Life modelling, at its best, can be an exhilarating and almost spiritual experience. Many models compare the feelings after a good life drawing session to those after a meditiation session! And, of course, you go to all sorts of places and meet many people from all walks of life - so it's very interesting and varied.
However,there's a common perception, sometimes encouraged by the media, of life modelling as an easy way of earning a little extra cash. You often hear it said that anyone can do it - after all, you only have to take your clothes off and lie around doing absolutely nothing. What could be easier?
In the past this view has led to some people coming into the job who shouldn't have been doing it at all. They have in fact been partly responsible for the image of art modelling as a lowly occupation for the desperate.
The truth about life modelling is somewhat different from the stock view. When done satisfactorily the job is by no means a soft option, which is why RAM does not ordinarily admit people to membership until they can demonstrate basic aptitude for the work to a Bare Facts workshop leader or a Regional Rep. We strive to ensure that registered models, as a section of working society, maintain a reputation for competence, reliability and good conduct.
1. Would you feel at ease being naked in front of groups of people who would not only be clothed (and would never dream of taking their clothes off in public), but would be staring intently at your body? We have heard of several cases of people who assumed that this would be no problem, only to break down in tears or walk out when the reality hit them. Even experienced models can sometimes undergo something of a personality change once their clothes are off, becoming edgy and fractious. They need to ask themselves if they are in the right job.
2. Would it bother you to hear your bodily defects (rarely your good bits) being mentioned over and over again by tutors? Unfortunately, they don't usually see you as you see yourself.
3. Have you the patience and stamina required to keep very still for up to 45 minutes at a time, regardless of whatever discomfort (sometimes pain) you may be in? Sometimes you will be required to return to the same awful pose after a short break. Indeed, the same pose may last for several weeks. In time you learn what to avoid, to some extent, and you also become a bit tougher, but you will never avoid pain and discomfort entirely in this job.
4. Are you able, possibly after a bit of practice in front of a mirror, to come up with interesting and dynamic gestures, one after another, when asked to do short poses? The tutor may require poses as short as one minute, and will usually expect them to be pretty wild. 'Moving poses' may also be required, when students have to capture your movements, as you perform various actions over and over again. Most models love doing very short or moving poses. This work borders on 'performance art', but you have to be fairly fit and able to keep the ideas going. In general tutors are not prepared to make allowances for age. However, models over 50 sometimes appear to have more energy and stamina than colleagues in their twenties!
5. Would you mind posing with another model, sometimes of the opposite sex? Having two models is becoming quite common. We are not talking about 'erotic art'. That is a separate field, which you can choose to go into, but we know little about it! With the normal run of work, two models together are not required to touch (although nobody objects if they freely choose to do so).
6. Can you, short of earthquakes or revolution, guarantee to complete a block of bookings? This is probably the most important of all these questions because often, you will find yourself posing for painting or sculpture rather than drawing, and this generally entails one session a week for several weeks, in the same pose. It is really very frustrating for students if they begin a painting or sculpture, then the model cancels one or more of the weeks. This is a particular problem with people who regard themselves as actors, dancers or musicians who are only interested in doing modelling while 'resting'. Though they may never actually get any acting or dance work, or any gigs, they sometimes get auditions - always at very short notice - then cancel a modelling job. Then there are those who seem to have 'flu several times a year. The tutor can get away with missing the occasional session, but not the model. The policy of our own Bare Facts model management service is not to use models who have cancelled on us, except for last-minute emergencies. Models who simply fail to turn up without warning are never booked again and are struck off the Register of Artists' Models if they are reported twice for non-appearance.
7. Are you able to supply a National Insurance number and to 'work through the books' on PAYE? The days when modelling was very much a 'black economy' occupation are largely over. There are still a few models who will only work for cash, but their scope is limited. Most employers now regard models as employees, with all the rigmarole that this entails. Tax and National Insurance is deducted at source and what is left of the fees is paid straight into your bank account. Those few (mostly private art groups) who don't do this simply cling to the old cash-in-hand approach, so being properly self-employed and submitting an invoice for payment later is rarely an option. Whether or not you will work on PAYE is none of our business, but it's only fair to warn you of the situation.
8. Thinking of modelling full-time? This is a harder goal for men than for women, because of a general preference for female models. (A recent case before an Industrial Tribunal established that sex discrimination laws don't apply to life modelling). It also depends on where you live. The fact is that in London at least, it is possible even for a man to make a living out of life modelling, but only when you have been around for a long time and have slowly built up a large number of tutors who wish to book you over and over again. No amount of touting for custom, complete with CV and all the rest, seems to do the trick. Being on the public list of RAM members is often invaluable for female models, but as yet can only provide a small part of the necessary bookings for a man who wishes to model full-time.
Q. I turned up for a session and the room was completely bare. There was nothing to pose on or with, not even a single piece of material.
A. Art rooms vary tremendously, from having no aids to modelling at all, to having a marvellous array of props. Ideally a life room should have a range of boxes and pedestals, ropes and poles, all of which can be used to extend your range of poses, as well as such basics as a chair, a mattress and a few clean drapes. Some models cart ropes, tent poles, gym mats and drapes around with them, but it seems fair enough to expect the employer to provide them. If he doesn't, the students won't get such a good range of poses from you.
Q. I tried some very dynamic poses because the tutor said they would be for two minutes, but they dragged on for at least five. As a result I started shaking and was in great discomfort. I felt a complete fool.
A. This is a very common problem. It is a result of some tutors knowing nothing about modelling. Some of them don't even possess a watch! Always establish beforehand that the poses must be accurately timed. Some tutors will be surprised by this, even a bit annoyed. If it doesn't work, insist on doing the timing yourself (which is best done with a bleeper - quote these notes to any tutor who objects!). As a last resort, when a tutor won't agree to your timing yourself, simply assume that 2 means 5, or 5 means 15 and tone down your poses accordingly. Reserve your best work for those students lucky enough to have a tutor who knows how to work with models.
Q. The tutor wanted to leave the poses to me, then seemed to be exasperated because I wasn't sure what to do.
Q. She probably assumed you were experienced. Some tutors prefer to leave the poses to the model, and this is a very sensible attitude provided that the model is experienced. The best policy is be honest about your lack of experience both when the booking is made and again before the class starts. On the other hand, when you've begun to get some experience, don't suddenly set yourself up as the greatest model of all time who is totally above being told what poses to do. There are too many models around like that and it simply marks you out as a near-beginner instead of a complete beginner! The best models can either work to request or entirely on their own initiative - it's all in a day's work.
These and other problems you are likely to encounter are dealt with in the RAM Consultative Guidelines