The Nude Art Model by Daniel Peters
In the beginning, 2008
I began my serious attempt at art modeling back in the fall of 2008. It was a brave attempt at getting my foot in the door of a field that has been used for hundreds of years.
Having little contact information and people who have done this in my inner circle of friends, made this probably the most difficult aspect of getting my feet wet, and in the door.
I did what most people, who look for work would do, made a specific “Art Model” resume online. I printed some out as well so I could hand out when I went out looking for model jobs. The first draft was pretty empty as I had never did any art modeling or anything like this. My first thought was this would be a daunting task to get hired as an art model with no experience.
Why would you ask would I want to pursue this new line of work? Many reasons, actually. Having had no luck finding work in my previous work areas in the automotive industry. Those jobs started drying up and most jobs were being outsourced to other countries or being eliminated altogether. The timing was right to give it a shot. It was time for me to go after a job I always have been curious of.
Becoming comfortable in your own skin.
Since sometime around 1990, I had become more comfortable with whom I am and my self-image and body image. Yes I could actually look in a mirror and say “I like the person I see here.” And if I could be comfortable looking at me in the mirror in the nude, I could around other people.
My wife and I began taking trips to Florida starting in 2000. I always had known that Florida was more open about nudity than most states and had several clothing optional or nude beaches. My wife initially thought I was crazy when I suggested we go to a beach where nudity was optional. Her first response was “Are you crazy, nuts.” I said “yes” I am and laughed. She never felt comfy at a beach or in a pool with others most of her life as she was what is considered a bigger, but beautiful woman. I convinced her to take a trip to a nude beach near the Kennedy Space center on the Canaveral National Seashore.
Although she agreed to go with me, she would stay clothed. This particular beach is not legal nude beaches per say, but the locals have become accustomed to it and they designated an area on the north end as the clothing option/nude area. For the “first time” nudist, there was no better place to “dip” into public nudity.
All things run through your mind when approaching that first moment of “public nudity.” Sure, I was comfortable seeing myself nude in a mirror, but this was going to be in front of a public audience. I asked myself, will they stare at me? Will they laugh at me? And probably the most important thought running thru my mind, What if I we’re to get an erection? The last thought usually runs thru a male’s mind only because prior to a nude beach, most men only experience nudity in the bedroom with their significant other.
All of those concerns and fears were put to rest rather quickly. Most of the people were also completely nude, not just me. I also soon found out that everybody was just a normal person like me, not a body builder or super model, and all ages and sizes of people. I found myself comfy after only a few moments. I was now a nudist!!
I found myself finding as much information on the subject as I could muster. Back then the internet was in its infancy, so most of my research was done the old school way, books, magazines and word of mouth. I also began to find out more people shared my new interest than I had imagined.
I began to find out nudists were everywhere. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers.. Professional people from all walks of life. The one common view the shared.. Nude is natural. And when the clothing comes off, we are all the same. Nobody stares, comments about what you look like, no matter what your body looks like. And believe me, nobody is perfect.
Every subsequent trip to Florida, I have always tried to include a trip to a nude beach or clothing optional beach. Florida is one of those few states that actually have legal areas on some of their beaches where one can go nude. Haulover Beach, north of Miami is one of the most popular in the state of Florida, if not the entire United States. What a difference it was from Plyalinda Beach. At Plyalinda, although there were nudists on the beach, one always would fear the local authorities would be there and possibly arrest or make you get dressed. I never encountered any problems and most of the time I was there, there were very few nude sun bathers. It is a great place to get a start into public nudism without the crowds.
I was a bit more nervous, but surprised when I arrived at Haulover Beach. There were hundreds of nude people on the beach, all ages, shapes and sizes. From infants to elderly, no shame, no clothing. All were going about their beach visit as one would at a textile beach. Sure, there were a few people there who seemed to be more of a gawker than nudist, but still there in the nude. As I made my first real walk on a crowded nude beach, I could hear a few comments as I walked by about how white my skin was, but again nothing was directed toward what my body looked like. I was quite white as I live in Chicago. I was not in the least offended.
It was quite an interesting experience walking the beaches while nude and striking up conversations with both nude and clothed people. Most of the beaches are considered clothing optional, meaning people will be nude, but it’s not required to be nude there. Nudist resorts on the other hand are not so clothing friendly, as most require full nudity when you are there.
If you really want to test the waters of nudism in public, a nude or clothing optional beach is the best place to start.
I began to slowly let my friends and family know that I had become a nudist. Most of them actually found it curious and interesting and asked many questions of why I had chosen this new path in my life. My response was easy: I told them I was comfortable in my own skin and who I was. Also the human body to me was always being covered, hiding its natural beauty from the world. After all, we all came into the world nude, not clothed.
Naturally there were many questions about my new found passion. The most common questions asked were “Aren’t you afraid about what people will say?” And “What if you see somebody you know?” I would answer all of those questions without hesitation. I told them at first, you do feel a bit uncomfortable the first few times you go nude in the presence of others. But I was not really worried of what they might say as most probably know about nudism or are nudists themselves.
Being comfortable in the nude and able to talk open about it is the reason I decided to pursue nude figure modeling.
Getting your foot in the door
My first attempt at nude figure modeling or life drawing as some refer to it, came in the summer of 2008. Thru various e-mails, phone calls and contacts with colleges and art schools, I was given the name for a local artist in Elgin who ran a small bi-weekly figure drawing group that drew the nude figure. I called her up on the phone. She was very pleasant and asked me probably the most difficult question that could be asked of a new figure model. “What experience have you had modeling nude for artists?” I at first hesitated, but responded I had never done this before. After a few more questions, she said she would get back to me.
The questions she asked I would find out are ones that almost all teachers and artist will ask of a perspective model. “How tall are you?” “What type of body do you have?” “Can you hold a pose for twenty to thirty minutes?’ I would answer each question with the same answers. I would always tell them my height and body type. The question about staying still I would honestly answer that I have not done it very much, but was confident I could. That part or modeling would become the most important aspect of figure modeling. And nothing short of doing it would be the tell tale sign if I could be a figure model.
I waited nervously for her phone call, and at one point, I thought maybe she had decided not to use me. A week later I got her call and was hired for my first nude three hour open figure drawing group.
Now being a nudist, and already being accustomed to being nude around others, it would be natural for me. That was not the case. I was never more nervous in my life, as I will be taking my clothes off in front of complete strangers I just met. And the fact that they will be looking at every detail of my nude body really made me nervous. This aspect of art modeling, is what made me feel that way. As a nudist, starring and looking at another nude body is considered wrong and not proper. Also the fact that I will be the only one nude was another. I would find out in this situation both were required. I really did not know what to expect at that first figure drawing session.
My fears soon went away after I met the middle aged lady prior to the start of the session. I arrived early. She actually was a few minutes late. After she got in and set up her easel, she introduced me to three other male artists and said my name was Dan and this is his first time modeling. My only mistake in my preparation, not knowing what to expect. I did no real research into the aspects of a figure drawing class. I assumed like most people you just have to get nude. The nudity would be probably the least important aspect of nude art modeling. The way you look is not important.
I found out that some, but not all teachers and artists start out a drawing session with some warm up poses called gestures. The can range in time, depending on the instructor or artist, from 15 seconds to several minutes. These short poses give both the artist and the model a chance to “warm up” and get ready for a longer more sustained pose. Those generally last twenty to thirty minutes.
Feels like the first time
For my first foray into nude figure drawing, I would be put to the test. I really should have done some research before that class. Had I done a little research, I could have come up with some gestures and know what would have been a good or bad short pose. We started out that first session with some warm up gestures, which she guided me thru. A word of advice, just be honest with the artist or instructor as I was, and they will be understanding that this is an all new experience for you.
After those initial gesture drawings, we took a short break (Normal break is five minutes) and resumed with longer poses. For the first longer pose, the instructor told me she was going to “initiate” me with her new model pose. At first, the pose looked very easy. Wrong!! Even the most comfortable pose can cause your body to cramp up, limbs fall asleep and go numb. Another thing I learned, always stretch and get your muscles and body warmed up before a session.
The session went very well and the artists and instructor gave me praise and said I did a great job holding a pose. She gave me her number and said to keep in touch and hopefully we could work together in the near future. I asked her if I could get some e-mail copies of her drawings. She said she would be happy to send them. I later found out that her nude artwork was being sold on E-Bay!! She told me she had sold all but one of my drawings to some clients in Europe. To say the least, I was humbled that my work was being sought after, and it was only my first session as a nude art model!! Needless to say I was hooked and decided to pursue more opportunities in modeling.
The job hunt begins
After the first job as a nude art model, I began to search out other opportunities in the Chicago area. The best source I found was the good old Google search. I typed in Figure drawing and life drawing in the search bar, and to my surprise, there was a ton of schools, artists and private art groups in the Chicago area.
I started sending out e-mails and making phone calls, but to my disappointment, no calls or e-mails were returned. Normally I would be discouraged, but I decided to keep my hopes up that someone would contact me. About a month after the first job in Elgin, I received a call from the Palette and Chisel in Chicago. I checked my calendar, and low and behold, I was available to model. It was an evening open figure drawing studio where people who are members can come in and draw for an hour or two or at their leisure. When the session began, it was only me and the man that hired me. We began the session and he said we would start with gestures.. Having only done gestures one time, he was nice and told me how easy a gesture could be. A slight change in one body part, a leg, arm or direction would suffice. The session went well and people came in and did some drawings, then would leave. I began to be comfortable in the nude in front of these artists. By the end of the night, some 12 different people came in, and spent time drawing me up on the platform. I was becoming very comfortable with modeling. Another aspect of modeling would soon become apparent to me. One of my first favorite comments a model hears while posing, was said by a younger female artist. She walked into the room as I was doing a standing pose and looked up at me on the stand and said “This is great, an actual nude model to draw”. Apparently there was a few models in the building, but none were nude. I heard later a female model was hired to pose nude, but refused after she got there. She posed clothed. I would doubt she would get another job there, maybe anywhere else.
Perfection in your body is the least important factor in nude modeling
When I began modeling, I was a young age of 46. At that age, the body has already begun to change, and not for the right reasons. For some time, I was losing my hair and what little I had, was slowly but surely receding back, not to mention mostly turning gray. I also had some problems with my feet, especially toes that were damaged during my days as an auto parts man. And finally, the most obvious for me was the ever increasing size of my lower torso, namely my love handles as they are called. I would find out as I continued to do more modeling, artist models are normal people with normal bodies and normal problems.
Case in point, after working the second job, I was called on an early September morning from an instructor at the Oak Park Art League. Again, another model had cancelled short notice and she asked if I could fill in. I hesitated to accept the job because the week prior, I had come down with a moderate case of the “shingles” on my neck and left side. The doctor had already had me on medication and assured me the worst had passed. I did have quite a few red blemishes on my left arm and shoulder, as well as my upper neck and back. I informed her of this condition, she said as long as it’s not contagious. I assured her it was past that stage, and I was on my way. On the way there I realized I was not at home and did not have my back pack with my robe and related items. I called the instructor and she assured me that all they needed was me.
There were five artists there that morning when I arrived. She thanked me as we met at the door and immediately asked if I could work the following Tuesday as well. I said without hesitating, “Yes I would love to” She showed me the area where I could change out of my street clothing, I went to get ready for the class. I walked from the small room in the nude as I had no robe or bag with me. I went to the area where she set up the stand and we discussed the pose she wanted. I chose a really relaxed, reclining pose and we began the session. Even though it looked very uncomfortable, I was very relaxed and when she asked me if I needed a break, I said I was fine. We continued on. About half way thru the session, she called for a coffee break, and the artists began to mingle the room and look at each other’s work. I stayed on the stand. She motioned over to me and said “Don’t be shy, walk around and look at the work” I hesitantly got up and began to walk around and look at the work… totally nude. I felt funny at first, but the artists walked up to me and struck up small chat with me. It did not phase them that I was nude. I began to feel comfortable and had a look at the work. We went back to the pose and finished the session. I went to change in the room. When I walked back in to get my pay, they all complimented me on a great job I did, and looked forward to seeing me the following week. I left there feeling great and respected, something that I rarely have felt in a regular nine to five job. The following week I had my back pack and robe. It just felt more professional to me as an art model.
The models carrying case, and hygiene
If you plan to make a run at nude figure modeling, a proper list of items one must carry with you is essential. Get a small to medium duffle bag or back pack to start. Find a decent bathrobe or similar to wear during breaks, Lotion, slippers, a timer and a bottle of water are other items that would be helpful during a session. I always shower before I go to a class or session. Even though most won’t be next to you, you would never want to offend anybody with body odor. Also a good bottle of lotion is a great idea to keep your skin soft and not dry looking. To the artists, it probably did not make much difference whether you had dry skin or not, but it’s a personal preference for me. Trust me, they appreciate a clean model.
I always shave and shower before doing a life drawing class. I just feel better that way.
Putting together a resume
This aspect of art modeling was the hardest to do, after all I was a “newbie” and had no experience at modeling other than that first private art group in Elgin. I decided to start a separate art modeling resume separate from my other resumes. I used the Elgin art group as my first entry. I also added some of my more recent regular jobs as working experience. It would turn out to be a blessing in getting some work in the beginning of my newfound career.
Cold Calling the local colleges and universities
The best way to actually get work in this field is to do it the old fashioned way, pick up the phone and start calling the schools. I found this out early on in my attempts to get work. I heard from a local college that a nearby community college used nude models in their life /figure drawing classes. I wasted no time and made a call to the college. After being switched around to a few different people, I finally made contact with the art teacher for the class. She literally said I must have been reading her mind. I was hired for the next class on Wednesday of that week. She was an older woman, very pleasant. She thanked me for calling her and being available on short notice. The session went great, and after I changed back into my street clothing, she asked me back the next two weeks!! I was really on the path of an art model now and had more items to add to my resume.
The best way to get work is word of mouth
After working almost three years as an art model, I have found the best way to get work is from word of mouth from other artists and teachers that you have worked with. For me, the majority of my work has come from this method.
The keys to getting word of mouth referrals, there are several that I have found that get you back for more work. The most important is to show up when hired and on time. This alone will probably get you more work from the artists and most importantly, referrals to others in the art world. The other major aspect is to be creative and know how to pose. The best way to learn is to either visit your local library or go online and look for publications on art modeling. There are also a few great books with actual nude models in all kinds of poses, a great source for ideas on poses. Also the best way to break into art modeling is being a back-up model. Like every job, people always have things happen to them in their daily life, and have to cancel a job last minute. I always accepted last minute work. It was yet another way to get yourself out there in the art modeling world.
Be creative with your poses
I have found that the best way to pose for an art group or artist is to actually talk to them prior to the session to see what they have planned. It will give you time to look for poses that will help with the session at hand. Some teachers, and I have found this most common in College school classes, pretty much leave it up to the model to come up with a pose. You also have to see the space that you will be modeling in. Some platforms are tall and some are actually are on the floor. A good model will know if a standing pose is better than a seated pose or reclining pose, depending on what kind of stand is in a given room. I am rather tall so if a platform is tall, I tend to do seated or reclining poses. The instructor or artists will understand.
If gestures are to be done, be creative with these poses. Action poses are great for these short drawings. Some examples are throwing a ball, running in place, kneeling, crouching and generally things you know you can’t hold for a long period of time. Also, be aware these poses put your body in some unnatural positions and will expose your most private body parts. But as I have found out, these poses can be very interesting to draw. If you are self conscious at all about exposing every detail of your body, nude art modeling may not be for you.
Every part of the body is studied
Some teachers in college level classes have a specific routine in a figure drawing class. In the beginning of the school year a teacher will start with gestures in class, then move on to focus on certain parts of the human anatomy. Most start with a head study, then do the hands and feet. This is true at most college level classes, and not in private art groups.
It’s funny now to look back at some of the classes I worked in and hear the teachers interact with the students. Some of the students did a great job as instructed, some did not. Some did detailed drawings of the figure, some would focus on certain areas of the human body. That was fine with most teachers, but a few had made it obvious that they were not following the correct lesson. Some of them would not draw the specific anatomy of the model. The teachers were not at all shy to tell them what was missing, although for some reason, they never used the word “penis”. They would say you need to give him one. They would ask why and the teacher would say “if he has something, draw it” I did notice in more advance classes, they would need no tutoring on the human anatomy.
The Hard work pays off
In October of 2008, I received a phone call from a large art school in downtown Chicago. The director of operations asked me to come down for an interview the following week. For some reason, I was nervous again. This time it was not about the modeling aspect of it, but the fact I had still not been doing this a long time.
I made the trip into the city and went to the interview. It lasted only about 40 minutes, mostly filling out paperwork. He asked some questions of me and I answered them as best I could. The interview ended and he said he would be calling in a week or so. After a week passed, the phone never rang, so I decided to call him. He said he was still reviewing my application, but was leaning toward hiring me. My heart started racing as I could feel that he was going to hire me. I waited another week. He called and said I was hired. After only three months working as a model, I was now going to be working near 30 hours a week at a school.
I began there in January of 2009. It was a great job and I met many great teachers as well as students. Then in 2010, the economy took a crash and I was the first to be let go. Not because of how I worked, but because of the economy.
By this time I had networked with other schools and artists, so I kept busy. I still model today but not with the high level of work I was used to.
Getting respect of the artists
A student at a Chicago school I worked for gave me the ultimate compliment “The fact that you can actually hold a pose is a large factor of it, and you’re just a great guy to draw.”
If you at all feel the desire to try nude art modeling, go for it. Give it a shot. It’s been a great new job for me and will continue to be for a long time.
Thank you so much Daniel, for sending me this very well written article. It was very interesting to hear things from the model’s side of the stage. I’m glad I can include the paintings here by Matthew Almy of Ravenswood Atelier, which I visited earlier this year.