Am I Too ( Insert Adjective Here )?

This section is intended to dispel some notions (or excuses) that are used to justify not giving life modeling a shot. It's copied from one of my blog posts on a nudist website.

How old is too old to be a life model?

How old is too old to pursue an avocation as a life model? 40? 50? 60? 120? From a PM received on the Wet Canvas website:

Actually you might be very surprised to know that hot babes and buff dudes are few and far between in the world of life models. And you might also be surprised to know that teachers and students alike love senior citizens who model for their classes! That may be because we are responsible enough to actually show up and try hard to do a good job and also because, in my case, I have an interesting body to draw. So I would encourage you to try it if it is something you might like to do...

Go for it!

For readers who have been around the block more than once and who will never be approached by Playboy or Playgirl for a centerfold shoot, life as a figure model isn't over by a long shot.

In the fashion world, most models have at best a few years, until the first wrinkle or imperfection appears. Then it's out the door, replaced by the next "perfect" face and body. However, in the life-modeling avocation, there's room for everyone.

From a 2008 news article re a life model "strike" in Italy, one of the roadblocks to getting a late start in nude modeling is cited.

(Antonella Migliorini) said, "You have to be examined by a commission of teachers who are supposed to judge what sort of person you are. In the end though they usually pick the pretty ones."

Asked if there was an age limit, she said that "most models are fairly young - but that's a big mistake, since students have to learn how to draw the elderly human body as well as Venuses." Ms Migliorini said that she was taking a degree in the history of theatre as a fallback.

Artists' Nude Models Strike in Italy

"Mature" folks (sounds better than "old") are at a disadvantage against the buff, well-turned young critters. One supposes that the options for us unyoung folks depend on how many artists, art teachers and schools agree with Ms Migliorini's observation.

Still, the door isn't closed by any means to the dear people who have experienced life's math subtracting from the "10" of our salad days. From a UK article:

One of the ironies of life modeling is that you're more likely to be in demand if you have an interesting or unique body shape (remember Lucian Freud's 'Benefits Supervisor Sleeping'?). Life modeling is about having an interesting look rather than being beautiful or in top shape. Don't let paranoia about how you look stop you.

Make Money As a Life Model

The article makes a good point. After a while a steady diet of Barbies and Kens has to become boring to artists and art students. Where's the variety? This is life-modeling, not a cattle call for the latest T&A flick. One would expect the artists and students to jump at the chance to work with a model whose body has character and looks lived-in like a comfortable old pair of slippers.

I would love to pose but I am too fat, too old, too skinny...

You must be fairly confident and adventurous to disrobe in front of the artist. However, wrinkles, love handles, birth marks, cellulite, curves, creases and folds are no obstacle to modelling, on the contrary, they are evidence of a life well lived and make the drawing that much more interesting.

Become a life model


A LOT of people get very worried about seeing the naked body of somebody they don't know.

DO NOT WORRY - you are not alone! It's very rarely as bad as people think it might be. For all the men who may be worried you need to know that life models also come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of sagginess - they are not required to be attractive!

A Making A Mark Guide: Life Drawing & Life Class (PDF file)

If we parallel it with nudism, life models are what you would see at the beach or the resort. The illusion is what you would see while casting for an Unholywood "nudist" exploitation film. Sure, there are a lot of the splendid 20-somethings doing work in the field, but I suspect that given the opportunity, the artists and wannabes crave the chance to put to paper or canvas the imperfect bodies of the middle-aged and gray-haired ladies and gents.

If one searches the Web for artists' renderings, the images that grab attention are of the people whose youthful life is behind and who are enjoying la dolce vita - the sweet life. There is depth and drama in those images that can't be achieved by trying to find something new in the latest version of the hot-bodied clones.

For you guys, the odds are a bit better, since the majority of life models are women. According to a PDF from SUNY:

For most life models today, modeling is a part-time job, a few hours a week or month that supplements some other, more regular source of income. By all accounts, the majority of contemporary models are women, although in some cities the relative scarcity of male models means that men can find more regular modeling work than women can.

Assuming The Pose

 Sidebar On 

A question arises from comments scattered around the Web: why are young, fit females apparently preferred as life models? Based on the responses to that rhetorical question, with the excuses and the rationalizations stripped away, the primary reasons that young, lithe hotties are the models of choice can be summed up in two lines:

• They are pleasing to the male eye — men are usually the majority of artists in non-academic drawing groups and open studios;
• They are easier to draw.

It's not necessary to provide visual examples. Anyone who has experience with models of both sexes is well aware that the female form can generally be represented by curves and arcs, with few challenging physical attributes. Drawing a lovely young lady is almost a rote activity. The skeletal and muscular structure of the body are largely buried under that comely external physique.

In contrast, put a fit young male of the same age on the dais. The most glaring difference is that those internal structures that are concealed under the smooth layers of flesh and fatty tissues of the female model are glaringly apparent on the male. This is particularly true if the model has spent time in the gym or engaging in other body-toning physical activities.

The artists in the class or group cannot get away with drawing generic curves and contours. This nude body has straight lines and evident muscular and skeletal structures — classic examples are pectorals, biceps, "six-pack" abs, and so on. The model can't be depicted by throwing together some standardized, idealized shapes and lines. It requires paying attention to the details and drawing what one actually sees.

For an unfortunately fairly large percentage of self-styled male "artists", this model requires that they have more in mind than ogling the sensuous shapes of the all-girl revue that they prefer. Their lack of practice (or talent) is brought to the fore. When they are faced with drawing a model who doesn't evoke sexual images, they must commit to their media an actual uncurvaceous human body. They are at a loss. Small wonder that the grouchy exit of male "artists" from drawing groups or classes when male models are hired is predictable. They don't come to the sessions to work on their artistic skills. They just like looking at and entertaining fantasies about naked women.

This same "Bring on the girls!" mindset results in the absence from the dais of middle-aged and elderly models of both sexes, and of less-than-perfect bodies that evince that the people who inhabit them have lived real lives that have left their marks.

If figure art consisted solely of drawing lovely, attractive ladies, the weekly parade of girls would have justification. However, the true artist wants to be able to depict human beings of both sexes, and of every age and body type. They need models that exemplify all those variations. As long as there are true artists, life modeling will continue to be an activity for anyone who is alive and has an interesting body.

 Sidebar Off 

Folks for whom the good life has resulted in an ample physical presence (how's that for euphemizing? ) might benefit from a factor that makes one's body "interesting" to artists. From a blog post by a "big" guy who writes of large men in the arts and media comes this observation.

I've never taken a life-drawing class, but it would be pure pleasure to walk into the studio and see any one of these men below the cut as models. With a fat man as model, the artists have to take into account the three-dimensional weight and mass of his body. Also, since it's so unusual to see fat men unclothed (as in media, outside of slapstick comedy like the Jackass movies, for instance), the artists are compelled to draw what they see, not some idealized male form.

Fat men as art models (NSFW)

From the comments to that post...

Love the pics. I am a "full figured, Rubenesque" model in Chicago myself. I get great feedback from the artists and classes I have worked with. They enjoy the break from drawing 20 year old dancers.

They verify what was said earlier. If the artists have gotten used to drawing "normal" bodies, a model of superior size would present a study that requires their full attention rather than drawing a cookie-cutter model almost mechanically. Give them something new to draw, and you might make friends for life.

Still making excuses? This is by a model turned artist.

I'd Like to Model, But I'm Not in Good Enough Shape

Artists need models of ALL SHAPES AND SIZES AND ELASTICITIES AND HAIR CUTS AND BODY TYPES AND AGES. The whole point of life drawing is to get first hand experience drawing the human body- NOT The Idealized Perfect Body of a God on Earth. The HUMAN Body. Artists actually enjoy and look forward to drawing Not-Perfect-20-something-Year-Old-Athletes.

Advice: How to be a Life Model

"Chris's life modelling poses"

ADDENDUM: April 2014

Since I last edited this page, I've become familiar with (and greatly impressed by) the Tumblr blog called "Chris's life modelling poses", maintained by a fine gentleman from the UK. In my not very humble opinion, his work merits its own section on this page.

His first name is Chris — for his privacy, I've omitted his last name. He is a "senior citizen" who is a professional life model. His blog contains hundreds of excellent photos of his various poses for life classes in his area.

The blog is intended to provide inspiration to models looking for ideas about additions to their pose routines, and especially for newcomers wanting to build a portfolio of poses. He usually includes a note on how long he held the poses, in order to give the readers a rough idea of how challenging they are.

Quite often his posts include photos of the artwork of the students, to give first-timers and prospective models a perspective on how artists interpret poses and commit them to their media. It's fascinating to compare photos of Chris' poses to the drawings and paintings.

The poses held by the gentleman can be used as is, or modified to suit different body styles, session settings or personal taste. Photos of models' poses are intended to inspire the viewing models to be creative. Imitation is called the sincerest form of flattery, but adaptation is a hallmark of the professional life model.

I highly recommend this blog to all models, experienced, new and thinking about it. Here's where it's found:

Chris's life modelling poses

A fair warning: this blog depicts the poses as they are seen in the classroom or studio. Therefore there is no censoring of the photos of the gentleman's nude body. This probably qualifies the blog as NSFW.

ADDENDUM: 20190818

The Tumblr purge of all things deemed "offensive" has effectively shut down this blog. There are remnants of it, but its value as an art resource has been destroyed.

Good luck to all who are interested in giving life modeling a shot!

So how do I find work?

This question was posed in one of the threads on the nudist site.

Interesting thread...any insights on how one gets started working as a nude model? Who does one contact?

Try this intro: How to Be a Nude Art Model

From that page, step 1:

Find places to work: Contact your local art school or college to see if they are hiring art models. You can start with the art department, but ask if there is someone in particular assigned to hire models for all classes. Sometimes each instructor hires their own models. This is the first step because it may in fact be difficult to find work, particularly for male models.

Another informative page:

How to Become An Artist's Model

Here's a YouTube clip (the voiceover is computer-generated and might seem a bit strange):

How To Be A Nude Art Model

There are agencies for models, but they apparently prefer experienced clients. The clip offers some suggestions at the end.

One good source for looking for modeling work is the local art supply emporium. They have a finger on the pulse of the art community in their area. They most likely know what classes or groups are active and whether they are looking for models. If the store has a public bulletin board, consider making an ad offering your services.

The little tear-off tabs with your name and an email address would be helpful. If this suggestion is considered, get an address from one of the major email providers such as Yahoo, Microsoft's Hotmail or Google's Gmail. They work as well as one's ISP email addy, but are much harder to trace for unsavory purposes. If one feels adventurous, use a phone number, but considering the service being offered, it isn't advisable.

Getting your bare foot in the door

One thing that a potential model must be, aside from a model, is a salesman. Once you have all the basics of modeling down pat — holding still, etc., per the next page — the next step is to sell yourself. The fact that you are capable of doing it does not mean that offers will be filling your inbox or ringing the phone off the hook. You may be the best model in the town, state or solar system, but no one knows it. So how does one go about that?

Since you are a beginner, by definition you have no work experience. One site suggested that you can practice with artist friends, or just with friends willing to draw you (and maybe take an interest in drawing). Regardless of the composition of the group, once you've done it, even if it's only for a few sittings, you can legitimately list it as work experience.

It's always useful to have a portfolio of drawings of you, but at the very least you should have a resume with basic bio stuff, contact information, maybe a photo or three (not necessarily, and probably not advisably, nude), etcetera. Anything that will flesh you out as a person as well as a potential model is useful.

Once you have that in hand, start exploring. When you find out where life drawing groups or classes are being held, the next step is self-promotion. The rule of thumb is to be active but not pushy. A door-to-door salesman gets his commission from convincing the potential customers that he/she would benefit from buying the product, not by browbeating him or her into submission.

As a model, you are selling yourself. Make the artists or hirers happy to have found you and wanting to engage your services. Although you certainly hope to benefit from contacting them, let them feel that they are the ones who will gain from hiring you.

Some things that one must never do...

First impressions can make or break the applicant. When you go in for an interview, look like them. Don't give the impression that you're on a break from the bank board meeting. Don't wear a tie-dyed T-shirt and jeans with shredded knees. Don't look like you just stepped out of the circus clown car. Neat, casual attire is best, what one site called the "Gap look". Fit into the surroundings and let your personality carry the day.

Don't oversell yourself. Be confident and self-assured, but be realistic. You might believe that you can walk from California to Hawaii in a week, but you'll be dealing with people who have heard every kind of BS at least once. Be truthful and frank, and let them see the real you, not the lobby poster.

Don't undersell yourself. Being apologetic or self-deprecating will be as much a turn-off as presenting yourself as a superhero. It may be your first-ever adventure into the world of life modeling, but no job applicant has ever been hired if he tells the interviewer that he's a clueless newbie. EVERYONE started out as a tyro in his chosen occupation. The focal point isn't whether you've ever mounted the dais before, but rather what you can bring to the session when you're under the lights. Look forward, not backward.

As stated above, pushiness is self-defeating. Once you've made your pitch, thank them for giving you the time, let them know that you will be waiting for their response, and depart with the hope that they'll be saying, "What a nice guy!" If after a week or two you haven't heard anything, a follow-up email or letter politely asking for an update is appropriate. Do NOT flood their inboxes or their mail drops, or keep their phones ringing. That is a guarantee of rejection.

At the opposite extreme, avoid fawning. That's as big a turn-off as pushiness. People have an innate ability to sense the attitudinal contact of lips to their butt cheeks. It gains nothing and most likely will end any possibility of being engaged by them.

If you do get turned down, accept it and move on. You won't be the first or the last. It's quite possible that they have no immediate need for your talents, but will keep your file on hand for future consideration. Expressing frustration and/or disapproval is the fastest way to build a wall between you and those whom you want to hire you.

Don't give up!  There is not a life model who ever lived who wasn't a beginner, and who didn't experience disappointment when their careers (or avocations) failed to take off like the space shuttle. The successes will come, and they will be all the more satisfying when they follow the letdowns. The difference between life's losers and winners is perseverance.

What the artists want and what to expect

What do the art groups and classes look for in their search for models, and what can the novice model expect in his or her first sitting? In response to a query sent to a weekly drop-in open studio group (that I knew nothing about until 11/7/2013) in the town of Sheffield in the Berkshires, the group leader sent a very helpful insight into what a typical life drawing group looks for in its models.

Because of where we are located, getting models is not that easy, so we don't put strict criteria on our models.

We like variety, young to old, slim to heavy.

Our females range in age from the early 20s to 60+.

We do like the males to be on the fit side (age is not important) as it gives us a chance to study the muscles and anatomy.

What we do ask is that they know how take interesting, natural-looking poses. We once had a male who gave us nothing but yoga poses and we never asked him back.

That last comment describes the cardinal sin of figure modeling: being boring. Yoga poses as part of the gestures add variety and spice, but an unbroken sequence of them, extending into the long poses, is not the way to add entries in one's appointment book. This also applies to any pose sequence that gives the impression of an uninterested model going through a ritual.

On a similar note, getting repeat bookings and using the same sequence of poses each time is also an indication that the model can't be bothered with giving the artists his best efforts. Even a series of poses that are interesting and challenging become tedious when repeated,

The human body is capable of gazillions of positions. Repetition is expected from Disney audioanimatronic figures, not from life models. Expand your repertoire of poses so that if you do repeat one, nobody will remember the last time you used it. If a group eagerly awaits your next pose, you can safely assume that you'll be asked to return.

The gentleman also provided a precis of a typical night of modeling for his group.

Our sessions start off with short 2-minute poses and get progressively longer. For the short poses, we like a lot of dynamics, with twisting torsos and thrusts. The longer poses, we try to make comfortable for the model, either sitting, half-reclining, and full reclining poses. Something the model can hold and get back into, after a break.

With the usual variations from group to group — there is no "official" format for life drawing groups — this is what a life model can expect to be doing in a generic session on the dais of an open studio, and what the groups want from their models.

Structured drawing classes in academic settings are obviously substantially different from drop-in groups, and their needs vary widely based on what the lessons are about in a specific class. It's best to learn what they look for before offering your services.

Lastly, groups in small towns aren't always thirsting for new models. The gentleman's closing line:

We currently have about 10 models that we alternate from week to week.

This was rather surprising, considering that I didn't think there were that many in the Berkshires, let alone in the southwest corner of the county. Conclusion: expect competition, and strive to be better than the others.

Good luck! Let us know how your new career is progressing.

Note: broken links are a Web curse. The links on this page were active as of 31 October 2014.


2014 RP Renaud -- all rights reserved