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How to Become a Life Drawing Model

Artists book life drawing models to help them create portraits.

For some people, the notion of lounging around while artists render countless sketches of their face and form seems like easy money. Working as a life drawing model involves long hours, holding still for periods of time and in some cases, posing nude in a roomful of strangers. But if you like the idea of having a relatively flexible schedule and contributing to the arts, becoming a life drawing model may be the right career for you.

Make a list of art studios, community colleges, universities and recreation centers in your area that might offer life drawing classes and may need models. Establish contact with an instructor or director and ask to drop by and introduce yourself. Send an email ahead of time so that they know to expect you.

Talk with art instructors or directors about what their expectations for life drawing models involve. Most don’t expect their models to have significant experience and are willing to give you a brief run-down of the basic poses they’ll want you to assume during life drawing sessions.

Practice holding still. This may sound like silly advice, but life drawing models are expected to hold poses for 20 to 30 minutes at a time without much shifting so that artists can concentrate. At home, practice a few gestures and poses so that you’ll have some ideas once you’re invited to participate in drawing sessions. Artists typically want a combination of poses held for shorter amounts of time (for example, 10 one-minute poses) and then poses held for longer amounts of time.

Collect some props to bring to life drawing modeling sessions. Umbrellas, long strips of fabric, a cane or a baton may give you unusual ideas for poses. Bring some clean fabric to drape over stools, couches and other props–they may not have been properly cleaned after a previously sketched nude model has already left.

Tip

If you’re told by art instructors that their current roster of life drawing models is full, ask to be added to their substitute model list. Since some life drawing models are college students or working part-time, frequent schedule changes means that it’s likely the studio will eventually need a fill-in model.

Don’t worry about maintaining a perfect physique for modeling, unless you’re hoping to use life modeling experiences to branch into other modeling segments. Artists work with all body types in understanding the human form; yours will work just fine.

Warning

If you’re planning to work as a life drawing model for a private client whom you don’t know very well, ask to stop by with a trusted friend prior to the appointment to check out the work space and get a feel for the artist. If anything about the situation seems creepy or unprofessional, pass on the opportunity. Something better will come along.

Don’t look at artists’ drawings without asking permission first; this is considered an invasion of privacy.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.