Short answer: take it very seriously. Long answer: you need to mount a campaign to establish yourself as a reliable, creative, and agreeable figure drawing model. How do you do that? Let’s start with you. Before you even begin to go job-hunting, you need to know whether you can do this job well. Too many guys make the mistake of concentrating only on their muscles, making sure their abs are tight and their pecs oh-so impressive. Sure, that’s nice, but it’s the icing on the cake. You’re not going to be a desirable model if you can’t hold a pose, or come up with creative poses to inspire the artists who will be drawing you. Here’s what you need to do:
Practice Posing On Your Own: Yes, it seems silly to pose alone, but you need to know if you can handle a 20 minute pose. Try standing nude, (or in your jock strap), in front of a large mirror, with a timer set for 20 minutes, and see if you can handle staying still for the full time. You might not be able to; it’s not easy. Especially for a beginner. You may need to practice with 2 or 5 or 10 minute poses, and work up to the 20. (Hint: most professional models do the more difficult, “action” oriented poses during the short, 2-minute or 5-minute poses. They tend to do sitting or reclining, lying down poses for the long, 20 minute poses, because those poses are easier to hold for extended periods).
Develop a Sequence of Poses: Once you feel confident about holding 20 minute poses, you need to start developing an array of poses. Study some of the great masters’ figure drawings to get some ideas. Bookstores and libraries are full of art books containing all sorts of figure drawings and sculptures through the ages to inspire you. Also, check out the many high-quality photo books of the male nude that are out there to get some ideas for poses. And then try out these poses in front of the mirror, to find out which ones look interesting, and also which ones you can hold well. (Interesting, unusual poses are always welcomed by artists, but don’t get too “out there” with it, or you run the risk of appearing comical on the drawing platform, which is never a good idea). What you want to do is to develop a series of interesting, dynamic poses that’ll carry you through a drawing session, (3 to 4 hours), without repeating yourself. Of course, there are some art teachers and drawing group moderators who will have very specific ideas about the poses they want you to do, and they will direct you. But, more commonly, they’ll expect you to come up with the poses.
Do a Test Run With Friends: This one always makes people cringe. “Pose nude in front of my friends?!!”. Well, they don’t have to be your best friends. What you want to do is gather an informal group of artists, even if it’s only 2 or 3, to draw you for a practice session. Ask around among your friends….if any of them are artists, great. They’ll appreciate the chance to get in a free drawing session with a model. If you don’t know any artists, ask around amongst your friends, anyway. They may know someone who is an artist. And, hey...if worst comes to worst...have your non-artist friends draw you as best they can. Maybe you’ll inspire them to start drawing! If you absolutely cannot handle the idea of posing for friends, you might want to re-think getting into this business. You’re going to be posing in front of drawing classes and drawing groups where inevitably you’re going to run into someone you know at some point. If you can’t handle posing for 2 or 3 friends in your own home….good luck posing for a group of 30 people under the harsh lights of a large college classroom.
Scope Out the Colleges & Drawing Groups in Your Immediate Area: Now that you’ve practiced posing and have developed an array of poses, and feel confident about posing, you’re ready to start targeting potential jobs. Check out your local college, (depending on where you live, there may be a number of them in your immediate area). If you can access their websites, you can find out whether they offer figure drawing classes, and even the names of the teachers who teach them. (The teachers may not necessarily be the ones who hire models, though. Often it is a department head who handles this sort of a thing). When you make your first trip to a college to inquire about posing, dress conservatively, as you would for any job interview, (a suit and tie isn’t necessary, though, and would probably be viewed as a bit much!). That sort of casual-preppy “Gap” look probably works best. It would be helpful to bring along a basic resume; if you’ve had any posing experience, include it. If not, you can at least list the fact you’ve posed for a Drawing Group, (when you practice-posed for your friends, remember? That counts as a Drawing Group posing experience!). You don’t need an elaborate resume; just something to list your contact info, some basic background info, and any pertinent job experience. Go to the art department, and let the person in charge know that you’re available to pose, you’re reliable, and you’ll be on time. (And if you get hired, be all of those things!). Take it very seriously. I hate to say this, but a lot of figure drawing class models can be unreliable flakes, and art departments are eager to work with responsible, serious models. They may start you out as a “fill in” model, (in other words, when one of the “flakes” bails out, they may need you to fill in). Once you work a few times, and you show that you’re serious & reliable, you will most likely get regular bookings to pose….perhaps more than you had in mind! (You can say no….let them know how often you want to work, and they’ll respect that.).
Q: Do I Need to Bring Nude Photos of Myself for a Job Interview?
A: Rarely, if ever, have I heard of a Figure Drawing class or Drawing Class request this. An individual artist may, though, simply because he or she may be looking for a specific “type”.
Q: How much money do Art Class Models get PAID?
A: It varies, depending on the school. The ones I know of here in the Long Island, NY area make between $11 to $20 an hour. (perhaps there are schools that pay more...I haven’t heard of any, but let me know if there are some). I have heard of some schools that pay as little as $8 to $11 an hour. Nationally, I generally hear models make $10 to $15 an hour. No, it’s not big bucks, but it’s not minimum wage, either. It’s a nice supplement to your income, something to do on the side that can be fun and rewarding. I imagine if you live in an area where there are a number of colleges and art centers, theoretically, you could get booked in a large enough number of art classes & drawing groups that you can make some serious bucks. And, regardless of the money…..for people who have always wanted to do something “artistic” but felt they weren’t skilled in the arts…this is a spectacular way of being involved in an artistic creative process.
Q: What if I get an ERECTION ?!!!!!
A: Probably one of the most often-asked questions I get, (although many guys are shy about asking!!!). Here’s the answer: it depends on the situation. Let me say this first, though….I think the whole topic is absurd… erections are a natural occurrence, (for men, at least!), and this whole “stifle the erection” mentality is, in my opinion, repressive and unhealthy. However…. when you’re posing for a Figure Drawing Class, it is generally not acceptable to have erections. It really depends on the school & the teacher, but…... unfortunately, it’s almost always not OK. There is a lot of skittishness about male nudity out there, still, and erections probably serve to exacerbate the situation. I have heard from a lot of male models, though, that every once in a while they’ve gotten hard while posing, either without realizing it or it just “popped up” against their will. Generally, these rare occurrences pass by quietly and don’t get commented on. Not always, though….I have also heard from some male models who have gotten warnings, and even were fired for getting an erection on the posing platform. I once heard a rule for some Figure Drawing Classes…one erection is OK….the second time it happens, you get a warning….the third time, you won’t be asked back to pose again. I don’t really know if this “rule” is ever used or enforced anywhere, but I thought I’d pass it on. From my own experience, I have to say erections rarely happen in a classroom situation. For some reason, even if you are very scared about it happening to you….once you are up there posing nude in front of a class, and you know it’s “not cool” for it to happen….it doesn’t happen. And I’m not sure why, but I have heard from some male models that they were really scared they’d get wood in front of the class, but once they got up there to pose, it did not happen. So, I would not worry excessively about this happening to you. One male model suggested to me that, if you’re really concerned about this, try going to a crowded nude beach or a crowded health club locker room, and undress there as if you are going to pose for a class. Most likely, you will not get an erection once you are actually in the situation. Drawing Groups may be a little more forgiving about this than Figure Drawing Classes, simply because you’re not in the strict academic environment, and may not have the same restrictions. (I still would advise caution in this area, though, as you’re apt to get negative reactions if you are constantly getting erections while posing). If you are posing for an Individual Artist, and you’re concerned you might get an erection, talk to him about it beforehand. Believe me, artists who draw male nudes get asked this all the time; they’re not going to think you’re a freak for asking about this. It’s a legitimate question. Most likely, he will re-assure you that it is not a problem. If the individual artist you are posing for says it’s OK, then there is no need to be embarrassed or to cover it up. If he says it’s not OK, then treat the situation as you would treat posing for a Figure Drawing Class…erections not allowed. Again….I find this whole topic a bit absurd. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with erections, and as long as you’re not using the erection as a prelude to having sex with the artist, (not a good idea), or masturbating yourself in front of the artist, (also not a good idea), then relax about it, OK?
Q: How important is penis size? Do I need to be hung ?
A: This is so unimportant. The only reason I’m including this question here is because I actually get asked it quite a lot. I find it’s a sad statement on our culture that so much importance is placed on something as irrelevant as penis size. That some men undergo painful and risky operations and take questionable, costly courses of action to try to increase their penis size is truly frightening. First of all, all of this emphasis on a large staff is a relatively recent development. Tom of Finland, God rest his soul, who I do admire greatly and just love his work…..unfortunately, helped to create this big-dicked mindset amongst many men that has taken off like wildfire over the past century. It would probably benefit many men to take a look at the male nude drawings & sculpture of the great masters, such as Michelangelo….or that of the ancient Greeks. The penises are miniscule in comparison to what is considered “hot” these days. And how can anyone argue that these works of art represent some of the highest ideals of the nude male physique? I know this is all a matter of personal preference, but the bottom line here is this: NO, this is not something that is an issue in posing for art classes….. NO, this is not something I care about it the least in someone who models for me. And YES, I feel very sorry for you if having a large penis is something you feel inadequate without, or is something you consider a dealbreaker in choosing a mate. You really need to open your eyes and see the beauty in all men, regardless of the size of their penis. Don’t think for a moment that I would ever reject having you pose for me on that basis, or that any art class would reject you either, because they wouldn’t.
Q: Do art class models always pose alone, or do they ever pose in groups?
A: It depends on the class, and the teacher. In my classroom experience, solo models are far more frequent. However, I have been in classes where 2 models have posed together. Usually, it was 2 women. However, there was one memorable class with 2 male models. They did some awesome poses, including a “tug of war” pose where they both stood on the platform, holding a rope between them. That was one of the best classes of my whole college experience! I don’t know how common it is for figure drawing classes at other colleges to feature 2 or more models at once. Money-wise, it obviously costs more to hire multiple models, so I don’t imagine it’s all that common. I have heard from some models, though, that this is something they have done occasionally. Sometimes they have posed with a female model, more often with another male. But again, I don’t think this happens all that frequently. If this is something you would not be comfortable with, I’m sure you could let the teacher who runs the class know in advance, and you could skip posing for that particular class.
Q: Is it OK to talk to the students/artists in the class/drawing group during breaks, or should I keep to myself and stay quiet?
A: This is really up to you. I would suggest being cordial and polite, but not becoming overly friendly & chatty with the class, as you want to maintain some professional distance. I do think it’s a mistake to be aloof and cold to the artists drawing you, though; this can only serve to undermine your position for future bookings. I think it is a good idea during breaks, while you’re wearing your robe or long t-shirt, to walk out amongst the artists and look at their drawings. Not only is it interesting for you, it does create a nice connection with the artists. Many of them are eager to show the model their work, to see what you think. Be nice. This is not the time to play art critic. You can think of some nice words to say for just about any drawing...this is the time to do that. Many artists can be very sensitive about showing their work, so, be supportive. This is a good way to “bond” with the group, and it will definitely help you in getting future bookings, (more on this below). Just one caveat here: don’t be a big fake, walking around laying on oodles of false praise to everyone in the room. Nobody likes a kiss-ass! Instead, offer some kind words, engage in some pleasant small talk, and work your way around the room.
Q: What else do I need to know about all this “posing nude stuff” that I may not realize?
A: Many guys believe that the hardest part of this job is getting up the nerve to take off their clothes in front of a room full of strangers. Well...wrong! Stripping naked is not the hard part; the real challenge is building a successful career in this business. You may get hired for one drawing session, but don’t assume the offers will start rolling in after that. You need to get pro-active to start getting regular bookings. Luckily, you’re reading this, so you’re getting an advantage over many other often clueless guys who are stumbling their way through figure modelling. Below are some golden tips I can give you from my years of figure drawing experience, that should really make you stand out in a positive way and help you get additional bookings:
- First off, and most importantly, you want to dazzle. What does that mean? That means, conducting yourself as a consummate professional at all times. You show up on time, you are extremely agreeable and easy to work with, you are creative & interesting with your poses all throughout the session. You make sure to alternate which direction you are posing in throughout the session, so that everyone gets a chance to draw you from the front. (For some reason, many models tend to pose only facing the spotlight, giving half the class a rear view for the whole time. You need to vary your direction throughout the session). When you leave that classroom or art center, believe me, the artists, teachers, moderator, etc will be talking about you. You want it to be good talk. It’s interesting that this is called “Figure Drawing”, because, in a lot of ways, there are amazing parallels to Figure Skating. You are up there on that posing platform for your designated time, and after you are finished and gone, the “judges” will decide your fate in the business. Though I tend to keep my negative opinions of models to myself, I have heard some incredibly scathing critiques of models who weren’t up to the challenge, ( “His poses are so stiff and unimaginative”…. “he looked like he was on some kind of drug trip the whole time”….. “he couldn’t hold still to save his life”…. “he’s putting me to sleep with these poses” …. “he’s always late” ….and on, and on, and on). You do not want to be the model who’s the subject of this sort of talk….so much of your future bookings depend on word of mouth and recommendations. These sorts of negative reviews are career killers. Fortunately, rave reviews carry great weight, too, in propelling your career further. It’s wonderful, after a model leaves the room, to hear the positive reviews, (“His poses are always so interesting and amazing!”…. “he really puts his heart into this”…. “he has so much energy”….”he’s so easy to work with”...and on, and on, and on). Remember, you want to arrive, on time, at every drawing session/class with an arsenal of interesting and creative poses….you want to conduct yourself agreeably and professionally at all times….and bring those 7 Essential Items with you to every drawing session!
You need to be a self-promoter: Every drawing class or drawing group you attend offers a fabulous opportunity to network with artists for future bookings. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to look at the artists’ drawings during your 5-minute breaks, and engage in some pleasant small-talk. Always have your business cards at the ready to give out, as you are bound to be approached by someone who knows of another drawing group that’s looking for models, or a drawing class at another college, or an individual artist looking to hire models privately. (Better yet, see if you can get contact info for the prospective client, so you can make some follow-up calls or e-mails). Outside of the class, in addition to posting your business cards around at art schools and art centers, you might want to create a flyer to post, and having your own website is a great idea. Talk yourself up, and make sure any artist friends of yours talk you up, too, in their artist circles. Once you start getting successful bookings in several different arenas, and your good reputation builds, you may find yourself getting lots of calls to pose.
You need to do what you can to overcome the “male model hurdle”. What does that mean? Well, I have found there are quite a few drawing groups and classes out there who, for whatever reason, only like to hire female models. For some reason, there seems to be skittishness about the male nude amongst a lot of traditional artists. I was actually at a drawing group once, not too long ago, where I happened to be the only male artist there. Everyone else in the small group was female. As was the model. When I asked if they planned on hiring any male models for future sessions, they looked at me as if I had Martian antennae sticking out of my head. When I pressed the moderator on the issue at a later date, offering her the names of several male models I knew who’d be available to pose, she insisted that they only would be drawing female models, case closed. (as you can imagine, I haven’t been back to the group since; it didn’t help that they had no desks or chairs, either...and charged an outrageous admission fee! But I still can’t figure out why these ladies would object to drawing nude men; I thought they’d welcome the opportunity, if only for a change of pace). How can you overcome this sort of hurdle, if you find a group or class that only uses female models? Well, you can’t make a big deal over it, or you’ll just be deemed a troublemaker. Best to talk directly with the person who makes the hiring decisions, and give him references and assure him of your professional nature. Remind him that the male figure is much easier for students to learn muscle structure from, (unless they happen to be drawing female bodybuilders). You might get through and get him, (or her), to give you a chance.
Q: What about posing for PHOTOGRAPHERS, as opposed to artists? Is there anything I need to know about doing that?
Q: Do I have to be circumcised to pose nude, or can I be uncut ?
Q: Do I need to shave my pubic hair, or any other body hair, to pose nude?
Q: I realize I need to be agreeable and professional and easy to work with...but, aren’t there any situations where I can express discomfort with how things are going in a Figure Drawing Class/Drawing Group?
Yes, there are certain situations where you may have to assert yourself. Here are several:
If the room temperature is unworkable. Depending on the time of the year, the classroom/drawing studio may be cool. But if it is downright drafty and/or frigid, you have to say so to the teacher/moderator. Often, a space heater is provided for the model to use, to put right up there on the platform with you. But not always. Ask if one is not provided. Sometimes, the students and teachers, dressed up warmly in their Norwegian ski sweaters and goose-down vests, do not realize how cold it is in the room. It’s up to you to tell them. Ultimately, it may be useful for you to purchase your own mini-portable space heater, to bring along with you to drawing sessions. But, really...this is something the drawing class/drawing group should provide for you.
If the poses go on longer than the designated time. Occasionally, poses go over the 20 minute mark. And you may be asked, “can you hold for a few minutes more”? Once in a while, that’s OK. If it becomes a regular thing, though, you need to say something. (This is the great thing about bringing your own timer. At least you’re in control of the clock. They may still ask you to hold longer, but at least you won’t have poses lasting for 30, 40 or more minutes without them telling you).
If someone in the class touches you inappropriately. They shouldn’t be touching you at all, actually. The teacher/moderator should inform the class/group from day 1 that touching the model is forbidden. If someone does cross over the line and touch you, it’s up to you on how you want to handle it, but I certainly think this is grounds for walking out right then & there, (with full pay, too!).
A: So much of this fascination with the nude male figure & with posing nude is, obviously, very body identified. But my advice to you is not to get too caught up in the body, and identifying with the body, and obsessing about “perfect” bodies. This may sound strange coming from someone like me, when one of my specialties is drawing the male nude figure. But it is my belief that the body is a vessel of the spirit. We shouldn’t judge each other’s character by each other’s bodies. It is truly what is within that counts. The body, when used correctly, can be a vehicle for doing much good work in the world. Yes, we should honor it and take care of it…..that involves eating healthily, exercising, and getting enough rest. And another key factor, in my opinion, is meditation and asking for spiritual guidance. Where things go wrong, in my opinion, is when people get too obsessed with altering the natural structure of their bodies. Pumping steroids and having risky plastic surgery is not honoring your essential beauty. There is great beauty in a body that is operating healthily and with loving purposes in mind. There is a glow that comes from within. That is the sort of a person I enjoy drawing. It is unfortunate that this culture has a limited view of what constitutes a beautiful body. I challenge you to let go of any notions you might have about aging being an accursed, negative thing; we need to see the beauty in men as they grow through their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. We need to honor our elders, for their wisdom and their own beauty. Getting older doesn’t mean we have to go downhill physically. Honor the spirit within, always seek a deeper connection with the power of Love in the universe, and treat your body kindly & lovingly. That is the road to true, long-lasting, and heavenly beauty.