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How to Become An Artist's Model - Questions and Answers

by Kelly Borsheim

On the Previous Page:

  • How Important is Physique?
  • What It Takes to be an Artist's Model
  • What to Expect During a Modeling Session
  • How to Get Jobs Modeling for Artists
  • A Word About Posing in the Nude
  • This May be a Non-issue for You, But . . . (Visitors, Robes)
  • On the Personal Issues
  • How to Lose Modeling Jobs
Click Here for Main Modeling Page

Please send any questions or comments to me by clicking here.

Another interesting Web page about modeling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nude_model.


Modeling Questions and Kelly's Answers

Please note that I am just one artist. Every person feels differently about different things at different times. Each situation is somewhat unique. This page is only intended to help you become a model and perhaps see this job/calling from someone else's point of view, so that you may be better prepared. Thank you for reading and for modeling.
Kelly Borsheim

Q. Would an instructor, knowing I am a first-time model, discuss or suggest poses ahead of time? Am I less likely to be hired? - J.
A. Generally the artists do not suggest poses. They might, but don't count on it. They might also suggest minor changes to a pose you do come up with. Many will be too shy or too new at drawing to say anything. As for instructors, I do not know since I have not taken regular art classes. However, when I teach, I often know a few things that I need the pose to depict in order to help me teach that day's lesson. So I will suggest a pose in that case.

You need to arrive with poses in mind. Think of Madonna's "Vogue" song -- for example. Dance and freeze. Reach and freeze. Do manual labor and freeze. Bring a prop such as a walking stick, if that helps you. Frozen movement and twists of the torso are good. Arms and legs doing different things from their partners is good. Go to the book store and look at B&W images of nudes -- the erotic art section or photography section is where you will find these. This will give you ideas. Modeling is physical, so you will need to practice.

Q. I was approached with an offer to pose nude for a very successful artist. He has a project in mind that would become a series. He asked ME to give him the hourly rate of pay I expect. I have no idea what this should be. Can you give me an idea? Thank you. --R.
A. If you knew me you would know that I often give two answers -- the short one and the long one (only I usually skip the first one).

Pay depends on your area and also what the art medium is. (Date: Dec 2005) In Austin, Texas, USA, a life model for painters and sculptors receives $12 per hour. I pay $15 for each model per hour if a model poses nude with another model -- seems fair to me. Photography costs more -- I do not know Austin rates, but perhaps around $75 ? and you will be asked to sign a model release that will probably give up all future compensation to you no matter how those prints are used. Make sure you understand what you are signing. Paintings and sculpture do not require a model release because your likeness has more to do with the artist's interpretation than photography usually does. I understand that Dallas pays $15 per hour for a traditional life-model -- but Dallas tends to have more money than Austin.

(Added 30 Jan. 2006: there are times in which models will work for trade - sometimes for a drawing or perhaps a CD of images or actual prints. If this interests you, suggest it before the modeling session. Or you can wait to see what the resulting artwork actually looks like. However, do not be upset if the artist is not willing to relinguish his drawing.)

OK, that said, your comments raise more questions for me that you may need to consider, especially if you do not know this artist well.
1) Take a look at this artist's work and see if it is something you want to be a part of. Mainly, I would be curious if he works with nude models often. The reason I wonder about this is that if he normally hires models, he should be telling you what he pays and not asking you.
2) In my experience, when a professional asks me what my desired salary is instead of telling me what the position pays, that man is assuming that I will quote him a lower price than he is willing to pay me. And in my case, I generally work cheaply, because I am shy or stupid or something. The fact that you mention to me that he is a "successful artist" makes me wonder how much of that is designed to impress you. The idea is to wow you into the honor of working for someone "famous" or whatever successful means to you. That honor is supposed to take the place of cash, I think.
3) Before you agree to any private hiring, make sure you understand what the project is, what your working environment will be, and what exactly will be expected of you. And always listen to your instinct. If something raises a red flag in some part of your brain, either ask about it outright or just say no.

Be safe, have fun, and make a fair trade.
All the best,
Kelly

Q. Does model pay change with the experience?
A. For Open Studios, all models, regardless of any factors, are paid the same per hour. However, the better models get hired more often. On private work, all is negotiable. Do realize that most artists are not making a good living -- if they are full-time artists.

Q. I am handicapped. May I still be a model?
A. Absolutely. In Open Studio sessions, I have seen several different blind models (one who regularly poses with her seeing eye dog), and people with various differences. If you can create interesting poses (and hold them) or wear interesting costumes, then there should be no problem. Bring your creative personality and work hard -- that is what is most important.

Q. My dream is me being sculptured in the nude by a female girl. how can i get a female to photograph me in the nude at my home at (***address removed***) and i would like very much to be a nude male model.yours sincerly xxxx. is there a female who would photograph me in the nude please give me answer.
A. Dear XXXXX,
It sounds as though you want a dating experience, not an art one.
Try match.com and be honest.
Best wishes,
Kelly

Q. I am trying to become an artist's model and read your webside, but I'm unsure how to go about contacting my local arts organizations and art schools. Do I just call them and ask if they need nude models? I would feel so awkward doing that, especially if they didn't need any. Is there a better way going about it? Is there a web site with specific contact numbers? - Abby
A. No offense, Abby, but if you do not like figurative art in 2-d or 3-d, why bother becoming a model? [Dear Readers, this is a reference to how she filled out my contact form.]
You are right. How awkward to call and ask someone if they could use your services. You should know that shyness gets you nowhere. You should also know that you never stand a chance at getting what you want if you do not let someone know what you want. Your local arts organizations do not know you. You have no idea what they need. If you do not ask, how else are you going to find out? And, conversely, let them know you exist?
I have no clue as to whether or not your local groups have Web sites.
Oh -- you do not need to say "nude models". "Models" is sufficient. Not all models are nude, but as long as you know that most are and are prepared for that, there should be no problem. That way you can avoid any embarrassment saying "nude".
Good luck,
Kelly

Q. I am wondering if my age will affect my job opportunities?? and also is it better to wear makeup or none at all??? Tattoos or piercings a problem?
A. Age, looks, physique, moles, hair, tattoos, piercings, wrinkles, saggy bums, pregnancy, tumors, missing limbs, etc. None should be a problem for general life modeling sessions. The obvious exception is nude modeling for those under 18 years old. However, teaching sessions may be different. For example, a tattoo consists of a darker than skin design on skin. Art is about light. If the tattoo can be confused with how the light falls on the form (i.e., if it looks like a shadow), it may affect how often you are hired by an art teacher. Other artists enjoy drawing all of these details. People are people. They are interesting in how they differ from other people. Celebrate who you are and stop worrying about so many things. If you choose to wear make-up to present yourself to the world, then try it for a model session. Artists will often suggest something else if they want it. Usually this is stuff like "pin up your hair so we can see your back," but it could be other requests. I cannot predict the needs and desires of all artists at all times. Be yourself - at least when starting out.

Q. I was unaware of the demand for models for the arts . . . . Can you please advise where I can offer to my services state and nation wide? I am looking for legitimate and professional venues. - VF
A. I do not know much about what you are seeking. I only recommend that you do an Internet search on the towns you would like to work in and contact the art organizations in those places and try to schedule work before you travel. However, just days after you wrote me, a guy wrote to tell me about his site: artmod.org You may also try onemodelplace.com Perhaps this will help you out.

Update 15 March 2007: A note about finding models (and therefore where to go if a person wants to be an artist's model) . . . we have used www.onemodelplace.com as you suggest and also www.modelmayhem.com and www.craigslist.com to find artist's models.
Cheers,
Douglas Johnson (via the Web)
author of the "Art Models" series
www.livemodelbooks.com

Q. I think I should feel awkward asking this but my desire for an answer is too great to care so, for a female model, do artists care if she has or does not have pubic hair? I'm about to start modeling for my school and I was wondering if no pubic hair would gross everyone out. Thanks.
A. Dear C, Unless an artist is working on a specific project or idea, we do not care. About hair, about tattoos, about blemishes, cellulite, or shape. We do care about imagination and energy in poses, as well as a beautiful line in the body (gesture).

UPDATED Aprile 2008: Some possible resources for models to find work or learn more about their profession:
Model sites
www.modelalisa.com/presentation_gb.html
www.livemodelbooks.com/index1.htm
www.human-anatomy-for-artist.com/
www.female-anatomy-for-artist.com/
www.posespace.com/posetool/
www.posemaniacs.com/blog/
artmodeling.meetup.com/95/

Q. I was going to model nude for an "open figure drawing session" but I was told by the artist in charge that I would have to sign a Model release giving students permission to photograph me. I was told the photos were for the private use of the students and would not appear on the Internet, but how can I be sure of that? Is this standard practice in figure drawing classes?
A. Dear G,

I have not seen photography of [drawing, painting, or sculpture] models as a standard practice, and certainly not included in the same pay. While the assurances regarding the use of these photos is nice, can the artist in charge really speak for each student? I doubt that, so why should you sign such a contract? Does each student sign this contract? Also, is your pay the same as a model who is not photographed? If yes, then why should you give extra services for free?

Of course, many models do not care about having their images taken or care about the money. Some model for specific artists for free because they want to. You are in charge of your own career and your own body.

You decide what you want and what you want to give -- and to earn. (others have the right to say no to your terms as well)

When I have been in a classroom situation and the topic of photos comes up, I try to dissuade students from relying on this. And I also explain that if they do think they want fotos, they should ask about it in private, shoot after class time, and pay the model.

I hope that helps you.
Good luck,
Kelly Borsheim

Q. Hi,I started modeling this past spring, and I found your website to be a tremendous help. Thanks so much for offering it. I've gotten a number of modeling jobs now, and I'm really enjoying it.Question:I am on the models list for a local university this semester, and they said that they may want me to work with a partner later on in the semester. Could you offer some general tips for working with a partner (same and opposite gender)? I've looked online and I've found very little about partner modeling.Thanks. Keep up the great work!
A. Dear J,

I am glad you found my site useful. I am the artist and not a model, so I have only the experiences of other models to share (when they have shared with me). I suppose the same advice for modeling solo works for the duet, only try to imagine as many types of scenarios as you can ahead of time so that you have time to think about how you feel about certain topics.
  1. do you want another model (stranger, friend, or lover) to touch you -- where, in what poses, for how long, . . .
  2. any "absolutely nots" come to mind (example, one of my model friends does not like anyone to touch her clavicle. It feels icky to her -- in part bc of a car accident and bone break) Some people may find that looking into another's eyes for a long time is disconcerting.
  3. intimate poses or casual. nude or clothing only?
  4. is the gender of the other model important to you? if yes, under what circumstances would you say yes -- or no?

Other than that, make sure you communicate any physical concerns that may hinder your experience/performance -- such as lifting the other model for longer than 2 minutes (example).

In the end, only you know what you want to do with modeling -- how far you want to take it and why you want to be a model (pay, expression, love of art, project, etc.) and use your intuition and knowledge of people to determine as best you can whether the situation makes you comfortable or not.

And I would guess, by all means, bring your imagination to the sessions. You may have dynamic pose ideas that delight artists.

Have fun, work hard, and stay safe.
Feel free to send feedback if you want me to help other models who share your questions.
Kelly Borsheim

Q. Hello,I am a 19 year old male thinking about being a nude art model. I am really comfortable with myself except for one thing... I am wondering how often and how awkward it is when a naked dude gets an erection. I really don't want to make anybody uncomfortable. - J.
A. Dear J.,
As I said on the page I wrote about modeling, erections happen. No biggie.
http://www.borsheimarts.com/modeling.htm
It does not happen often or for very long with models I have worked with, I assume because they are thinking of other things. Erections are a part of life. So are "stomach" noises, sneezes, and subtle movements. If erections happen to you more often than you would like, then maybe you should think about why you are modeling and take care of that desire. Or you could seek out artists who WANT this to be a part of their art. If you act professionally, then you should not be held liable for someone else being uncomfortable. Buon lavoro. Kelly Borsheim

Q. Thanks for the info on nude modeling. i have been invited to model privately for photos for a couple hours for a professional artist in his studio. he asked me to let him know what i charge but i don't know how to determine a rate, as i've never done this kind of work. when i work in a classroom, the school typically pays me $15/hr. when i model for a group and each artist pays $10 i make 60-80 for a 4 hour session. i don't know any other artists or models to ask what a fair price would be. thanks for any ideas.
A. Ciao M,
Photographing models nude to exhibit and sell the photographs is not what I do. My understanding, though, is that traditional arts are an interpretation of the model and thus may or may not look like the model. Photography is more of a direct medium and while yes, still an art form, the identity of a model is still rather apparent. Also, with photography, your image may be easier to reproduce and sell rights for. Anyway, years ago, I heard that nude models for photography as a final product (vs. when painters and sculptors take photos that are never intended to leave the studio and only are tools for the artist, not the end result) you may make more like $75 per hour. Also, expect to have to sign some sort of model release since your likeness will be recognizable. Read this carefully to understand exactly what it is you are selling. Not a bad idea to have a lawyer look this over, especially if you are hesitant about anything regarding fotos of your nude self.

A pro photographer should not be offended if you ask him for a copy of his standard contract or model release form ahead of the modeling session so that you do not waste his time reading it. And, he knows what he pays models. So he also knows you do not. Ask him what he regularly pays models for this work. He knows you are new, so you lose nothing in asking. Sure, he could lie and give you a lower price, but he may not. Also, it gives you one more piece of info. to consider. If he hesitates for any reason, consider bringing a friend with you to the session. For your own protection.

Also try contacting a modeling agency. For fashion shoots and stuff. Yellow pages? They should be able to tell you the going photo rates.

All the best to you.
Sincerely,
Kelly B.

Q. Hi, I've wondered about this for YEARS and you are I'm sure the perfect person to answer it. :)Some time back I signed up to be a nude model for an art class at my university. The teacher of the class was a well known womanizer (for lack of a better word) and he saw me signing up in the studio. He approached me, made some small talk that made me slightly uncomfortable, being as it was just him and me, in this big dark studio building, and it was already evening. Anyway, after the small talk he told me "I'd really like to see you with your clothes off. Why don't you come into my office here and undress." I asked why and he said in a kinda jerk way "If you're gonna be a nude model, I'm gonna hafta see your body!" Is that typical?? I made some excuse about how I had to leave and could we do "undressing" another time. But I never went back, nor did I return his calls. Was I just being a prude and that's totally normal and expected or was I right to be suspicious? His reputation definitely had something to do with it.
A. Dear K,

Thank you for writing and I apologize for your bad experience, even though I am not responsible. No, you were not being a prude. This man was being unprofessional. Reputation or no reputation, this person should not have spoken to you in this way.

  1. I (nor any colleagues, teachers and/or professional artists that I know of) have never asked a model to strip for me before being hired, privately or otherwise. However, it is true that I would like to see how a model works before hiring him or her for a long-term project or privately. But that is what Open Studios are about -- I hire a model for a short-term project (a 2 or 3-hour drawing session of gestures or a long pose with other artists in the room). Yes, if the body type and the model's energy and professionalism are to my liking (because I am using the first hire to see if the model will arrive on time, not abuse breaks and can work well with the artists and me, as well as holding a pose), I will hire this model again as soon as I am able.
  2. If you felt his response to your hesitation was curt and rude, then believe it. Making you feel ridiculous for asking a question is a typical power play. In professional relationships, there is no need for shows of "power" or manipulation. I do not care who the artist is, you are not less of a person! If a relationship of any kind starts off in this way, and you accept it, you have in essence given this person positive feedback on his behaviour. And thus, it will continue. And the odds are, it will get worse.
  3. This man probably knows his reputation and probably thinks that you do too. He appears to be doing nothing to curb this reputation, so there may be some truth to it and he may be happy with it. If he sees nothing wrong with it and you do, you are likely to run into problems working with him.

    While in life, we must take risks to achieve our goals, there are times when our instinct knows to protect us from too great a risk. I might try to do something new or out of my nature or perhaps a bit risky, but I try not to walk into a situation in which I already see in a bad light. You did the right thing -- you were polite, kept the door open (in case you possibly misinterpreted or if you change your mind for whatever reason), and got out of the situation. One of the worst feelings in the world is having to tell yourself "I told you so."
  4. Architects and artists get paid to see their ideas in sketches before the actual project is created. Perhaps if a model is expected to disrobe as part of some application project, you should set a flat rate fee for "showing the goods" before the actual hire. (I am joking here a bit because really, there is no need for a model to do this.)

All the best to you and congratulations. You are still in control of your life. I would like to put your question and answer on my page, if you do not mind, because I suspect that there are other models and would-be models who have experienced such macho-ism. I would not use your name or contact info., naturally. OK? Cheers, Kelly


Please send any questions or comments to me by clicking here.
If you write me asking me how you can get jobs modeling, I will not respond. This page tells you how to do that. I created it to give you information and to save me time. I need to sculpt more, OK?

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