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How to Model for an Art Class

Updated on May 19, 2013

Before I was a model, it was difficult for me to appreciate just how hard it is to stay still while that muscle in your neck is turning into a golf ball, or to keep your eyes open after sitting down for two hours. However, I always admired the models’ courage and confidence to stand in front of so many scrutinizing eyes. If you feel at all self-conscious, remember that the artist is looking for what is beautiful about the model and trying to portray that beauty to the best of his or her ability.

As a model, it is your responsibility to:

  • Arrive before the class begins
  • Come dressed appropriately for the class
  • Be polite and friendly toward the teacher and students
  • Cooperate with the teacher and students’ wishes.
  • Turn off your cell phone while in a pose.
  • Find out what the class is, and what outfit, hair, and makeup is appropriate before arriving.


Portrait Drawing Class

Generally, at a portrait drawing class, the instructor will have the model sit, and stare at a single point across the room. Sometimes the class will focus on a certain part of the face, head, or neck, but usually, the model is not very active. Most teachers prefer that the model comes with the neck exposed (no high collared shirts or scarves), dark clothing, hair pulled back, no jewelry and little to no make-up. For an extended pose, the teacher may request that the model wear bright clothing and interesting jewelry because the students have more time to capture the details.

Photography Class

The model can usually wear bright colored clothing or jewelry to a photography class. The instructor may pose the model, or have the students practice posing the model.

Life Drawing or Figure Drawing Class

Models for a life drawing class are usually nude, although occasionally the model may wear a skin colored leotard. Every instructor will run the class differently, but generally a life drawing class begins with a series of quick gesture poses. The gesture poses may be 1-2 minutes long, and the model is expected to come up with his or her own sequence of dynamic poses. The instructor may then move on the 20-30 minute poses, or longer, hour or more poses.

Painting Class

The model often sits or lays down for longer poses in a painting class. The model may be clothed or nude.

Suggestions for Nude Models

  • Bring a bathrobe, or a dress that pulls over easily, for breaks.
  • Wear your hair tied back unless requested otherwise.
  • Bring flip flops-- the floor can be cold!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a heater if you are chilly.


Some instructors are very aware of the model's comfort and will tell him or her when they can break. Other instructors sometimes forget about the model, and an hour could go by before they let the model take a break. Typically the model can break the pose to move around every 20-30 minutes, and it is perfectly all right to set a timer. Use breaks wisely, and make sure you walk around and stretch out. It’s also fun to look at the student’s artwork and converse during breaks.



The goal of a gesture drawing is to quickly and instinctively capture a sense of movement. Therefore, the model’s gesture poses must be dynamic, involving twists and arms and legs in extended positions. Since these poses are short, don’t be afraid to take a slightly precarious or uncomfortable pose. It’s a good idea to have a few interesting poses in mind before you begin, because your mind tend to go blank when you are nude in front of an expectant audience…

20-30 minute poses may be standing poses, with the model leaning against a stool. Longer poses usually feature the model sitting comfortably in a chair or even laying down. Work out a plan for breaks before you begin, and always remember to have someone mark your position with tape before moving. Don’t be afraid to speak up if the pose is uncomfortable, because it will only get worse.

Pictures or no Pictures?

Everyone’s phone has a camera now, and many art students are tempted to take a picture of the model so that they can work on their project at home. There may be a policy against this at your institution, but the decision is usually up to you. Students don’t always ask before taking a picture, so you may want to make an announcement before class. Personally, I don’t mind if students take a picture of me for a portrait class or the like, but I don’t allow it for nude poses (generally students will at least ask before taking a picture of a nude model, but it can’t hurt to state your policy before hand).


Most art studios will have the following, but it can't hurt to check with your coordinator or bring it just in case.

Personal Heater

DeLonghi DCH1030 Safeheat 1500W Basic Ceramic Heater - Gray/Black
DeLonghi DCH1030 Safeheat 1500W Basic Ceramic Heater - Gray/Black

It can get awful chilly when you are posing nude in the typical open, drafty art studio. A well positioned personal heater can be a life saver.



All Seasons Collection Micro Fleece Plush Solid F/Q Blanket, Chocolate
All Seasons Collection Micro Fleece Plush Solid F/Q Blanket, Chocolate

It can't hurt to bring a blanket or piece of fabric (preferably a solid, neutral color). You may end up hanging it behind you as a background, or, if you are posing nude, throwing it across the chair or stool you are posing on to add texture and a comfortable suface.



Polder TMR-607-39 Mini 100-Minute Kitchen Timer with Digital Display, Red
Polder TMR-607-39 Mini 100-Minute Kitchen Timer with Digital Display, Red

It's difficult to guestimate how much time has passed in the pose, and a small timer is a perfect solution. Make sure it doesn't make an annoying ticking sound...



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    • profile image

      Jim 4 years ago

      I did life modeling for a art class a couple of years ago.My sister takes art lessons and their regular model had not been able to make it that day.So they were looking for a volunteer.My sis pleaded with me and I finally said yes.It was embarrassing for the first few minutes of posing nude but after that it was ok. Not much to worry at all.

    • sgiguere profile image

      Stephanie Giguere 5 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Yes, it is!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      This is really interesting! I had no idea about this, but it makes such sense. Great way for students to make some extra cash too.

    • sgiguere profile image

      Stephanie Giguere 5 years ago from Marlborough MA

      Thanks eHealer!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Sgiguere, this is very original and interesting. People will find this useful, those who model and artists as well. Very well done, voted up and shared!