It's nekkid time!
October 15, 2006 9:22 PM   Subscribe

How does a female break into non-pornographic nude modeling?

As part of the process of growing more comfortable with my body, I would like to do a little nude modeling. Not porn, just modeling for a life-drawing class at a respectable institution. Is this a good idea? Has anyone had pertinent experiences? Who do I contact? Will I sound like a freak for emailing a professor "Will you let your students draw me naked?" Have you ever had awkward run-ins with students outside of class--"Hey, I done drawn you in yer burfday suit!" Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I did this a lot for extra money in college. It paid better than most crappy college jobs and was relatively simple. You'll want to do a reality check and make sure you can take off your clothes in front of strangers beforehand though, it might be super awkward if you got to the class and discovered you couldn't.

The modeling I did was pretty straightforward. Show up at class, change into robe while students got in, take robe off (often in freezing cold art studio, in New England anyhow), strike a pose (sometimes the teacher tells you what to do, sometimes you pick) hold that pose (sometimes difficult), strike a new pose. There is a lot of standing around, both while modeling and before/after. Sometimes I knew the people in the class, sometimes I didn't. Students will totally ignore you. Teachers may point out things about you while the students draw. One of the sketches of me showed up in a student art show. I don't think it was too recognizeable, but it was sort of an unexpected outcome.

Usually classes will advertise in the school paper or a local paper to find models. You might want to call the art dept of local schools and just ask where they get their models from, there's probably already some procedure they follow. Sometimes they're looking for people that are not your typical model, heavier, older, etc, so you might want to mention if you fit one of those types. This little blurb in the Guardian says a little bit more.

Keep in mind that they treat it like a job, not like therapy, so make sure you can do the basic stuff -- get naked, stand around, stand STILL -- before you offer yourself as a willing model. Photographers may want nude models as well, though this can be a sketchier sort of thing and I wouldn't recommend it unless you know someone is reputable and on the level.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 PM on October 15, 2006

Yes, it is a good idea! My ex was a model for life-drawing classes, and enjoyed thoroughly. She also made a decent side income doing it.

She got involved by simply talking to the drawing professor. They are quite familiar with models and should behave professionaly. You will not sound like a freak. Not in the slightest. Your motivations are your own, though. Just say that you're interested in modeling.

It sounds like you have a university in mind - simply go to the art department (you might want to call to find office hours), ask for the professor, and ask him if he has any need or openings for nude models. They usually have a specific budget plan for people like you, and probably pay a fixed wage per hour. In the case of my ex, it was 25$/hr. Some professors prefer to keep one model all semester. When I attended art school, we had many different models, young, old, gorgeous, and hideous. We loved them all.

About problems... My ex was a bit of an exhibitionist and didn't mind the run-ins, in fact she met people that way. Unfortunately there's always a creepy guy or two who might get up the guts to hit on you, but just be professsional and shoot him or her down. Unless, of course, you are interested. If you fall into the rare-but-not-unheard-of situation where a prof is acting unprofessionaly, say so and simply get up, put your clothes on, and leave.

Be sure you're clear on photography, too. Phones off and away, cameras in their bags. If that's what you want. Don't take any shit.

You may also find that they ask you to sit in poses that are really uncomfortable after 20 minutes or so. Don't be afraid to ask for a break or a different pose.

Also, bring a very comfortable bath robe to walk around in on breaks, and a bottle of water/snack.
posted by fake at 9:38 PM on October 15, 2006

At ISU they pay $10 for 'nude modeling'. Not that much money.

I'll give you the same advice I gave the last girl to ask about modeling.

Sign up for one model place and maybe model mayhem I have a friend who does amateur modeling. It's more a hobby for her, she's an IT person in real life.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on October 15, 2006

Sorry, I didn't notice you only wanted to be a model for artists drawing you, not photographers. Like I said though, at Iowa State, they only pay $10. They had ads up in the design center.
posted by delmoi at 10:18 PM on October 15, 2006

art center college of design has a model office. call them or submit headshots if you are local.
posted by krautland at 10:30 PM on October 15, 2006

Local adult ed programs often have art classes that can need nude models too. Mine even sponsors a monthly open session which any sketch artist or painter can attend for a modest fee and any photographer can do for a somewhat larger fee. A good way to practice those figure study skills.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:52 PM on October 15, 2006

They paid the models here at my University pretty well; passed the hat and gave her a large percentage of the gross. Anyone who feels qualms about posing should note that most serious artists are far too "zoned" to care about recreational oogling. Modeling is damn hard work, which means that we'd usually ask for one or two 20-minute poses a session interspersed with several shorter ones. That meant we worked at a pretty frantic pace and were very focused.
posted by RavinDave at 11:08 PM on October 15, 2006

As RavinDave points out most life drawing students are far more pre-occupied with trying to depict you (accurately, against the clock and in anticipation of having the results seen by the teacher and others) than they are likely to be trying to oggle you. You might also want to consider a spell as a student so you can appreciate this mindset.
posted by rongorongo at 1:43 AM on October 16, 2006

Has anyone had pertinent experiences?

I'm a fine arts student. It's relatively common for people who are trying to get comfortable with their body or overcome self-image issues to model nude in front of students, so congratulations on thinking about it.

I suggest contacting the following places:

1) Universities;
2) Art institutes;
3) Independent art schools (i.e. pay for a course, can't get a degree);
4) High schools. At least here in Canada, there is nude lifedrawing in classes.

Always, when you can, talk to the instructor in charge of the lifedrawing sessions (i.e. the drawing prof, the art prof, depending on the size of the institution). This requires just a quick call or trip to the institution, then send an e-mail to the appropriate name. And no, you won't sound like a freak. Many schools would appreciate it.

Also, dittoed that no one will be oogling you. It's more along the lines of "crap crap gotta draw the feet arg my proportions are off TIME'S UP WHAZZAH?" than "boobies!"

There will be a moment of awkwardness for everyone involved, especially if it's the 'first time' for anyone (the model or the students). This will pass quickly if the teacher is competent, as the students will quickly begin drawing and forget all about your nekkidness.

Also, you didn't ask this, but I feel it's relevent: no place will reject you based on how you look -- they appreciate variety, in fact. So if you do get rejected, realise that it's not about you, but about budget or the lifedrawing programme already being full.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:12 AM on October 16, 2006

Oh -- and some community centers have lifedrawing classes. You can ask around for that.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:14 AM on October 16, 2006

If you're looking at Stanford, you'll need to join the Pal Alto Model's Guild. Might be a similar organization where you are.
posted by plinth at 5:05 AM on October 16, 2006

The first time I art-modelled in college, I had not yet taken a life-study course and didn't know the protocol; I thought I wasn't allowed to move ever. So I held a standing pose with a raised arm for three hours, and no one ever told me it was okay to take a break. By the end of the class, I fell over, nearly paralyzed.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:00 AM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used to run a drawing group, and I was in charge of hiring models for several years. I also modeled, but that's been well-covered above. As far as hiring goes, potential models would email me, I would schedule them in if they made a good impression over email (note: sending nude photos in email is *bad*, as is asking tons of questions about retaining rights over the artists drawings and stuff... don't be a pest.) Then, if the model was good at the first session, I would add them to my shortlist of models to use again. Basic criteria for a good model:
-Showed up, didn't try to cancel or rearrange at the last moment.
-Showed up on time
-Co-operative during the session (listened to instruction, willing to pose for specified amounts of time).
-Didn't creep out the students. Ocassionally a model would hit on students, make jokes about sexual topics while on the table or otherwise sexualize what should not be a sexual space. That's bad.
-Generally pleasant to work with.

Yes, holding still is fairly important, as is choosing interesting poses. Models with big muscles are hard to find, as are models with lots of fat rolls, pregnant models, etc. I would sometimes go out of my way to find and keep models with special attributes as they make for more interesting and diverse drawing sessions. If you haven't already, I would echo the recommendation to go to several drawing sessions to get a feeling for the atmosphere and rhythm of the sessions and to get a sense of what the modeling job would entail. Good luck!

Oh, one final point: Holding poses can be more physically challenging than it looks. It's ok to ask for a short break if you are getting cramped or feeling faint from standing too long. Don't pass out on the table! Modeling shouldn't be painful.
posted by bonheur at 7:04 AM on October 16, 2006

I've done some non-nude artist modeling, and I fell into it because there is an artist in my neighborhood who teaches classes out of a studio in his barn in the back. I would call your local college and see if there is any need.

I used to joke that going to a Catholic grade school is what prepared me to be still for long periods of time. I would go 20-30 minutes in a pose, then take a five to ten minute break, and all of this for a 3 hour period. I liked it.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2006

I hire models every week for a class I teach. If you happen to be in Montreal you can email me. The college pays $17/hr, and $15-$17CDN is standard around these parts. I usually hire from a list of models I have from other places I've worked, and of course have my favorites that I rely heavily on. I do contact new models who leave information for me. Like bonheur I am always looking for models who have different body types. Half my models now are dancers and circus performers and are in incredible shape. It's nice to have something different.
posted by Cuke at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2006

speaking as a former college art student who had to draw a variety of nude models, there is no such thing as 'breaking into nude modeling'. as far as i could tell, they pretty much accept anyone.

and yes, for the love of god, bring a robe or something to cover yourself with during breaks. the nudist "model" at our college pranced around topless wearing only pantyhose (and no panties), during our breaks.
posted by naxosaxur at 7:46 AM on October 16, 2006

The real key is practicing in advance to make sure you feel okay holding a position for 20 minutes. That is hard work, even in a simple (most muscles relaxed) position. However, it will help your muscle tone! It can be a very beautiful, relaxing experience. Also strangely touching to see yourself in all the different sketches! The other posters are right that figure drawing students are very, very focused on their work. It's a great environment to be naked in.
posted by lorimer at 9:28 AM on October 16, 2006

I was an art model in college for a little while--I did it pretty much on a whim, just to see what it was like. It was a lot of fun--my favorite were the very scientific anatomical drawing classes where the professor would put me up next to a skeleton and point out bone structure. I always learned a lot in those classes. The students and professors were all very respectful, and it was never a sexual atmosphere. Holding poses for a long time is harder than you might think. One advantage--since those days, I've never had another naked-in-public dream. People did recognize me outside of class, which was sometimes a little weird.
posted by gokart4xmas at 11:50 AM on October 16, 2006

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