The Bare Essentials - Register of Artists' Models
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The Bare Essentials

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bare facts

A selection of articles from our
former online magazine

This is the title of a new book on life modelling by 67 year-old Bristol model Stanford Gray and artist Evelyn Harvey. It is reviewed here by Vic Stevens.

I opened this book with some trepidation, imagining that I was in for yet another of those jokily anecdotal and sensationalized bouts of semi-fantasy. Mercifully, it was immediately apparent that my fears were groundless for once.

This is a no-nonsense little book for those thinking of taking up modelling. It is clearly and concisely written and covers most of the important things that the beginner needs to know or to think about. It benefits greatly from being a collaboration between a model and an artist. The authors have thoughtfully divided it into three sections. The first section is written from the model's viewpoint and deals with such issues as who is suitable for the job, the pay, the working environment and the all-important technical aspects of the poses themselves.

The second section is written more from the point of view of the employer and would certainly make a valuable read for the first-time life drawing tutor or art club organizer, but there is much of value for the new model in this section as well.

The third section is in the form of a long and increasingly philosophical discussion between the two writers.  From Stanford, there are certainly plenty of anecdotes in this dialogue, but these are all put to work to serve the frank and useful discussions on such topics as why people should want either to disport themselves naked or to draw naked people (the male/female difference on this one is allowed to peep through the verbiage to a degree).  The old question of sex preference among male students in adult ed classes is illustrated by an anecdote all us elderly gents recognize.  It's the situation where everyone drifts away to draw the gorgeous girl on the other throne.  Stanford couldn't take it.  (My attitude is always "If they want to pay me for nothing, that's fine by me."  I believe that's called the professional approach).

The greatest achievement of this book, to my mind is that the two writers somehow manage to hint at many of the the pitfalls, drawbacks and dangers of the job, while at the same time probably not putting anyone off.  They do this by means of their obvious enthusiasm for life modelling and for life drawing (of which there are many fine examples by Evelyn herself throughout the book).  Stanford really believes in the job as a worthwhile and fulfilling thing to do.  He wants you to have a go at it and he genuinely hopes his book will give you the confidence to do so.  In that respect, it may well be a cut above some of the advice and discussion on this website of ours which, one or two people have said, has a tendency to scare people off.  Well, we have perhaps seen more evidence than have these two writers of how easy it is to attract unsuitable people into the job and for standards to slide as a result.

Not that they are short on standards.  In fact, you will find points in their go-it-alone rules that are stricter than the corresponding clauses in the RAM Guidelines, such as their insistence that models should be warned in advance when they are going to be required to pose with someone of the opposite sex.  But, of course, the RAM Guidelines have been gradually liberalized in the area of what you might call (and Stanford and Evelyn do indeed call) propriety, but increasingly toughened up in the areas of health & safety, working conditions and pay.  Although it certainly has useful things to say in the first two of these areas, the book tends to slide into the all-too-familiar pattern of model passivity over pay.  This very important topic is treated in the inevitable "this is what you get" fashion.

But still, it's very good thing that the book has been produced at all - nothing passive about that.  And as the authors say, it's probably unique in the UK as a book.  Of course, as a treatise on all of the areas it rightly covers, it is not unique, as just about everything discussed there is discussed in some form or another on this website.  But then, Stanford and Evelyn didn't know that.  In fact, it's quite distressing to read in the foreword:

"We have had to rely heavily on personal and anecdotal experiences in compiling the book, as we have found no other source material available.   For example, how does one make the first move to begin and to whom can one turn for help?"
Ouch!  Actually, the authors found out about RAM (from that excellent ambassador of ours, Peter Borrer), shortly after the book was published.   It's a cruel reminder of how important it is to surf the Net before publishing anything.

Anyway, we are delighted to report that Stanford Gray has now joined RAM.  Dare one hope that he will find time to grace these pages with his clear and well-argued writing before too long?

This review was written a few years ago. In the meantime, Stanford appears to have retired from modelling and the book is no longer available.

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