File Under "M" For Miscellaneous

The following are two posts from a modeling group on the nudist site. The references to nudism and nudists are based on the target audience. They were left in to make the points without needing to rewrite extensively.

Easy Money?

An active life model posted this question. My response to it follows the question.

Don't you just hate it when you tell someone you model and they say, "You get paid to just stand still naked. Wow, that's easy money." What do you say to people who think modeling takes no skill and you just sit there? I always challenge them to try it and of course they back down, using the excuse that they don't want to take their clothes off in public. Well, that's part of the job, so it's not easy!! Anyone else have a good response?

Arguments against such naive comments:

Would it be easy for you to be nude in front of a group of people (complete strangers the first time) who will be staring intently at every square inch of your body, including the "naughty bits", for two or three hours?

Would it be easy for you to do that in front of a class of college students, to whom anyone over 30 is an antique?

Would it be easy for you to create a series of poses that would interest a group of artists, many of whom have been drawing nudes for years?

Would it be easy to hold a pose without moving for anywhere from 30 seconds to an hour or more (with short breaks every 20 to 30 minutes), sometimes for the full session, and occasionally over more than one session for painting or sculpture?

Would it be easy for you to find something to do for that time when you are posing motionless?

Would it be easy for you to show the artists that you care about them, that you want to give them a productive session, and that you merit their respect and friendship?

The most effective argument is by example. Sit the person in a chair in a comfortable natural pose and say, "Okay, I'll time you. Hold that pose for twenty minutes. You can blink and move your eyes, but your body must remain motionless."

Two things are almost certain:

Within 5 minutes the person will get antsy;

He will not make the 20 minutes.

Then say, "Now strip and we'll do it again with you nude."

The facts of life: anything looks easy when an expert does it; it's another matter when the critic is called to do it.

If it is so easy, why do so few people actually do it?

Do I have to draw "those things"?

Another post from the same group, with the response:

Here's an interesting situation I encountered last week for the first time during an art college class in 23 years of modeling. The students were studying foreshortening, so I was in a reclining pose and some of the students were position at the end of the posing stand where my head was and some were where my feet were. after the 20 minute pose, I got up, robed and began walking around to stretch and check out how the students did, as I usually do during my breaks. I came upon one of the male student's work and noticed a "smiley face" drawn were my genitals should have been.

My experinece with young students is that sometimes they get silly and put funny caption bubbles above my head or position me into some wild locations, such as a bar or deserted island, but this was a first. I admit this young man was sitting directly centered on the pose, about 4 feet away and everything I own was exposed to him. I could have been just too much, although if you check my photo file, you'll see I'm not very "intimidating." ;-) Anyway, I just chuckled and walked away with a smile -- on my face. But this does lead to the question, how many young students avoid capturing the form and shape of male genital in long poses? And are female students more likely to avoid drawing them than male students, or vise-versa? Any comments or viewpoints on this anyone?

A good part of it can be explained in this Web article by a lady artist.

Simply, you can't draw a woman unless you can draw a man, but men don't like drawing naked men for one reason: genitalia. A man's nutso aversion to drawing other men leads administrators of figure drawing workshops to cater to these insecurities by dropping male models altogether. They succumb to this because men won't patronize the workshop if there's a man on the platform, and men make up the bulk of the patrons.

It's a sad fact, but women are in the minority, when it comes to figure drawing workshops. I suppose they are at home taking care of children and that's a pretty good reason not to draw, or do other things that are really fun and exciting. Men might say something like, "Women are works of art and that's why I prefer drawing women." Really? I might buy into that excuse if one of the greatest works of art in our entire history was not a male nude.

In truth, men are too insecure to depict another man's Johnson. Guys, you should be able to do this, seeing as you have one. You touch it everyday, more than once, I'm sure. But, in the impossible event that you have never touched or looked at your own penis, let's have a refresher course in artist's terms: your reproductive organ is a cylinder riding atop and simultaneously flanked by two ovoid spheres. Draw a cylinder and two spheres. Three simple shapes and you're done. You don't have to touch it, just draw it. No one is making an assumption about your sexuality when you depict another man's genitals. Honestly, I'm just trying to get the rib cage right. If it weren't for the five minute breaks between poses, I wouldn't even know you were in the room.

To all you men who have ruined figure drawing workshops by refusing to patronize the studio on days when a man is scheduled, thus forcing the workshop administrator to switch to the "all-girl revue", grow up and take your art seriously, or take your sketch book to a strip club. That's where you want to be, so why not go? Enjoy your rotten drawings and let the rest of us improve.

It's Only a Cylinder

A male artist had this to say about the men who want a young-girls-only retinue of models.

It's always amusing to me to walk into a life drawing session, see a male model, and then watch the procession of sour faced male artists slowly sneak out of the room; this is especially true with older male models. Why? WTF? You're there to practice drawing from life, correct? What sort of fantasy world do you make art in that you only need to depict attractive, young women? Oh wait… never mind.

Hell I draw comics… let me say that again… C-O-M-I-C-S, and we're vilified over the idea that all we draw are big breasted women (although they never mention how all the men are bodybuilder muscular types who are desexed- but that's another rant); yet even we have to draw other people in our books. Next to babies, who better for a hero to save than an old man or woman?

I look forward to drawing all sorts of people. Mom always said the male body wasn't the most pleasant thing to look at, so I love rendering out the gentle curve of a beautiful woman's body. But it's also a fun challenge to sketch someone who is past their prime, put on a few too many pounds, or just has a unique shape.


So next time you walk into a session, and the model isn't the hope you had in mind when you went, shut up, sit down, and learn something.

Real men draw men

In the instance cited by the model, it is reasonable to assume that the student was succumbing to societal biases, and was hesitant to depict his equipment for fear of being called "gay". Men of college age are not yet mature enough to create within themselves a set of values that is independent of what others might think or say. And unfortunately, as the first quote says, many men never outgrow that insecurity. Thus they refuse to draw half of the human race because that half has external genitalia. Or in the case of the student, to "euphemize" it with a happy face.

One wonders if the young man would omit the stems on a bowl of still-life fruit.

I wrote to the model, "If you pose for the lad again, ask him if he thinks that Michelangelo felt 'gay' when he was sculpting the awesome 17-foot tall statue of David. Ask him to guesstimate how long Michelangelo took to shape and refine the three-times-normal-size penis and testicles on his masterwork. It required far more attention to detail than would be needed or expected on a charcoal drawing in a college art class."

Analytically, David's manhood is a cylinder and two ovals, but in Michelangelo's hands they became a perfect part of the perfect whole.

Did Michelangelo take four years (1501-1504) of meticulous care in reproducing in marble the beautiful nude body of his model because he was "gay", or was it because he was the consummate artist creating a work that will be revered for millenia to come?

Hopefully, the young fellow will set aside his foolish cultural inhibitions and depict the human body as it is, without the self-censorship.

For the record, here is that magnificent work of art, with no smiley faces to detract from it.

Art in Pictures

Earlier, a quoted source mentioned Lucien Freud's famous "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" as an example of the exceptions to the hot-bodied 20-somethings rule. This is that painting.

This very familiar pose is called the Flandrin pose, after Hippolyte Flandrin (1805-1864).

This is La Morte Hyacinth by Fernand Cormon.

And this is Cupid and Psyche in the Nuptial Bower, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

All of the artists needed models for their masterpieces. There could be an artist looking for a muse for the next artwork. Is that source of inspiration you?

Training the newcomers to life modeling

In the "Resources" section, I lamented the lack of training for new and aspiring life models. I cited the List of figure model guilds and associations on the ArtModelTips site. It identifies 20 of them in the United States, of which only two are offering programs of instruction and familiarization, and a little experience under the lights.

In fact, there seems to be next to nothing in the way of hands-on experience for first-timers. Granted, they can read Mr. Cahner's excellent book or surf around in sites like this, picking up tips on what to do, how to do it, what to avoid, etcetera. However, there's a vast difference between being familiar with all that stuff and mounting the dais for the first time and dropping the robe. Knowing is not doing.

When a class or open studio group hires a model, it is with the expectation that he (generic pronoun again) will give them a productive session of drawing or painting without being coached on the basics of modeling. If they know that the model is a newcomer to the art, they will most likely cut him a little slack, but it is not the purpose of the instructor and students, or the group facilitators and members, to train the models.

We thus have a situation where those who book life models do so on the basis of experience, but new models have no way to gain the experience without being booked. There is a glaring need for life model groups to act as the go-betweens. The Figure Models Guild in Washington, DC provides a service for prospective models that is simple but effective. This is from the FMG's home page.

Individuals who wish to join the guild are required to complete a Model Training Program, as described below:

  • 1 to 1:30   Half hour narrative on modeling, with Q & A
  • 1:30 to 2   Half hour modeling demonstration by male/female model
  • 2 to 2:30   Half hour modeling demonstration by female/male model
  • 2:30 on     Half hour sessions for prospective models to model using same format as demonstrations: 10-1 minute gesture poses; 2-5 minute poses; 1-10 minute pose

As can be seen, there is nothing intensive or complex about that type of training schedule, and no significant cost to the providing guild or organization. Its purpose is not to create a professional model, but only to give him an overview of what a typical session is like, including time on the dais for coaching and suggestions from the observors. The trainee will leave with first-hand knowledge that cannot be gained from books or the Web.

There is one stipulation that the FMG makes that separates the models from the gawkers.

It is not necessary to pose nude if the model does not intend to pose nude at paid gigs - there are clothed and portrait opportunities; however, the vast majority of modeling gigs are for nude models. Should a model decide to model nude for paid gigs, then it is a requirement to pose nude at this session.

The rationale is obvious. If the trainee is hesitant to bare all for the sake of art, he should reconsider his reason for being there. Nudity is the essence of life modeling. Accept it or forget it.

The question is why there are so very few such training programs. Life models are born nude but are not born posing. Like any skill or hobby, it needs to be taught and learned. The guy or gal facing that maiden voyage on the sea of modeling needs to board ship confident that he or she can steer it to its destination.

One would think that every model guild or organization would want to provide such sessions at least a couple of times a year, if only to bring new models into the fold to replace those who depart for whatever reasons. And what could be more rewarding to a career model or an active part-timer than to see the satisfaction and the understanding in their "students" as they leave wiser, more prepared and more eager to get up on the platform and do art?

It would also be useful to provide the new models with cards or certificates verifying that they completed the course and are going to their first gigs knowing what to expect because they've done it. The instructors and facilitators should welcome the card-carrying models with open arms.

What say, all you long-time and career models? There are models in waiting, looking for the support and encouragement of their mentors. Do it!


© 2012 RP Renaud -- all rights reserved