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Life & Nude Modelling - Expectations, Examples & Exercises

Updated on January 3, 2016

This hub provides an overview for anyone interested in nude or life modelling and what they can expect from it. I've taken great care to cover the subject in a sensible, sensitive and mature way. The hub does not contain nude images or content that could be described as sexual in nature.

This hub is not intended to make anyone uncomfortable and information provided is intended to be used by interested people to see if life modelling might be right for them. Please also note that I am not a life model myself but do have a good friend who helped me write this guide. I hope you find it interesting and engaging.

As a life model, it's good to know what to expect from a class and to understand what the artists need from you. We've started to explore some of those ideas here and also included a simple, sample pose. There's no substitute for listening to the experiences of someone who has been there, so you'll also find some helpful words from a life model in this section.

Listening to the artist

Every life model offers different challenges to the artist. Variations in posture, curves, muscles, balance, skin texture, size shape and and the like means that no two models will ever be drawn in exactly the same way. Spending some time looking at your own body objectively and seeing it how others might can really help when it comes to being a life model. Spend some time scrutinising the way your body looks in a mirror and observe it objectively. You will almost certainly have aspects that artists will find very satisfying to draw, perhaps the shape of your back, the width of your shoulders, the way your hair falls or the curve of your belly.

Familiarising yourself with how you look, and how you can hold yourself to maximise your uniqueness will ensure you can always bring something interesting to the class. Ask for feedback from the artists directly, put yourself in their shoes and experiment. Ultimately, the model and the artist are working together to create something that is of value ot them both, and anything that can enhance this can only be for your benefit.

Each artist will have a differing opinion, and listening to ideas objectively will give you new approaches for future classes.

What to expect in your first class

Imagine that it’s your first class. You’ve practised and marketed yourself, had a request to come life modelling and spoken to the organiser. You might have asked what they are looking for in the class and the type of poses that they are after. They might have had a clear idea or theme in mind, or they might leave things up to you to decide; this is normal and the work you’ve done practising poses will ensure you can provide some interest and variety for the class.

You’ve turned up a few minutes early and have found somewhere separate to change. Facilities can vary widely, depending on where you’re modelling, from a separate dressing room to a store cupboard or behind a screen. It is psychologically very helpful to have a differentiation between you the clothed person and you the life model, both for your own sense of what you are doing and also for those who are drawing or painting you.

Once you’ve changed, you’ll put on your robe and go into the room. As you walk in, you’ll probably see busy people, setting up easels and arranging pencils, charcoal, paints and the like. You will probably get a few smiles and some acknowledgement from the artists before they get back to what they’re doing. Creative people don’t always have the best organisational skills, so there will probably be something happening right up until the class is ready to start, this is also normal.

When it comes to the time to disrobe, you’ll learn quickly that any embarrassment is your choice. You’ll have washed and made yourself presentable, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern there. To the artists, the way they see you is an opportunity for them to practice their skills. Although they are seeing you as a naked person, the specifics of the pose, the way shadows fall across your flesh, the texture of your skin and hair and a dozen other aspects are more important than the fact you are naked. Artists are generally seeing you as someone who is kind enough to let them practice their skills, rather than with the feelings normally associated with being embarrassed.

As the class progresses, you’ll be suggesting poses and take direction if it’s given. You’ll also be letting the class know if a pose has become difficult or uncomfortable, giving them fair warning if you need to change poses, stretch or take a short break. You’ll enjoy the rest of the session, spending time with your thoughts, moving and changing poses as necessary and helping a collection of artists enjoy their time drawing the human form.

Once the class has finished, you’ll almost certainly receive lots of thanks and praise from the artists. Don’t be afraid to seek feedback on what went well and what you might improve, ultimately it’s about collaborating to make the experience a good one for everybody. You’ll then get paid the rate you’ve agreed on and confirm any future classes. The most important thing is that you have enjoyed the experience and look forward to the next one.


Related books from Amazon

The Art Model's Handbook: The Naked Truth about Posing for Art Classes and Fine Artists
The Art Model's Handbook: The Naked Truth about Posing for Art Classes and Fine Artists

The Art Model's Handbook explains what you need to know to model for art classes and professional artists. You'll learn about the structure of figure drawing sessions, how to come up with interesting poses, costume modeling, professional conduct, finding work, and security concerns.


Poses & Exercises for Life & Nude Models

Sample pose & description
Standing with a hand on the hip, looking over one shoulder. Easy. Balanced. Natural. Comfortable. But what else does it have?

  • “Negative Space” - this is the gap created between the inside of the arm and the body. Very useful to an artist since it puts lots of parts of the body in clear relation to each other
  • Curve in the spine - Not only does this look good, it also stops the image from being a flat 2D cartoon and turns it into a picture with depth
  • Opportunity to move your balance - in a long pose you may want to move your weight slightly, so as to be more comfortable. This pose allows you to do this. It also allows you to rest on the balls of the feet rather than the heels
  • Something for everyone - everyone in the room will have a different angle on you so try to make sure that they all have something satisfying to draw. Try not to “cut your arm off” by hiding it with another part of your body. This is why curves and twists are popular poses for models and artists alike

Useful Exercises

This hub will have provided a useful overview of the main things to think about when life modelling.

It's important though for you to understand your own reasons, beliefs and perspectives. Set aside a few minutes to carry out the simple exercises below; the results will help you to understand what you feel about your body and your reasons for wanting to do life modelling in the first place.

Accepting how you look and feel about your body

People don’t always like what they see in the mirror. This is a shame, because our bodies are amazing and capable of remarkable things, regardless of age, size, shape or anything else. Here is an exercise to help you become more comfortable with the custom made, self-propelled, self-repairing, all-terrain vehicle, power-plant and supercomputer that looks back at you while you clean your teeth.

The next time you are naked, perhaps just before a shower or after you’ve woken up, take a minute to look at your body in a mirror. Exactly one minute, just looking. Forget that it is your body, pretend the mirror is a window and you are going to draw what you can see through this window.

Look really carefully at the curves and the shapes. See how the joints and the bones line up and connect. Look how far down the head the eyes and ears actually are. Look at how the shoulders and the neck blend together. Watch the muscles move under the skin. How does the light play across the ribs? Where is the deepest shadow? Where is the brightest highlight? Try to see where the balance falls, where is the weight being held?

You are now looking at the body in the same way that an artist would. Notice that judgements (fat, thin, small, big, wrinkly, whatever) simply do not apply here. The body is not being compared to any other body. It is not better or worse than any other body because all bodies are different. See which parts of that body you would find most interesting to draw. This is what an artist will see when you are in a life modelling class.

We hope you have enjoyed this series and that it inspires you to think about life modelling and whether it might be right for you.

Other articles on life and nude modelling in this series

This is just one of our series of articles on this fascinating subject; please do take a look at our other materials.

Do you have any experience of life modelling, hints, tips or experiences to share? If so, please let us know in the comments.



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    • Paul Maplesden profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Maplesden 

      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks very much all for your kind words; I can't take all the credit though, it's my friend Will who is the life model and it was through working together on the writing that we were able to understand the model's perspective. He will certainly appreciate the comments!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      From an artist's perspective, I appreciate the insights you offer into what nude modeling entails psychologically. When taking life drawings classes, I've never thought that the model might be uncomfortable or embarrassed during the modeling because they always seemed so relaxed, but I imagine that comes with a experience. You've given a very nice, realistic description of the job a nude model is expected to do, and anyone considering nude modeling would find the article extremely useful.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      6 years ago

      You throw the artists perspective in with the models projection.Very interesting hub.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! This isn't something I haven't tried on either side of the spectrum, but I know it is pretty popular. Great unique subject and well written. :)

    • Paul Maplesden profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Maplesden 

      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks for the kind words; I tried to strike the right balance and I'm glad you found it interesting.

    • johndnathan profile image

      John D Nathan 

      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas. USA

      This was unexpected, but not unwelcome. It's good that you were able to take a potentially taboo subject and turn it into a practical example.


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