Friday, December 10, 2010

Quick. Strip.

I have recently been modeling more for photographers than other visual artists, so I wanted to point out a key difference in preparation between modeling for artists and modeling for photographers.

An important difference to keep in mind is that there is the tremendous amount of detail picked up by a camera when compared to the detail that is selectively rendered by other visual artists. When drawing, painting or sculpting, the artist takes what they want from the model, and leaves out whatever they choose, but a camera captures everything mercilessly.

The clothes marks on your body will all be picked up by the camera. Belts, socks, rivets, and seams make impressions on your skin, and it takes a while for those marks to settle down. So, when heading to a photo session, be careful to avoid clothes with tight elastic in them. Wear loose fitting clothes with loosely tied drawstrings if possible and wear no socks or ankle socks. Try to avoid anything that will make an indent on your skin. Upon arrival, remove your street clothes and get into your robe as soon as possible so that marks are minimized as much as possible before the shoot begins.

There are exceptions, where for effect, a photographer may want to see clothing impressions, but that is not usually the case. If you have any doubts, just ask the photographer.

Clothes may make the man, but they can ruin the shot.

The Peter Read Method

In October 1995, Vancouver life model Peter Read penned “One View From the Model Stand” . It was done as a guide to life modeling as part of the “Nude for Love” drawing event held that year. In it, Peter wrote about stillness, attitude, props, pose selection, dangers, and preparation. He shares numerous practical suggestions and insights from the wealth from his 25 years of modeling experience .

I used his methods to guide me as a beginner and I continue to use them today. I’d like to share a sample of his writing titled “Which Pose Now” from One View from the Model Stand.

“1995 performance script “let true-best outer form be dictated/created by load bearing structure.”

Right from first pose in multi-pose drawing session … begin computing each artists viewpoints of presented body.

For any reason establish first pose.

Second pose torso is then right angles to first pose and on different level: stand, squat, kneel, sit, floor, sit stool, reclines: – supine or prone.

3rd pose is then right angles to 2nd and different from both previous.

What has that artist seen before in this session of my body direction, level, twists, negative spaces, hand and foot and head angles? What about a crawl pose wth head relaxed?

Within direction, level and special requirements already decided before getting into next pose,— once doing them — feel where body really wants to go now within set limitations.

To get a really relaxed pose – do a high tension one beforehand. Experience will teach what level of tension can be taken in each time slot: 1,2,3,5,10,15 and 30 minute poses.

By establishing your first pose “for any reason”, and then doing quarter turns, varying your body levels, relationships and shapes, while feeling where your body wants to go next, and considering various artist viewpoints, the answer to; “Which pose now?” becomes self evident each time … except of course, for that first pose.

Be Still

One of the main things you need to master when modeling for artists is to be still. Regardless whether the pose is short or long, the more still you remain, the better. I see it as one of the main differences between modeling for drawing, painting, and sculpture versus modeling for photography.

To maintain stillness, you need to choose your pose carefully considering how capable you are, and how long you need to hold it. For gestures of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, you can go quite wild with your pose choices, but remember to watch your balance and make sure you have good traction. Sometimes, after 15 or 20 seconds, you will find a muscle quivering, or a pinch of pain or numbness somewhere. For a minute or two its usually bearable and often a pain or cramp will subside after a few seconds. If it’s too much, a minor tweak of your position is your best choice. There is not a lot of subtlety in gesture drawings, so a minor adjustment in your position is not going to ruin anyone’s drawing nearly as much as falling, or breaking out of the pose will.

For longer poses, the artists are investing more of their time into their drawings, and maximum stillness is mandatory. Be sure to choose poses that you can maintain for the duration. Experience is the best teacher, so expect a few surprises. Always spread your weight over two or three load-bearing points to help avoid pain, numbness, pressure, and redness.

This pose in the picture above was held for about 2 hours total in 3 segments of about 40 minutes each, with 10 minute breaks between them. In this position, the weight of my head was partly carried down the bones through the forearm, to the shin bone, to the floor; and partly carried down the torso to the seat. The other arm also carries some torso weight down to the other leg, and both legs carry weight along the hamstrings, into the seat, and down to the floor through the shins. With imperceptible little shifts during the pose, I was able to change the distribution of my body weight around a bit and avoid fatiguing any one point.

When you are setting up a pose, remember that the force of gravity and your own physiology will work on it, and prepare yourself for those inevitabilities. As you decide your final position, take a moment to feel the pull of gravity on you, relax yourself into it, and you will wind up sinking less over the next 30 minutes. If you are in a twisting pose, consider how your stretched muscles will pull against the twist, and back off just a bit.

It’s helpful when you are in your final pose to mentally note background landmarks to help you keep your position. For example in a pose your arms held up, use your peripheral vision to look at what lies beyond your fingertips and remember where your hand is relative to that background object. It allows you to check your position over time and make adjustments if necessary.

When done, move out of your pose SLOWLY. After a pose your body will tell you very clearly which parts you need to stretch out, and which need to be relaxed. Stillness is not always as easy as it looks, but it is one of the most obvious and important hallmarks of a good art model.


First posted June 3, 2009
Tonight I am modeling in the round for 3 hours in front of between 15 – 25 artists. The session consists of a total of about 50 “gesture” poses lasting between 1 minute to 5 minutes each, so by the end of this evening, depending on how many artists show up, there will be about 1,000 new drawings of me in existence. That’s part of the fun of modeling.

But before I get into muse mode, I need to take care of the practical aspects so that I can perform unencumbered by any trifling concerns. By that I mean, I need to make sure I have what I need, including being physically ready, having a few pose ideas in mind, and making sure to bring my “kit”.

My kit is a simple bag with a few items that every model should have when posing for artists. My kit includes a lightweight robe, a sheet, a pair of ankle socks or slippers, a hand towel, a water bottle, a small snack, a digital camera, and my cell phone.

The robe is to wear around the studio before the session and during breaks. I like a light weight robe because I have to carry it back and forth to the studio. The ankle socks or slippers are to keep the bottoms of my feet from becoming blackened by the ever-present charcoal dust that covers the floors of art studios. They also keep my tootsies warm on the colder days. The hand towel is for wiping my brow, neck, back, or whatever part of me is sweating.

Posing is often physically demanding, and it is good to keep a towel handy. This is especially true when doing short gesture poses, where it is normal to strike open poses and dramatic postures that can often be very physically taxing.

The sheet is for covering the platform. Posing platforms are typically covered in a carpet that has been stood, sat, knelt, crouched, and laid upon by several other nude models. A covering sheet is one way to help keep the environment clean for yourself and them. Choose a sheet that is light enough to carry easily, yet strong enough to resist tearing. Try for one that is soft enough to feel comfortable against your skin, yet rough enough to provide you with some friction so your feet or hands don’t slip out from under you during a pose.

The snack is just a granola bar, or a banana, or something similarly small. I usually have it during the first break to refresh my energy. Keep it small and light to avoid any undue activity in your digestive tract.

I keep the water bottle by the posing stand in case I feel thirsty or dry during the session. A quick sip is all you need to refresh yourself, but keep it small! You want to avoid filling your bladder and having to hold in a pee for 29 minutes of a 30 minute pose.

The camera is a handy item to have for recording your position when you are doing a multi-session pose, and the cell phone is to keep in touch to see if I need to pickup any bread and milk on the way home.

With a bit of prep, a few pose ideas in mind, and your “kit” in hand, it’s easy to relax, focus your attention on being the muse, enjoy yourself, and become a work of art.