Modeling as a Profession
The Secrets to Posing
by Eric Johnson and Suzette Roberts
Introduction: Few people will ever work in a professional environment as a nude model. It is challenging, exciting, and rewarding. Seeing the results of your efforts, and witnessing documentation of how you were able to create dramatic images with your body is a rare opportunity. A nude model needs to have mixture of confidence and indifference to be able to drop their robe in a room full of clothed artists. The confidence gained by this work will only strengthen our personality. However, working as a nude model puts both the model and the artist in a vulnerable position. The model, is of course nude, and is at an automatic social disadvantage. This social disadvantage requires an extremely high degree of professionalism that must be maintained by both model and artist.
In the studio, nudity is an essential element to artistic development. Though many people in the United States find public nudity to be taboo; most artists find that it is perfectly acceptable. As a model we must learn to not see a difference between standing on the podium nude and standing there fully clothed. Once the model has dropped their robe, they have socially progressed to a position where being nude in front of others is easy. Actually the first time you drop your robe in front of strangers is the most difficult time. Nude is nude, you cannot be any more nude once that act is done.
Success as a model is found by a combination of confidence, and indifference. The condition or fitness of the models body does not matter. Having a pimple or blemish does not matter. As the artist should not draw these temporary imperfections, the model should not care about having them. Modeling con be the easiest job in the world. You are paid decent money to simply stand there or sit there. Being a good model can be difficult. It is hard work and it requires a great deal of understanding of your own body and how it works. In the end, the model should be concerned about what they are presenting to the artists. This is what you are being paid for, and attention to the artist’s perspective is what will push you into the ranks of being a great model.
Professionalism: It is important to remember this is a job even though it is probably unlike any other we may have had. Professionalism in a model is highly prized in a model and, perhaps surprisingly it is not as much our technical abilities that give us more modeling opportunities or limit the amount of work we get as much as it is issues around professionalism.
• Punctuality – Punctuality is essential to this work. A class or a group may be stranded without a model. If you are late the artists are missing valuable drawing time. Art classes are thoughtfully planned by instructors so you can imagine how being late or even not showing up can throw off the learning process. The artists who hire you for private sittings or attend drawing group sessions have usually taken time from their busy life schedules to draw. It can be very frustrating when the model then is late or doesn’t show. Most of the model coordinators asked will say that the biggest reason a model is not re-booked is due to unreliability. They also understand that life circumstances arise that cause you to have to cancel but when a model cancels frequently and many times at the last minute, this will also limit their potential for work. It Is important that you be on the model stand and ready to pose at the start of the session. If you need to change, scope the room, talk to the host/instructor, come earlier.
What to bring to a modeling session
- Bring Calendar and a pen for re-booking – Many coordinators will re-book at the time of the session.
- Staff or other props
- Drapes and/or costumes
- Robe or other cover-up clothing
• Eroticism – being nude does not necessarily mean being sexual. While some groups are looking for this kind of modeling, most are not. A group who needs poses with an erotic theme should be up front about it at the time of booking so that you can decide if you are comfortable with it. You would not discover this upon arrival and should not feel obligated or intimidated to do anything you are uncomfortable with. For other settings, be conscious of how erotic your poses are. For the male models, erections happen. This is not really desirable for most art settings and should be avoided if possible.
• Artist Interaction
- While working it is important to remember it is a working as well as a creative relationship – a unique collaboration which both artists and model can enjoy. A good basic rule is to keep your interactions friendly but professional. Over the many years I have been modeling, I have gotten to know some of the artists more than others and have more casual relationships with them. But this is not the case for everyone I model for.
- Chance off site encounters – some artists are comfortable interacting with models outside of the artistic setting. Some are not. Some models are protective of their privacy around their modeling and some are not. The best course of action is to be sensitive to the other person. If they seem uncomfortable or if you are uncomfortable, then politely shorten the interaction.
• Break time clothing wear something. It can be very uncomfortable when you break the proscenium arch and are still nude. It is acceptable to be nude on the modeling stand- that is your expected role. It is not expected that you would wander around looking at the artists’ works or getting a snack in the nude.
• Timing – some groups will have a person who keeps track of the time and some will expect the model to do this. To keep the flow of gestures it is good to learn how to time shorter poses in your head. A timer will help with longer poses.
- Temperature – the host/instructor should be sensitive to your comfort. He/she should have a heater or fan onsite to make sure you are comfortable. If there is a studio that is usually chilly or too warm and there is no heater or fan you may wish to bring one of your own.
- Cleanliness – remember that there have been other bare bottoms on the stand, furniture, cushions, etc. For your own health and for the courtesy of other models, drape what you sit or recline on.
- Personal exposure to the public – the host/instructor should be aware of the possibility of your privacy and your exposure to the public. He/she should be sure the shades are closed, that no one who shouldn’t be there is in the room and that cell phones stay tucked away while you are undressed. But if they don’t, then take responsibility of this yourself. You have a right to privacy. Some models keep modeling quiet and experience negative consequences for unwanted exposure. If you are one of these models, be an active advocate for your privacy. Relate experience with radio DJ’s walking through (not ideal and not much can be done without change of venue – Once I got used to it and realized that the poor DJ’s were more embarrassed than I was, it was no longer an issue for me – and the night one of the window shades was missing and a pre-teen boy and his friends stood on the sidewalk gawking up at me through the window. From that point on, the host is always sure to check the windows for privacy.
*Appearance – this is not something to get hung up on. An artist is drawing, sculpting, photographing, painting a real person. Real people have flaws. A few of the issues that some models overly concerned with are:
- Weight – we come in different shapes and sizes and all are valued in a model. Artists like variety in their models and there is not much challenge in constantly drawing what society may deem the “perfect figure.”
- Body hair – Again, real life and variety.
- Skin Disorders – If it is a contagious condition, you should probably not be modeling until the condition clears up to prevent exposure to the artists and the other models who use the model stand after you. If it is not a contagious condition then it is all about your comfort level. I would encourage you to go ahead with the modeling gig. The artists will either overlook it in favor of the pose or draw it as part of the challenge of drawing real life skin color and texture.
- Menstruation – whether or not you model during this phase of your cycle is up to you. If you choose not to model during those times, be conscientious about not booking when you expect to be menstruating. Otherwise, some models are perfectly comfortable using a tampon and inserting the string.
- Hygiene – For the consideration of the artists, I think we should be sure to be at our best in this respect. A stinky model can be a terrible distraction. Another problem I find is that the lights are so hot that I get sweaty sometimes; I use the break as an opportunity to freshen up. Composition of a Gesture
• A series of gestures – When a series of gestures is required, the model should consider three basic factors while moving from pose to pose. These three factors are:
- Direction – the direction the model is facing
- Elevation – Standing, squatting, or sitting, prone
- Twist of body – is there a clockwise, counter clockwise or no twist to the torso – The idea is that each artist will be given the greatest variety of poses. No one artist will have a majority of poses where one side of the models body is facing them. Likewise the elevation of the model will change with every pose, and finally twist of the models body will vary too. As the model changes, be aware that even though you are changing direction the twist chosen may put you back into the direction of previous poses.
• Difficulty – Consideration should be made for the difficulty of the gestures being used. Some artists may not be as confident with foreshortening. If you are modeling for a class it is always helpful to ask the teacher how difficult the poses should be.
• Contraposto – Contraposto is a classically developed pose that adds motion to a gesture. The body’s weight is carried by one of the legs. As a balancing reaction, the shoulder of the same side of the body dips down.
• Grace – The body can be used to add interest to a pose. Arms and legs are complimentary to each other. This is simply ensuring that the arms and legs are not reflecting each other. If one is hanging down ensure that the other is in a radically different position.
· Placement of hands – The hands can be laid across the body to add interesting elements to normally simple landscapes. The curve of thigh is simple and graceful- but when your hand is draped across it makes the pose more interesting.
· Body direction and head direction different – If a pose is facing in one direction, interest can be added by facing your head in a complimentary direction.
· Limb extension – While in a gesture, extending a limb can add a beautiful element of grace to the pose. This can be an arm or a leg.
• Elongation of torso – Elongation of the torso, stretches the tissue revealing more of the musculature and skeletal structures beneath. The torso becomes smoother, and body fat is evened out. A short compact pose clumps up tissue. This may be used to create interesting and sometimes abstract poses.
• Theme – It is common to use theme when developing a pose. Commonly, classical art pieces can be recreated, sports. Activities can be mimicked, or classical warrior images can be created. The fallen Gal, Greek statues, or kingly images create fascinating poses.
•Use of props – Directly related props can be used to enhance the motion of a pose. A fallen king may cling to his sword. A spear may be in hand and half way released in its flight, or one could simply be sitting staring at the skull of a long dead acquaintance. Generic props can be used to create fascinating gestures. Ropes ties to a fixed point can be held and leaned into, a staff can be used in a myriad of gestures, or a large work out ball can help you mimic diving or running.
• Fabrics – Fabrics can be added to a gesture to help accentuate form. The curve of shoulders and how they meet the chest is better with silk draped in a strand across those body parts.
•Reveal to the artist (Verticality of pose) – When a model lays down flat, little of their body is revealed to the artist. The more vertical the body is to the artist – the more of the models body is revealed for rendering. When setting up for long poses one should avoid being too horizontal. The body can be propped up with pillows or stools to help carry the body weight for a long pose. Pose Mechanics – the mechanics of a pose are a balance of Bone Support and Muscular Tension. The nature of the pose is dependent on the balance of these two variables. A very relaxed pose uses all or almost all bone support. An aggressive, exciting and anatomically interesting pose used more muscular tension. The degree of aggressiveness depends on the mix of bone support vs. muscular tension.
· Bone Support – Our skeletal system carries our body weight. We can stack up bones, so that the entire body weight is being carried by the longitude strength of those bones. When a model stands straight up and lets their arms hang naturally, little muscle is being used to carry the body’s weight. This is total use of bone support.
· Muscular Tension – the muscular system can be used to carry the weight of the body. Leaning forward, with a bend in knee, forces the body weight to be carried by thigh, gluteus, and abdominal muscles. Bones are used to carrying weight but a lot of the weight is carried by muscles, As a result the muscles pop out, revealing greater definition. The pose is also more interesting.
· The Balance – Using muscle to carry body weight may add interest to the pose. The problem is that it takes energy. The muscles will become fatigued. Models need to learn how much they can stress their bodies and for how long depending on the length of the pose. Aggressiveness of that pose must be calculated. Misjudging, and taking on too aggressive of a pose for too long, may be loved by the artists, but it will become torture. Sometimes, a pose may use a slight bit of muscular tension to maintain. This is not a problem until the pose has gone past thirty minutes or so. That little tension can cause a lot of sweat.
· Neural Impact – applying pressure to small part of the body may cause an undesirable neural impact. After time the nerves on that spot will literally scream. Commonly this effect is called having a “hot spot”. Use pillows to soften pressures on the body where the body makes hard contact.
The Art models Handbook: The Naked Truth About Posing for Art classes and Fine Artists by Andrew Cahner
How to Become an Artist’s Model by Kelly Borsheim http://www.borsheimarts.com/modeling2.htm