Being a life model is a lot of work and indeed requires a few essential skills that not everyone possesses.
Let's face it, most of us have become experts in covering ourselves up as we try on clothes in changing rooms at the shopping centre, or as we get undressed and into our clean clothes in the gym locker room. We are just not accustomed to baring all to strangers (except those who are naturists or nudists, but even they will only go 'au naturel' when in a suitable environment like a naturist beach or holiday camp or in the privacy of their own homes).
It's funny to think, however, that we don't bat an eyelid when we see models and celebrities wearing next to nothing in magazines and on our Instagram feeds, so why are we so much more prudish when it comes to our own bodies?
It all comes down to how we perceive beauty or masculinity in the twenty-first century, yet if we could only look at ourselves like artists do - as a work of art - then we'd soon realise that every human form is amazing thanks to its diversity and the astonishing things it does just to keep us alive and breathing.
So, you either need to be confident in your own skin or realise that your body is simply an object to those drawing you - a representation of 'life' itself.
Either way, if you think that you can strip in front of an art class and hold poses for half an hour time or gesture repeatedly in your birthday suit then maybe you were born to be a figure drawing model.
What Is The Purpose Of The Model In Life Drawing Classes?
You might be modelling for a dozen to fifty artists wanting to produce a portrait, a sculpture, or a painting of your nudity in order to represent the human form and anatomy. It's really important, therefore, to remember that these individuals are only looking to represent your image, rather than to judge your appearance. In fact, if all bodies looked exactly the same, then art would be incredibly boring and repetitive!
For artists, life models can play a very big part in teaching them about the form and anatomy of the human body. As much as they can learn about the makeup of the human body in Biology classes and practice drawing people in the street, it is almost impossible to really understand the body without seeing it in real life.
During sessions with a life model, the person posing will be asked to position themselves in a number of different ways to showcase different parts of the body, display different sets of muscles and to expose different angles.
While photographers can unveil images of the human body, defining structure and tone, they simply cannot express the life in a human in the same way as one can by illustrating it. Every breath the model makes or tiny shift in movement will impact the shadows you can see on the skin.
Furthermore, photographed images will only show surface detail, yet not capture the weight and gesture of the life model, which is why life models are a vital process to artists learning how to draw the human form.
Many artists will set out to learn how to human beings with accuracy in order to improve the way they draw non-figuratively.
Who Sets Out To Become A Life Drawing Model?
A lot of actors and model go through this job, as it is usually better paid than working in hospitality or retail and all in all it requires a lot fewer efforts. It also goes hand in hand with their choice of career, in the way that they use their body, expressions, and movements in an artistic way.
Just because a model or actor decides to life modelling does not mean that they are interested in nude/topless photography or porn films.
Other than those wishing for a career in the limelight and looking for ways to make some cash while they wait for their big break, many artists choose to be life models for the very reason that they understand the importance of such a class.
Artists are often far less nervous about stripping off in front of a group of people because they already hold the view that bodies are a thing of beauty, and it is already in their nature to examine the human form in this way. Moreover, artists are usually more relaxed and understanding about the different poses that work for life models and those representing them.
However, you don't need any specific qualifications to become a life model so, in theory, any old folk can apply to become one! There are, of course, a few conditions to meet though before you start out, which we'll detail below.
So what exactly is required to become a life drawing model for drawing lessons and what you should expect for an art workshop?
To learn more about this art form, check our life drawing guide.
Be Confident: Perfect Bodies Aren't Artsy
You might think that to become a life drawing model you need a 6-pack, a perfect butt or big muscles.
Not at all!
On the contrary, drawing classes and their instructors are more likely to look for people that aren't the "perfect" humans that fashion magazines put on their covers.
Round people, older people or life models with a unique physique and body types, that is what art schools are looking for when it comes to figure drawing.
Artists are looking at unique features, such as lined faces, curved bodies, even tattoos or scars. Life drawing is about representing the human body and the human figure in all its shapes and forms.
The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your body, nude body that is. You won't be cat-walking in front of hundreds of people and dozens of photographers, but you will be posing nude in front of at least half a dozen art students.
Most of the people that pose for the first time in front of an art class, get nervous, but who wouldn't. So it is normal to sweat a bit when you are a beginner in this line of work but remember that all life drawing classes follow a strict etiquette.
The instructors and often the students themselves will make sure that the nude models they will be drawing feel comfortable and there are a few universal rules when it comes to these classes:
- No one touches the life model, EVER: this rule is capital and should never be broken even if you are life modelling for a private session with a single artist.
- Only artists (and instructor or teacher) should be in the room: it is a standard rule that the art class be close while a session is in progress as no one would want some random student having a peak and disturbing the art class.
- No comments: all artists present during a life drawing workshop will refrain from making any comment on the model's body.
- The model should be comfortable: that includes having a comfy chair or seat to be able to take poses for a long time but also simple manners like being introduced to the class by your first name, simply to create a friendly and relaxed work and study environment.
- A model should get naked or change privately: meaning that a bathroom or changing room should be provided for the artist to undress and put on a robe before making his or her entrance into the studio.
Usually, those sessions have a designated facilitator, most of the time the teacher, who will make sure that all these rules are respected but who will also be the one talking to the model if necessary.
A pose might need to be corrected, or it is time for a break, the session guide will be the one looking after you.
All these rules are there to guarantee that when you are posing naked, you do so in a professional manner and everyone can enjoy their time in the art class.
As Anne Noble-Partridge (founder of London Drawing, a collaboration between professional artists, tutors and performers) says to her models, her students are here to represent the model's image, not judge your masculinity or feminity.
Being confident in your naked body is just the first step to becoming a life model. Only like rules apply to the artists that will be sketching you, being a life model also entails some duties.
For those more interested in drawing than modelling, check out our guide to online life drawing classes.
Life Modelling Etiquette
Many people who come to art modelling do not choose it as their primary career. It is often a side job or a temporary solution to financial hard times.
Students fresh out of university might be looking for their first job, actors in between roles or still searching for their breakthrough will turn to art modelling rather than waiting tables. Note that most employers will insist life models must be over the age of 18 for legal reasons.
Not that there is anything wrong with waiting tables, but art modelling is just like acting. You have to perform in front of an audience; you have to be creative about the poses you adopt, about the gestures you choose.
But whatever the reason that brought you to take on a figure drawing model job, there are a few things that will be expected in every life drawing class you will work:
- Be on time: that is true for every position you will ever have, but when it comes to life modelling it is also better if you arrive a few minutes earlier, to get set up for the session.
- Be creative: find poses that will be interesting for the drawers or painter to sketch on their canvasses, nothing as exotic as the downward facing dog is required but knowing classical poses is a good start. A lot of models practice at home in front of the mirror and learn to hold still for extended periods of time, but with time it should come to you more naturally.
- Don't be a hero: if a pose becomes too hard to hold, say it and ask to take a break. No one will be upset about that but no one like to see a model struggling to maintain a pose.
- Cover up: if you're having a coffee break in between poses, or even if you are stretching (which is highly recommended), wear a robe or a piece of fabric to do so, being clothed on breaks is the rule.
- Don't: read a book or listen to music with earphones, look at one of the artists directly (it could be awkward for the both of you) or talk too much while posing as you do not want to disturb the class. Life drawers tend to be very focused on you and their work.
If you stick to those rules when you start life modelling, you will be regarded as professional and competent, and as many of the art modelling gigs you will get will be from recommendation, it is vital to keep up a good reputation.
But always remember that artists and models should always be equally comfortable and respect each other.
What To Expect When You Become Paid A Life Drawing Model?
Most figure drawing classes unfold similarly and you should get used to it pretty quickly.
These painting and drawing classes can last up to 3 hours, so be ready. A few rules of preparation include:
- Going to the bathroom before the session and every time you get a break.
- Make sure you have something to eat beforehand as a hungry stomach could be awkward during the class.
- Make sure you are comfortable on the chair or structure that has been provided for you to pose on.
- Make sure the temperature suits you, it is common for studios to offer model a small heater at their side to keep them warm or to get the air conditioning on if they're too hot (which can also happen when you are naked).
- Stretch, before, during and after the session, it will avoid you getting cramps and sore muscles.
Regarding how the session is divided, it usually starts with the model taking short poses, from 30 seconds to a few minutes and artists will draw quick sketches as a warm-up.
This artistic drill is where you can show that you worked on your poses and gestures when you are new to this it is likely that the teacher or instructor will guide you but as you do model more and more, and practice at home, you will eventually come with new postures.
Practice makes perfect!
After this warm-up, it is time for serious poses. From then on posture will last 20 to 30 minutes and artists will take their time to draw s many details as they can. That is where your training will pay off as holding a pose for this long is not as easy as it seems.
Poses can be divided into four categories:
- Reclining poses: the poses are in theory the easiest to hold as your body is supported, but the floor or a stage and gravity is what keeps you still (mostly). However, if a reclining pose involves holding arms or legs straight, they might prove quite tiring.
- Seated (or semi-reclining) poses: one might think that seating on a chair or a dais is relatively comfortable and though very little muscle is required to hold a seated posture still, the primary limiting factor will be your bum. Indeed when we sit, we usually move around to release the pressure on our posteriors, but as art models that is not an option. So make sure whatever you are sitting on is comfy, soft and well padded.
- Standing poses: these will be difficult to hold especially if you just started modelling for life drawing classes. All your weight will rest on your legs, and no chance there to shift the pressure from one leg to another as one might naturally do. Sometimes a standing pose will be made easier thanks to a pole but if you don't think you have what it takes hold a standing posture without support for at least 20 minutes, better be honest about it and tell the instructor.
- Kneeling poses: probably the hardest ones to hold for long periods, kneeling poses can be particularly strenuous on the back and limbs. These poses are usually kept short unless models are mainly fit.
The trick in all maintaining any pose is to make sure your posture is right. Life modelling is not nearly as easy as it seems and being rested beforehand will make a huge difference.
The Application Process For Modelling At Life Drawing Classes
How To Find Life Modelling Jobs
You can begin your search by visiting all of the usual job sites: Job Search, Indeed, etc... Gumtree also features the odd advert for models and similar positions. However, if you feel more comfortable going via reputable websites and academies only then you may wish to consult the websites of art colleges or look at recommended employers on an official modelling membership site.
Most life models will make around £15 per hour.
What To Expect From Life Drawing Interviews
Applicants who are beginners normally have to pose at a life drawing workshop by way of an audition. Note that most employers won't take you on without meeting you first and trying you out.
You may be asked to do a combination of short (5 or 10 minute) poses and one or two longer ones, up to 45 minutes so that they can check your ability to keep still for long periods as well as assess your initiative (you may be asked to choose the poses). It is perfectly normal for those starting out to be asked back a couple of times to build up their confidence before being hired as a regular model. However, some people are just naturals in front of a crowd and, due to the lack of volunteers, many are accepted eventually.
When auditioning for a role as a life model, you may not be paid. You should check the terms of the agreement in advance.
Experienced life models, meanwhile, will usually be asked to come in and sometimes audition for a place on the team of models, yet references from other employers may be enough to secure the job.
You see, while you don't need to qualify as a life model you still need to go about the interview process with professionalism and impress your prospective employee to be successful!
Learn How To Promote Yourself As A Life Model
Make A Website
If you are truly serious about becoming a life model, even if only as an interim job, then the best thing you can do is to set up a website attracting potential employers and jobs.
With many free web host platforms such as Wix and WordPress, you can easily set up a website that will help market you, but it's only worth it if you can really sell yourself through it. Of course, you do not want to post a series of pictures of you with no clothes on so you must instead have good references and display an understanding of the business.
Even a simple page introducing yourself, your experience and why you wish to become a life model can be enough to act as your resume when applying for jobs.
Use Social Media To Your Advantage
Use the power of social media to your advantage, advertising your services and ambition. Agencies and clients are constantly on the lookout for top quality models on social media platforms, and it may be the case that some art schools also scout the web for their clients too.
Use this as a platform for you to show off your personality, not just to show professional-style images of yourself with no 'oomph'. Be vibrant and socially friendly with your captions and use appropriate and popular hashtags.
Make Relevant Connections
If you are able to socialise and interact with clients then you will see more opportunities coming your way. So, why not sign up to a life drawing class or course?
You should aim to impress but also take note of the model and what seems to work for them. If nothing else, you can take away a valuable lesson in what to do or what not to do as a life model!
Useful Websites For Becoming A Life Drawing Model
If after all this information you are still looking to find a job as life drawing model, there are a few websites very useful to get going:
- London Drawing, a collaboration between professional artists, tutors and performers, offering Life drawing and ainting classes including bespoke classes and corporate workshops in life drawing, creative drawing and creative problem-solving. Check their website for future events and contact them to see if they're looking for new models.
- RAM: standing for Register of Artist Models, it acts as an online platform listing modelling jobs all over the UK. Subscription to the website costs £35 a year but will quickly pay for itself once you start lining up classes. For London models, auditions are held in life drawing workshops but if you are outside London, you will need to get two references from workshop instructors before having access to a full membership.
- The Royal Academy, famous art school bases in London, is always looking for new models.
"Every time I await a model, even when I am most pressed to time, I am overjoyed when the time comes and I tremble when I hear the key turn in the door." - Eugene Delacroix
As you can see, there are many opportunities to be a part of drawing courses london. If you are based outside London it will probably a bit trickier but not impossible. Just get in touch with local art schools, local studios or art centres.