Category Archives: About Modeling for Life Drawing

Introduction to the Web Edition

Hugh Kilmer, the author of Modeling for Life Drawing died in 2015.  Except for certain sections, e.g. “The Modeling Business,” most of it remains relevant and comes from a deep core of respect for life drawing and for modeling.  The website will no longer accept comments, but the original book remains for your interest and enjoyment.  –Beth Kilmer

“It’s good to be me.” Sarah Skinner

Today is February 1, 2010, a number of years after I and some friends finished writing this book, and 22 years after it was copyrighted and published. My wife, Beth, and I have re-examined it carefully over the past months to see if there were places where I might need to update it. A lot has happened, in fields related to art, to modeling and to publishing over the last twenty years, and it would not have been surprising to discover that this book needed changes to meet current needs. I still think it should stay the way it is, excepting certain practical issues like fees and contact information. As far as I can see, what I have written covers the moral and practical principles that artists and models need to follow in carrying out their working relationships. That relationship, at its finest (see “The Artist – Model Relationship,” in About MfLD) is a relationship of love. Where love between artist and model is appropriate, it is attuned to their love for other people and their interest in other activities and other things.
I believe that drawing the nude figure is fundamentally a celebration of humanness, including sexuality: sexuality that is good, beautiful and holy. This is a textbook for models and artists to help us in this celebration.
Hugh Kilmer
919 295 4304

Life Drawing

Life Drawing is often defended as allowable because it offers such good practice to artists in achieving something difficult. Life drawing appears to “need” defense and excuses because our society feels discomfort, and even guilt, at the nakedness (including especially the open sexual character) of the models. Drawing people does offer good practice, and it is very difficult to do well; apples, tables, mountains, oceans, horses, and ideas share the same qualifications. The defense doesn’t work. A fall-back from the first defense is that, in life drawing, an artist is using simply the body, not the person, to depict. Where this is true (and teachers, artists, and models often think they should make it true), the number one reality of the model, self, is being skipped. This is damaging to each person involved in a life-drawing session, as well as to the art that results from it.

An alternate approach begins with the declaration that what is most likely to fascinate us is people – ourselves as people and others as people – and that what fascinates us most about people is likely to hold greatest importance in our art. The less clothing someone is wearing, the more person is available to draw – if that person can project self while naked. Some of us can’t do that – and turn out, after a while, to be very boring as models. There are a good many books written to help artists learn to use their tools correctly in life drawing; but there are not many books which are designed to help artists and models work together with each other as fellow human beings and as co-contributors to the development of works of art. This tries to be such a book.

The Artist-Model Relationship

Standards for appropriate relationships between artists and models are usually expected to follow the first approach described above: models and artists are advised to maintain a “professional” distance from each other, for fear that they might allow a personal attraction which develops to become, suddenly and uncontrollably, a sexual one. There are cases, even well-known ones, of times when this has happened – but spelling out the possibility shows that it needs no more care in this relationship than it does in any other. Prudence belongs in any developing relationship.

Where model and artist find the second approach to life drawing more appropriate, they begin with their relationship as a personal one, with the development of art as one of its primary purposes. Such a relationship can grow in all sorts of directions (as other relationships grow); it can change in its nature, or dissolve – as other relationships do. Even in its strict sense of being people working with each other it can be exciting, fascinating, a source of intense personal growth, and a fountainhead for marvelous art. A good working relationship reaches its highest value, both personal and productive, when it grows into a relationship of people working together with love.

Website History

This website is the online development of a 1988 self-published book/pamphlet by Hugh Kilmer entitled Modeling for Life Drawing.

The work was first written in 1973, by a group of models and artists working together in Hoboken. The first version was lost by the community group that had agreed to print it. In 1977, I rewrote it from memory, and have used it since that time as a rough set of guidelines for models and their artists. At the point of original publication, the idea was to see whether these guidelines could be useful for a larger public of artists and models.

I do art work, coordinate a drawing workshop at home, and sometimes model. I started my own group because I was very uncomfortable with what I felt was an extreme lack of attention to models as people: this lack was characteristic of every group I attended, until we started our own.

The pointers in this website will often seem obvious; reflection will usually show that they are often ignored in practise. Deliberate attention to them on the part of a large enough group of models and artists will give them greater weight. If so, I think that personal and professional relations between models and artists will improve, there will be greater respect for modeling as a profession and as a performing art, and artists and models will find themselves working better together to improve both the quality of professional modeling and the quality of artistic expression inspired by that modeling.

I’d like to learn how this information works out for people:; please let me know, either by commenting directly on the website, or by emailing me. Hugh Kilmer

Preface to Original Text

Before the spoken word there was the language of symbols. Men and women have dedicated their lives to the study of symbols, and they continue to fascinate and beguile us. Art is the language of symbols, and figurative art may be interpreted as the most sophisticated symbol making, as it proved primitive society’s consciousness of itself. Primitive peoples used the most splendid model to make their images: their own enigmatic and complex bodies.

The archetype of the model has occupied a significant spot throughout the history of picture making. While figurative art passes in and out of vogue, it has never left us and never shall. The figure is art. It is to the visual artist what Shakespeare is to the performing artist. His rich and complex text is at once beautiful and homely, just as our human form. Nothing is as exciting and marvelous, and every serious artist and artist’s model understands this.

Perhaps this is why we choose so unconventional a career – why we are special enough to be the subject of art, immortalized in various media. . . why we are transformed when we are nude. . . why we are immune to the exquisite vulnerability of nakedness and why we are different from those who are not.

We become models for a myriad of different reasons… They are personal and complex, and defy psychosocial theory in that no experiential similarities exist among us. We are old and young, black and white, ivy-league-educated and high school drop-outs. We are the children of famous poets and nobody’s children. Some of us want to shape our generation while others of us are just looking to survive. Yet we are all driven into that romantic and mysterious place – the artist’s studio.

I feel compelled to add that I have never escaped a social function without first answering a score of questions about who we are, what we do, how and why we do it, what really goes on in the studio, and what relationship exists between the artist and the model in so unique a situation.

In short, people are enthralled by the fact that we must maintain (while stark naked) both an erotic vulnerability and professional objectivity. I explain to them that we can do all these things because modeling is a special skill — an art form in and of itself, and that those of us who practise it are artists whose task it is to inspire our fellow artists to create.

Chelsea Leger
ARTLINE Model and Artist Network

Acknowledgements for Original Text

Many thanks to models, artists, and teachers who have worked with me, and who have provided information and inspiration for this booklet. I particularly thank Jenny McNamara, who has worked with me for almost twenty years, Diane Elliot, the first model who made me recognize that modeling is a profession. Sue Riccobon through whom I learned to match model with material, David Thomas, Don Isenberg, Chelsea Leger (director of ARTLINE), who has reviewed this booklet and co-sponsors my work shops. Norm Kennedy, Donald Davis, Jenny and Christa Coogan, Mary Minard, Bern Loibi, November Belford, Liz Hollander, Lee Baxandall, Stephanie Silvia, David Utecht, Theresa Sinko and many others who have offered suggestions and encouragement. Thanks to Susan Shaftan and Paul Drexel of Hudson Artists at Home and Abroad, for sponsoring publication of this book. Thanks to Marilyn Stefano of Hoboken for word processing the manuscript, to Typeworks of Hoboken for graphic support, and to Minuteman Press of Jersey City for completing final typescript preparation, and for printing. Thanks to Support Services Alliance for allowing reprinting of their insurance program, which appears as Appendix E. Thanks to the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs (Maurice Fitzgibbons, Director) for encouragement and financial support. Special thanks to my wife, Beth, and to my children: Michael, Benjamin, Caroline, Anna, and Daniel, who have kept me aware, always, that the artist-model relationship, at its finest, is a relationship of love.

Special thanks to my son Michael Kilmer for encouraging me to share this material over the internet and for developing the website on which you are reading it now.  Michael is a performing artist and professional web designer and can be reached at

List of Illustrations

Beth Kilmer by Hugh Kilmer
Fran by Norm Kennedy
Nancy Zola by Jenny McNamara
Norm Kennedy by Jada West
Composite by Lori Perbeck
Theresa Sinko by Hugh Kilmer
Hugh Kilmer by Lisa Moran
Anthony Gottardis by Jada West
Nancy Zola by Nancy Zola
Home Page
Basics; Who Should Model
Practical Considerations; Exercises
Practical Considerations; Length of Sessions
Some Don’ts; When Not to Sign Model Release
Professional Suggestions, Types of Poses
Professional Suggestions, Practicing Poses
The Modeling Business, Portfolio
Advancement in the Field; Forming a Group