The Art of Modeling

People who reflect on what makes a figure model excellent can easily see that the work has high requirements. Excellent modeling requires management, ethical sensitivity, human relations, self-appreciation, and performance skills. The performance skills include athletic abilities (along with recognition of personal limits within those abilities), powers of invention, and creativity. Required, too, are common sense, proper use of time and space limitations (what is the studio like in shape, size, and appearance: how much time have we used in this pose – or in the session – and how much time is left), spatial relations in three dimensions (how do I look from every direction at the distances from which I am being viewed), patience, creation and release of tension, mood modification, dancing skill, and – above all – the will and the ability to project self, in any variety of moods or approaches, using the whole self, without additions or subtractions, as the entire medium for that message.

Good artists, teachers, workshop moderators, or groups of workshop participants can be immensely helpful to models in developing and exercising the qualities listed above: but sooner or later, the buck stops with the model. “Artistic imagination” doesn’t work as a substitute for the real, full presence of a real, full person. Artists need people, not bodies, to work with.

Many artists, models, and people who work at moderating workshops or at booking models for artists, workshops, and schools feel that models are easily available and easily replaceable. There is also a feeling that modeling is a “natural talent” or that no talent at all is needed for modeling, that being a subject is passive, while being an artist is active. What this argument misses is precisely the difference between being “anything else” and being people. People, because our life and growth are both complicated and transformed by consciousness, need to put attention into anything we do, in order to make it fully human. The same goes for modeling. We don’t just “get drawn”, like a mountain or an apple or a horse; we pose. Posing is both active performance and positive communication. To some extent it can seem to occur without effort: that appearance is mistaken.

Portrait artists and portrait photographers spend a great deal of time “posing” their sitters. This work includes developing moods, work-resolution and attitudes far more than it involves disposition of body parts and placement of draperies. Like other performing arts, life modeling benefits from instruction, private work, group work (for variety, for comparison, for support), repetition, progression from simple to complex, exercise, and so forth. Where these are provided, models not only can improve, they also can be strengthened in their career as models, and integrate that career confidently with other aspects of their lives. They remain both more interested and more interesting; they become more reliable -because they insist on greater respect -and they are likely to stay in the modeling profession for a longer time.  Life modeling is a performing art which demands respect, adequate payment, and solid, continuous education in order to be at its best.

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