models I know use this time to stretch out muscles and get fresh air.
Models are usually paid in cash or check at the end of the session on an hourly basis.

A Word About Posing in the Nude

Naturally, posing nude is not for everyone. Models tend people who are generally comfortable with their bodies. However, I have been commissioned to paint shy people who have asked for my advice on posing nude for the first time. So I asked some models I knew how they dealt with their first time posing, and received the following tips:

  • Once you get to the session, go to the restroom to change into something easy to get in and out of, usually a robe or loose pants. It is much easier to undress if it is not a major production.
  • Pretend that you are someone else - an actor whose role happens to be in the nude.
  • Become a fan of all kinds of nude art. One pregnant model told me that when she first started modeling (prior to her pregnancy), she tried to "suck in her gut" and always look her absolute best - until she started to look at what the artists were drawing. She then came to understand that everyone had a different interpretation of the shapes before him and that she could just be who she was and the artists would still draw what they wanted to the WAY they wanted to.