Life as an Art Model
I started art modelling two years ago, after I stumbled across a job advertisement by AUB, while I was supposed to be looking for a ‘proper’ job, having just dropped out of university and broken up with my boyfriend. I didn’t think much about it as I applied, I wasn’t even sure they would accept my application, but within two days I’d signed a contract for a year with the university as an art model and agreed to do my first session.
I became an art model at a strange time in my life, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted, I’d had to give up on my dream of going to university, at the time, because of my health; I was lost. I needed something that would rebuild my confidence, something that would get me out of bed and completely shake up my life, and so I decided to pose naked in a room full of total strangers.
My first session was for a Saturday Life Drawing course. It was a six-hour class with an hour for lunch. In the few weeks before I didn’t think much about it at all. It wasn’t until I was on the bus on my way to the class that the reality of what I was about to do sank in. But there was no backing out now.
I checked in at reception and was led to the drawing studio to meet with the teacher running the session. Since it was my first time he had taken extra steps to make sure I was as comfortable as possible. There was a small platform for me to work on, with pillows and heaters to keep me warm; a changing screen had been provided for me so I could undress/dress in private; he talked me through the schedule of the day so I knew exactly what would be happening when and he had prepared some drawings of poses that I could work from. He also took the time introduce me to those who would be drawing me that day. All these things helped calm my nerves, everyone had worked to create a calm and respectful atmosphere for me, so when it came the time for me to drop my dressing gown to the floor I had nothing to worry about. I was in a safe space with no judgement.
For the first 30 seconds I was very aware that I was completely naked, but as soon as the artists started sketching on their canvases it no longer seemed like a big deal, it was as if me standing there naked was the most normal thing in the world. One thing that became immediately obvious was that you don’t realise how often you move until you’re having to stand totally still. It takes a lot of concentration and discipline to hold a pose and after about 10 minutes it starts to get painful, your muscles begin to ache, and limbs start to go numb. My last pose of the day was an hour long and is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Art modelling has become a big part of my life over the past couple of years and has helped me in numerous ways. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders for a long-time, but art modelling has become something that has helped me to cope and overcome these things, which had for so long held me back. It taught me to appreciate my body as it is, to love it no matter how it looks, and to look after it. I now do yoga at least once a week to improve my balance, I go to the gym when I can, and try to eat as healthy as possible so I can be as physically and mentally strong as possible thus allowing me to improve my skills as an art model, while also improving my overall self. In a way doing this job forces me to take care of myself.
In addition to this, it also opens doors for me to meet a wide range of interesting and talented people. Through my art modelling I was able to meet and work with Luca Anzalone, a now AUB photography graduate, who has worked with several high-profile magazines, most notably Vogue Italia. Working with him was one of the most bizarre and interesting experiences. I was covered in glitter and baby oil, I had to pose with flowers in my mouth and between my feet; I even had to lay on the floor at one point whilst having a bottle of cold water poured over me, all the while totally naked. It was an intense day of work but was worth it for the outcome. The photographs Luca captured were stunning and I had an immense sense of pride having been able to help in the creation of those images.
I am always in awe of the art that is created by the talented people I work with. No two drawings are ever the same and all are breath-taking. It’s a unique feeling looking at artwork featuring yourself and knowing that you have helped others to improve their skills or achieve the vision for their project.
Whenever people first find out that I art model they all say the same thing, ‘You pose naked in front of other people?! Oh, I could never do that!’ To which I always respond, ‘Yes, you can!’ There is a constant demand for art models and I encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to give it a go. It does wonders for your self-confidence and body image. It doesn’t matter what you look like, there’s no such thing as too big or too small, artists need a range of body types to work from because when drawing real life there isn’t a perfect, there is only the real. The real is you, and you are beautiful.