Fine Art Friday: Tips for Finding and Working With a Model

Posted by on Nov 15, 2013 in Painting | Comments


If you like figure or portrait drawing, working from life with a model is a unique and irreplaceable experience, but if you never had to work with models before, organizing a session might seem a bit intimidating.

life drawing of woman - Sandrine Pelissier

Life drawing by Sandrine Pelissier

Here are a few tips for finding and working with a model:

1. Finding a model

  • The easiest way is to look for art schools or art associations that are offering a life drawing program in your area. They usually keep a list of models and should agree to give you a few names and contacts or even share their list with you.
  • You could also post an ad on the Internet, asking for a few references of places the model did work at before. When asking for pictures, ask for clothed pictures.
  • When the model has been booked a few weeks in advance, it is always a good idea to confirm a few days before the session, so you have enough time to book someone else if the model you hired is no longer available.
  • So there is no misunderstanding, it’s best to agree on the terms of the session before: How much is it paid? How long will the poses be? Is it clothed or unclothed? How many artists will be in attendance?

2. Set up your studio

  • First you have to make sure your place will be comfortable and private, if the model is undressed, you will want to make sure there are curtains or blinds on the windows.
  • The temperature should also be high enough so the model is not cold. If needed, set up portable heaters on a chair to keep the model warm.
  • For life drawing, a platform is usually necessary, especially for reclining poses, as it makes it easier to see the model. You can make one out of milk crates and a piece of plywood.

Here is a list of what you might need:

  • A blanket or duvet for padding the platform
  • Black/white sheet on top
  • Lights (you get interesting shades if the light comes from a unique source)
  • Small portable heater(s)
  • A stool for the model to sit
  • A few cushions
  • Background music (it makes the session more enjoyable and relaxed)

life drawing of man - Sandrine Pelissier

Life drawing by Sandrine Pelissier

3. Working with a model

  • You can consider joining a life drawing group in your area and attend a few sessions to see how it usually works if you never had the opportunity of working with a model.
  • Professional models are very good at finding poses that will engage the whole body and that usually involve a bit of twisting. They should also remember to rotate so that everyone can work from different angles and get a foreshortened view. The model should also alternate standing, sitting and reclining poses.
  • It is important to make the model feel comfortable, and treat him or her respectfully, as you want to work in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. If the model is posing for a group, it’s a good idea to introduce the model to the class by his/her first name when he/she first comes in, then indicate the location of a private room or washroom for the model to change.
  • When asking for something, always do so in a nice way and say please, and never touch the model. If a long pose is interrupted, tape can be used to mark the emplacement of the feet. for example.
  • If taking a picture to complete a drawing or painting at home, always ask for the model’s permission first.

life drawing - Sandrine Pelissier

Life drawing by Sandrine Pelissier

  • It’s better if there’s not too much chatting going on during the poses, as it can be disruptive for the model and for the artists.
  •  A typical life drawing session will include poses that are get longer as the session progresses: 10×1 minutes; 5×2 minutes; 2×10 minutes; 2×15 minutes; break; 4×15 minutes or 2×15 minutes; and 1x30minutes.
  • For a three-hour session, a break is usually welcomed by the model and the artists alike. In the life drawing class I go to, we always include the model in our breaks where tea and chocolate have become a staple.
If you’re wanting to learn more about figure drawing, be sure to check out the FREE class, Figure Drawing Atelier. Instructor Patricia Watwood guides students through creating a proper figure study, from start to finish.You might also enjoy our figure drawing tips and our post Inspiration from the Figure Masters: Figurative Artists.

 Have you tried working with a model before? What did you like about the process and what were your challenges?