I’ve worked on and off as an artist’s model for the last 16 years, and it’s a part-time gig I’m finally starting to “lean in” on by booking more sessions and networking within the community. I recently met up with some other local artists’ models and, while we were exchanging tools of the trade, I realized I’d accumulated a lot over my years of experience.
I thought I’d share some with you.
Here’s some tools of the trade I’ve picked up along the way:
1) Go Natural
The magic of being an artist’s model is that you don’t have to make yourself look like a fantasy; they want reality. Keep makeup minimal and soft (tinted moisturizers or BB creams are the best thing ever) and sweep your hair up into something loose so you’re not having to fiddle with it and artists can work with the shape of your neck and shoulders. Use a clear deodorant (I really, really like the Crystal kind.) If you must paint your fingernails, go with what I call the “Disney Princess Look”, which is just a solid nude tone, so your nails look healthy but aren’t distracting with a stark French tip. Try to avoid tan lines. If you’re working in a studio with stage lighting, feel free to hit yourself with a little contouring and mascara, but otherwise, skip it.
2) Use Vagisil Brand Powder head-to-toe
You’re going to sweat. Even if you’re sitting still. I promise. Regular baby powder is thick, will make you look chalky, and goes on chunkily (New word alert!). Powder designed for vaginas, however, is light, fights odors even if unscented, and is translucent on the body. It’s also talc-free! Score!
3) Commit to a Hairstyle Down There
Look, your pubic region is going to be on display, but it isn’t the Main Event, so don’t try to feature it. Either grow your hair out or wax it all off, but anything in between will look out of place in the context. Trimming the edges is okay; landing strips & creative designs not so much.
4) Wear a Wrap Dress to the Session — Just a Wrap Dress
It seems trivial, but if you’re not wearing anything at all, strap indentations from bras and underwear are small ways that take the artist out of that ethereal, magical, otherworldly zone in which we create, and back to banal details. Plus, if you don’t bring underwear with you, you can’t accidentally leave it in the bathroom at the studio.
Oh, and BYO Robe, even if the studio owner says there’s one there you can use; you may need to use it as seat protection, and that is not something you want to share with other models.
5) Wear a Tampon
I don’t care what time of your month it is. You want a tampon in. You may be sitting for awhile in a warm room and snail trails are awkward to have to address in a professional setting. And plan sessionsaround your period if you can.
6) Skip the Coffee/Tea
I’m not a sadist, but seriously skip the coffee or tea unless you want to be interrupting the session every 10 minutes to pee. In fact, I don’t even eat within a couple hours of a long-term sitting so I’m not dealing with unforseen digestion issues.
7) BE SOBER
It doesn’t matter how nervous you are before your first time posing nude, you’re being hired to do a job and, believe it or not, this is intensive work. Even having one cocktail or puff beforehand will change the way you hold your posture and expressions, which is a recipe for unimpressive work. Not only that, you won’t be able to hold poses for as long if your head isn’t in the game. Do everyone a favor and show up without a buzz, at least until you and the artist get a groove going.
8) Line Up Your Focal Point With Your Nose
You might have to hold a pose for awhile, so your first inclination is to pick a focal point; however, you can still keep your eyes on a spot while your head and neck slowly melt into a different position (which results in your head looking like a weird blob in any artwork because the artists’ view is slowly changing.) To make sure your head isn’t moving position, close one eye and line your nose up with a focal point. Check in every 5 minutes to make sure you’re still lined up.
9) PRACTICE YOUR POSES BEFOREHAND
My first ever art model gig was at a huge class at what was then called North Carolina School of the Arts on a tiny block in a drafty loft-style studio in front of about 30 students all around me. We were going to start off with a few 5-minute warm up poses that the professor directed me to “give something energetic!!” so I picked a crazy, angular stance where all my weight was on one foot. Within 30 seconds, I was sure I was going to die. The rest of the session was me struggling to figure out what I could hold for longer than that that the students in the back of the class could see that wouldn’t kill me. Somehow, I booked another gig with that professor, but this time, I did some thorough research of complementary poses that both flattered and showcased my form and wouldn’t have me in agony if held long-term. Now I have an arsenal of poses for every setting at every length of time. Oh, and I also learned to…
10) Strive for Poses with 3 Resting Points
Whether you’re standing or sitting, the part of your body that is absorbing all the weight is going to start aching after a few minutes not moving. Even if you’re sitting but putting a lot of weight into your hand, that wrist is going to start freaking out if it’s working long term. With three resting points, you can shift your weight delicately between them without drastically changing your pose, which keeps intact the integrity of the image your body is creating.
11) Check In With Your Zen
If you’re sitting still for a long time and holding a pose, your mind tends to wander to your grocery list or that thing some stranger said on your way to work or repressed childhood memories or whatever. As important as it is to check in with your nose focus point, it’s also important to check in with your self every 10 minutes so your face isn’t slowly morphing into an expression of horror or resentment or heartache. Again, you want to have one stable emotion the whole time so the artist observing you isn’t trying to draw a weird amalgamation of expressions (unless they request that.) Be sure to come back to your emotional center, take a deep breath through your nose while you puff out your chest, then slowly exhale back into your pose. Roll your eyes around to stretch them out, squeeze them shut, then gently open back to your focal point. This is like hitting the “reset” button for your whole system.
*Look for my essay about my love affair with this style of modeling in Sasee magazine. And, no, they aren’t paying me to say this right now.