Just about a week ago, I wrapped my fourth portrait drawing session (thrice as a model and once as a participant) with a group of artists who draw and paint at Sertoma Arts Center in Raleigh, NC. I'm writing today to share a quick list of FIVE things I've learned over the last 18 months that would best prepare anyone to sit as a great LIVE model for portrait artists. It's a wonderful experience, so if you ever get the opportunity to... do it! I hope this will help.
1. Look Alive!
Come with your best face! Sitting for a total of almost three hours can be a little exhausting, especially if you have not practiced being still and holding a long pose. Keeping neutral (not too happy, and of course not sad) thoughts and eyes fixed on a focal point really helps to hold a relaxed face. You'll want to remain awake and aware, but without moving! If I had to describe what it may have felt like to be in Jordan Peele's "Sunken Place" from the movie Get Out, sitting as a live model would definitely not be far from it. Listening to a classical music radio station while seating motionless in a position you "can't" move out of for so long in front of a group made up mainly of retired white women made me think of that movie quite often. If you've seen the movie, you'll get the reference and if not... you have to watch it! Haha!
2. Be Prepared!
Find out the details. The session is normally broken up so that you have 5-minute breaks throughout to walk around and regroup. You're typically asked to come wearing bright colors and interesting fabrics and accessories [scarves and hats are encouraged]. Preparing in advance to factor in your travel time, locating the room, and settling in's vital. Make sure you are well prepared the night before to get enough rest and make it over to your modeling gig!
3. Arrive Early!
As a good friend of mine always likes to say, "To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and if you will be late... don't bother!" This is a good motto to have to help with being punctual, and punctuality is extremely vital when you are scheduled to sit in front of a group that will be studying YOU for three hours. Before you sit for them, there is most likely one person in the group that will seat you on the stage with appropriate lighting and a backdrop that complements the colors you are wearing and tones in your skin. Arriving early helps to ease that process and will better set you up for success.
4. Have a Good Attitude!
Show that you are glad to be there! Smile and interact with others during the breaks. The time will go by a lot faster once you immerse yourself in the experience. Be the best model you can be and let your observers do what they do. Sometimes the art doesn't come out looking exactly like you, but know that it's OK. Stay upbeat because that keeps the energy in the room high.
5. Enjoy the Process!
Check out the works as they transform from start to finish, and just be in the moment. The artist in me gets excited each time to see the early stages of the works and as the time goes on, I love seeing the final outcomes. I'd encourage any model to move through the room during breaks to check out the work (if the artists are comfortable with it) and enjoy the process!
Well, there you have it... five things to do to make your live portrait modeling experience as smooth as can be! Below are some images of drawings and paintings from several artists (I put their info in the captions) I've had the pleasure to encounter through these sessions. Modeling for figure drawing groups is on another level, and I don't have first-hand experience with that but there is plenty of information on the world wide web for those with interest in that as well. I was recently asked to be a figure model, but I don't know how I feel about it yet (it's usually completely nude). I plan to sit in on and take a couple of classes and will also seek wise counsel first before deciding if I'd be comfortable with it. Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions!
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