Saturday, January 17, 2009

Info for Male Figure Drawing Models (Part 1)

OK, so, I have been getting a number of e-mails requesting that I re-post this. On my old, recently departed Figure Drawing website, I had this section full of info for guys interested in posing for figure drawing groups & classes. So, here it is; since it's pretty long, I've broken it into 3 parts. This is the first, and I'll post the rest over the next few days.

Through the years, I’ve been asked various questions from guys interested in posing for figure drawings. They want to know what it’s like to pose nude in front of a crowd….what sort of experience they need….how much they can expect to get paid….how to get hired….what situations to avoid….and of course, the most-often asked question… “what happens if I get an erection while posing?”. That’s why I created this section of the website: to answer the most frequently asked questions I have received on this subject.

I’m probably what you’d call very qualified to discuss this subject; during my 4 years at Geneseo College in snowy, upstate New York, I specialized in taking so many Figure Drawing classes, they had to invent some new ones for me to take, (like “Advanced Independent Study in Figure Drawing III”...I kid you not!). After college, I spent several years studying the figure and anatomy books & such on my own, while making my way in the comic book industry. I attended Figure Drawing groups here & there, and sat in for a semester on a teacher friend’s college Figure Drawing class, too. As my comics career accelerated, I had less time for drawing with live models in the classroom or group setting, but fortunately, in the past couple of years, I have gotten back into it more seriously than ever, (as the drawings throughout this website will attest), and found it helps me in my comics work, too. Throughout all of this, I have worked with quite a variety of male figure drawing models, and have learned firsthand the challenges they face, and the methods they use, (and don’t use), to be successful in the business. For the most part, I have worked with some spectacular models. I hope that I can help you find your way in this field with the wealth of information I have accumulated on this topic over the years.

A nice thing about getting into posing as a Figure Drawing model is that you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to get started in the business. Hell, you don’t have to spend any money, if you don’t want to! (A bonus about posing nude; not a lot of thought needs to go into what you’re going to wear to work!). However, I would strongly suggest you purchase what I call:

The 7 Essential Items Every Male Figure Drawing Model Should Own:
(Relax, none of this is expensive, and it’ll all fit into a backpack...and lightly, too). You really should bring these items with you to every drawing session you pose for.

  • Robe or other covering. To wear between poses. You will generally get a 5 minute break every 20 minutes or so. It’s helpful to have some covering to slip in & out of easily. Some guys use a pair of gym shorts, some don’t bother at all, and stay nude the whole time. I think a nice idea is an extra-long t-shirt….long enough to cover your butt, easy enough to slip on & off and packs easily in a backpack

  • Timer. To time your poses. Yes, I know, the teacher or group moderator should be timing your poses. But don’t count on it, especially if they forgot their timer that particular week. The best models I have seen bring along their own timer and time their poses and breaks, keeping the drawing session running smoothly and in a timely fashion. What you do not want to do is rely on someone to watch a clock on the wall...artists get caught up in their drawings, and, oops...your 20 minute pose has suddenly become 45 minutes! Be smart….bring your own timer along. If the teacher has a timer, great...let ‘em take care of the timing. But it they don’t….you’re covered because you brought along your own. (Most use digital timers...but even a wind-up kitchen timer is acceptable. If you’re going to use the digital type, make sure you’re well-versed in how to operate it before the drawing session; you don’t want to be fumbling with the damn thing up on the drawing platform!).

  • Water & Snack. At the very least, you should bring along a bottle of water. Chances are, you won’t have time to leave the drawing room to go out and buy a snack. And some of these sessions can last up to 4 hours! Bring along something healthy to munch on.

  • Sheets & Pillow to Cover Drawing Platform. I cannot believe how many models don’t bring along their own coverings for the platform. Let me explain something. You will be posing nude up on a wooden platform that rarely, if ever, has been cleaned. There is usually an ancient blanket or sheet draped across the platform, or some horrible 70s-style shag carpeting, which every model before you for months, years, (decades?), has been posing on. And you’re going to lie on that? Please...bring along a simple, neutral or pastel-colored, clean sheet or 2 of your own. And a small pillow to prop yourself up for reclining poses. I can assure you, you will thank me for this.

  • Business Cards. Posing for a drawing class is a great opportunity to network with artists, to book future drawing sessions. Have a bunch of business cards on hand to give out, with your contact info clearly listed.

  • Foot Covering. For wearing on the breaks between poses. The floors of most drawing studios are not great for going barefoot on, and it’s incredibly awkward to have to put shoes on & take off between poses. Bring along a light pair of sandals or slippers for between poses...or at the very least, a pair of socks.

  • Jock Strap. Hard to believe in this day & age, but some schools and drawing groups do not allow male models to pose completely nude. You should always have a jock strap with you before you pose for any class. Even if you’ve posed at that particular college before, the rules may change without notice, there may be a substitute teacher...I have heard crazy, whacky stories about this. Be prepared, have one with you just in case. I highly recommend the Bike brand Swimmer’s Jockstrap. It has a very narrow waistband, unlike those somewhat bulky traditional jockstraps, and is very streamlined. (See column to the right for an example; you can click on either of the images to purchase one). This one is skimpy enough to fit under a Speedo, and is extremely comfortable. And it costs under 10 dollars!

OK, now let’s get on to the main info….I have designed this area of the website in a “Question & Answer” format, as I seem to get a lot of the same sets of questions about the subject. So, on to the first question I usually get asked, (the questions are in purple, my answers are in black).

Q: How does it work? Do I just walk into the studio and strip naked?

First of all, no artist or art class runs things exactly the same way. For the purposes of this discussion, there are 3 posing situations I will be covering here:

1. The Figure Drawing Class
2. The Drawing Group
3. Individual Artist

The Figure Drawing Class is what people seem to be most familiar with. Many folks have had at least one figure drawing class in their college experience. And many general drawing classes, that are not specifically figure-oriented, will devote a day or 2 to figure drawing, too, to give the students a chance at drawing the human figure. Here’s how it usually goes: you, (the model), show up about 10 to 15 minutes before the class begins. You check in with the teacher, get changed from your street clothes into the robe you brought along in your back-pack, (see those 7 Essential Items above!). Usually, the teacher will indicate where to change. Most often, there is a chair set up in the rear of the classroom for you to use. Occasionally, there is even a separate changing room for the model.. I have even seen models undress in front of the class up on the posing platform, but that is very rare, and if you are not comfortable doing that, I am quite certain the teacher running the class will let you undress & change into a robe elsewhere. If you’re not sure where to go to change, ask the teacher. After you’ve changed, this is a good time to lay out your clean sheets on the drawing platform, (again, see those 7 Essential Items above!). Also, you verify with the teacher whether or not you’ll need to use your own Timer, or if he or she will be timing your poses.
A nice thing about the drawing class is that even though you’re being paid for the entire time you’re there, you probably will not be needed to pose for the whole class. A portion of the time, the teacher may be lecturing the class, so you may end up sitting around for that time, (don’t disappear, need to be ready to pose at a moment’s notice. Bring along a book to read!). When the teacher is ready for you to pose, you will be called forward to the posing platform, (a wooden platform, usually about 18 inches high, located in the center of the classroom, or against the wall with the student’s drawing desks arranged in a semi-circle around it). You will remove your robe once you’re up there, and take poses as directed by the teacher, (usually starting with short warm-up poses, usually 1 to 2 minutes a piece). You will generally be working in 20 minute blocks, with 5 minute breaks between. So, you’ll start with, say, ten 2-minute poses, get a 5-minute break, then do four 5-minute poses, get another 5-minute break, then do two 10-minute poses, another 5-minute break, and finally a few 20-minute poses. (I’ll go more into the essentials of good posing & bad posing a little further down on this page). If it’s a long class, (3 to 4 hours, as many of these are), you’ll probably get a long, 15 minute break at about the halfway point. Do not disappear during the breaks; if you need to use the bathroom, be very quick about it. Why all of these 5-minute breaks, you may ask? Try posing for 3 to 4 hours, and you will understand. It is not easy, (or healthy!), to be posing for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you need this time to rejuvenate and get ready for the next 20 minute set. (UPDATE: I recently attended an open Figure Drawing session in Burlington, Vermont, and I was shocked that the model was given only one break during a two & a half hour drawing session! Frankly, this is the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing, although the model didn’t seem to have a problem with it. But I think this is highly unusual, and not something many models are asked to do. I also think it’s bad for both the model and the artist; as an artist, you need breaks between drawings, not to be firing off one drawing after another with no break in between).

The second posing situation you may be hired for is the Drawing Group. This is similar to the Figure Drawing Class, but there are some key differences. Drawing Groups are usually a little less formal than the Figure Drawing Class...they usually consist of older, more established artists getting together to do figure drawings. There is no teacher giving instructions, but there’s usually one person who is the moderator, who keeps things running. Because there’s no teacher giving lectures, you will be posing the whole time, (except for during your series of 5-minute breaks). The posing sequence is pretty much the same as a drawing class….starting out with a set of quick, 1 to 2 minute poses, and working up to the longer, 20 minute poses. Sometimes, the artists will want to spend a long time on one pose….40 to 60 minutes or longer. In that case, every 20 minutes, when you get your break, the moderator will lay down artist’s tape on the platform, to outline where you were posing, so you can resume the same pose after your break. Drawing Groups meet in a variety of locations….sometimes they take place in local art centers, sometimes in a rental studio the artists have arranged for, sometimes in one of the Drawing Group member’s home or apartment, and sometimes in a college classroom just like the drawing class.

The third posing situation you may pose for is with an Individual Artist. Many professional artists hire models to pose for their paintings or drawings on a regular basis. It is usually a “one on one” situation, where you will go to their studio to pose for an arranged amount of hours, and work only with the artist. You should discuss exactly what the artist has in mind before the first day you pose for him, (or her), to make sure you both agree on the focus of the project. Individual artists work in a variety of methods and formats; with some, you may be posing in a similar fashion to the figure drawing class or drawing group: a series of short poses building up to longer ones, with 5 minute breaks all along. Other artists may want you to pose for a single, very detailed painting, so you will be holding the same pose for the entire session, (or perhaps multiple sessions. Especially with paintings, which can take days or even months to produce).
While posing for an individual artist can be less pressure, (you’re not posing for a crowd, you’re posing for just one person), I would suggest you don’t start out your career that way. I believe that drawing classes or groups are a better way to get started in the business. I think you learn the rudiments of posing more fully that way, and also, it’s a safer route to go. Safer? Yes, that’s what I said. While, of course, there are plenty of reputable and thoroughly professional individual artists who you can work with….the fact is, you are going to pose nude in a stranger’s home. You don’t always have character references to guide you here. Which can mean, you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position. If you are posing for a Figure Drawing Class or a Drawing Group, however, not only is it a much safer group environment….you will also have a chance to meet and associate with individual artists there who you can network with and perhaps pose for them solo at a later date, having already established a working relationship at the class or group. (I’ll talk more about safety issues later on here).

Do I have to have a perfect, muscular body to pose?

Not at all. Most Figure Drawing Classes and Drawing Groups aim for a diverse variety of models, and it is common to see all sorts of body types posing in the course of a semester in a drawing class. Personally, I have drawn guys with all body types; overweight, skinny, muscular….and I offer no judgment on any of them. Neither should you. Everyone should have the opportunity to pose nude…and everyone has their own beauty. Some individual artists may have a specific “type” in mind when hiring a model for a certain painting or drawing. But, again….most college art instructors aim to present a diverse array of body types for their students to draw. And, more importantly, they are most concerned with whether a model can strike creative, interesting well as hold them for the specified amount of time. There are some guys out there with gorgeous, muscular bodies who make dreadful figure drawing models because they cannot stay still for 20 minutes, and/or they cannot create anything more than stiff, uninspired, lifeless poses. I’m not so much interested in drawing guys with a “perfect body”, (whatever that is), but I am interested in drawing guys who are healthy. That does not mean on steroids, on drugs, etc. It means someone who has a healthy outlook on life, and treats their body with respect. I’ll admit, I am greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance artists and the ancient Greek & Roman sculptors, where the “ideal” body was greatly admired and preferred for posing. So, of course I enjoy drawing a nicely sculptured figure, and I value the opportunity to draw someone with visible muscle structure. But, it’s not the only body type I’ll work with. And, again...there is beauty in all body types. So if you’re interested in posing nude for art classes at some point, but don’t think you can because you don’t have a “Men’s Workout” body, well….you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that, indeed, you can. Remember this: the most important 2 things for a Figure Drawing Class model are to be able to hold poses, (sometimes for long periods), and to be reliable, (meaning you always show up, & always on time). One qualifier here: one of the main purposes of a beginning Figure Drawing Class is to learn muscle structure & human anatomy. I have to state that to learn anatomy most optimally, a model with visible muscle structure is most ideal. That does not mean the model has to be a muscle guy; muscle structure is clearly visible on both very slim men & on men with “average” bodies. It is more difficult to learn muscle structure on an overweight model, though. Again, most Figure Drawing classes will hire models of all different body types. But if I were teaching a beginner’s class, I would tend to hire models with visible muscle structure, (but still alternate with some overweight models).

(I'll continue with part 2 in a few days!)