I can’t work without a model. I won’t say I turn my back on nature ruthlessly in order to turn a study into a picture, arranging the colors, enlarging and simplifying; but in the matter of form I am too afraid of departing from the possible and the true. —Vincent van Gogh
We all know that not everyone can be a model, nor should everyone try. Modeling has many different genres, though, and some are more open to those looking for a creative outlet than others. Nude art modeling holds a lot of potential for people with a wide variety of body styles. A nude art model doesn’t have to be particularly small, doesn’t have to have perfect skin, and often doesn’t even have to show their face. Art nude modeling may be the most open and accepting form of modeling there is.
Don’t think there aren’t standards for art nude models, though, and please note that we are specifically discussing art nude modeling, not glamour nudes or fashion nudes, and certainly not porn nudes. Those all have much more restrictive requirements than do art nudes. Art nudes are all about form over personality, which is why art nudes can be totally anonymous and still be impactful. Being a good art nude model means one is, at least, sympathetic with the art form and fits the needs of the artist working with that form.
Unfortunately, much of society lumps all nude modeling together as though it were pornography, making it difficult to find, recruit, and keep art nude models. Almost every artist I know who works in a nude art genre needs another model or four. Yet, lest you think we’ll take just anyone, let me provide you a few guidelines for how to be an appreciated and valuable nude art model.
- Have a pulse. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many times I’ve been tempted to stop and make sure my model is still alive. Just because we want you to stay completely still for several minutes at a time doesn’t mean we don’t want someone with a bit of spirit to them. Someone who is enthusiastic and vibrant provides better posing than a model who is lethargic and limp.
- Show up. Again, you’d think that one is pretty obvious, wouldn’t you? I don’t know of an artist who hasn’t had a model not show up and not call to offer an explanation. When we do get an excuse they tend to be pretty lame: my car broke down, my 47th grandma died, I just wasn’t feeling it. And while we’ll pretend to be understanding and maybe even consoling when we’re talking to you, the reality is that we don’t give a shit. You wasted our time as we prepared a set, planned posing and other factors, and tried to establish an accommodating environment for you. Don’t make an appointment you don’t have every intention of keeping.
- Bring your own mood altering substances. The days of artists, especially photographers, providing alcohol and/or other substances to help models relax are, thankfully, going away. Let’s face it, having a middle-aged artist offering a young 20-something alcohol is more than a little creepy. Don’t encourage people to be creepy, they do that well enough on their own. Most of us would rather you work sober, but if you really need something to help you chill please bring your own.
- Bathe. I will never forget picking up a model whose kielbasa-infused body odor was so strong it took three weeks and multiple detailings to remove the smell from my car. Many art studios are quite small with less than adequate ventilation. Be thoughtful, please.
- Let the artist know if you plan on changing any part of your body before the shoot. Changes to hair style and color are the most common offenders here. Sometimes the change doesn’t impact our plans at all, but if an artist was planning to capture your long, flowing locks and you show up with an unexpected chin-length bob all that planning goes out the window. You’ve just forced someone to change their plans completely. The same can apply to body modifications and tattoos. It’s not that we mind the changes, we really don’t like surprises.
- Communicate any limitations you may have. Know whether you are allergic to latex. Let us know you’re asthmatic before we turn on the fog machine. We especially need to know if strobe lights cause neurological problems. Being an art nude model frequently means working with other creative elements. We don’t want to accidentally kill you. Let us know if something poses a danger.
- Do some research. Unfortunately, YouTube can’t help you here because of that whole anti-nude thing they have going on. However, there is Vimeo which has non-porn instructional and informational videos. A few channels that might be helpful include Nude Muse Magazine, Hegre-Art (some caution may be appropriate), and Art of Nakedness. Even here, keep an open mind and understand that the term “art nude” doesn’t have the same definition for everyone. Still, note different styles and methods of art nude modeling. I think there may even be a workshop or two on there.
- Set your boundaries from the beginning. If you want all your images to be anonymous, make sure we know that. If certain tattoos need to be covered or eliminated, you have to tell us. If there are specific poses you can’t/won’t do, communicate. It is extremely frustrating for us when someone complains after the fact about something we could have addressed appropriately up front. Don’t assume. Ask if you’re uncertain.
- Understand, the art is not about you. Art nudes can include portraits, but be aware that the artist is more interested in the whole image and what it communicates. Therefore, we may distort proportions, block certain features, and end up with a final result that has very little realistic similarity to you at all. If you want a portrait, pay for a portrait. Otherwise, don’t inhibit the artist’s vision.
- Enjoy being naked and the center of attention. Being naked is very freeing for a lot of people. If you are one of those people, art nude modeling can be a very rewarding experience. I’ve met more than a few who found the experience relaxing and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the artistic process. However, not everyone can stand being the center of attention for the duration of the session. There’s no shame in not being a nude art model. If you want to try but are unsure, talk to the artist about perhaps sitting in on a different session to see how the whole thing works. Trying being casually naked around friends who you know are understanding and supportive. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. Just let us know.
Art nude models don’t tend to last too terribly long. Life inevitably happens and they move away or go to law school or become teachers, or any other number of situations that inhibit their ability to pose. Most artists who work with nude models get excited when someone new volunteers. Some of us even feed our models! Posing can be rewarding on multiple levels. So if you’re interested, by all means, say something.
Know that art nude modeling isn’t for everyone, though. We’ll still like you even if you don’t pose (probably). If everyone follows the guidelines above, we should all be good.