Art Models

How to Become An Artist's Model

by Kelly Borsheim On this page:
  • How Important is Physique?
  • What It Takes to be an Artist's Model
  • What to Expect During a Modeling Session
  • How to Get Jobs Modeling for Artists
  • A Word About Posing in the Nude
  • This May be a Non-issue for You, But . . . (Visitors, Robes)
  • On the Personal Issues
  • How to Lose Modeling Jobs
  • Questions and Answers

art model poses for figure artist while drawing life drawing modeling"At first, one sees the person who is modelling; but little by little, all of the possible sculptures that could be made come between artist and model." (Alberto Giacometti)

"They must bear the mould of their ancestry. There is a duality: they can be themselves and something else at the same time. They are formal metaphors." (Graham Sutherland)

"When I have a model who is quiet and steady and with whom I am acquainted, then I draw repeatedly ‘til there is one drawing that is different from the rest, which does not look like an ordinary study, but more typical and with more feeling." (Vincent van Gogh)


Because I sculpt and paint the figure, I am often asked if I hire models and also how does one start a modeling career? First of all, let me say that I do hire models on occasion. I generally work with those I know and trust. The second question is what I want to address here. It is possible to be an artist's model without being nude -- sometimes it is acceptable to wear bathing suits or such. There are also times when a model may pose in various costumes. However, this page is specifically about the nude model.

How Important is Physique?

Let me preface by pointing out that physique is not the main issue for an artist's model. Artists study the figure - all kinds of figures and in all age groups. (However, nude models are usually age 18 and above.) Some artists who have developed their own style and look (or have a specific IDEA they wish to convey in their work), however, may be interested in some shapes/ages/faces and not others. Do not take that personally. What IS important is that the model can hold a pose for a significant period of time. For painting and drawing that may be as long as 30 minutes at one time. (I usually allow models for sculpture to pose for 5-10 minutes at a time. However, I sometimes want more animated poses, so it is a trade off.)

What It Takes to be an Artist's Model

If you want to be a model, then practice holding still. That's not as much of an issue for photographers, but it is imperative for artists who draw and paint. And look for and try interesting poses. Some of the best models I know or have heard about study yoga. Models generally create the poses and sometimes are given suggestions by the artists. Good imaginative, energetic poses will get you hired more often that not. A typical drawing session usually starts out with about 10 one-minute poses. One-minute poses are considered warm-ups or short poses - often referred to as "gestures". This is the time to do the more difficult and interesting poses (reaching, twisting, contortions). Other pose lengths are 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and longer poses - up to 30 minutes. A good model spends time coming up with interesting, dynamic poses and takes pride in being creative in this area, which affects how often he is hired. A timer is used for longer poses, but the model usually counts in his head for the gestures and moves into the next pose automatically as the artists keep sketching and changing paper as needed.

I realize that I keep using the word "interesting." It is the most appropriate word because it can mean practically anything. From my point of view, interesting means . . .
If you would like to continue reading this article, please visit the real pages on my Web site at:

Thank you for your interest.  Art models are always appreciated, especially when they take the work seriously and are easy to work with.  Happy reading ... and hopefully, posing.

~  Kelly

P.S.  Another article of interest, from the model's point of view: 

10 Things You Might Not Know About Nude Models


Kelly Borsheim: sculptor, painter, writer, and teacher

The Art:
The blog:
Tel.  (+39) 334.245.0129  [Florence, Italy]

The book [available around the globe via Amazon]:  
"My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy" 


Anonymous said...

Dear Kelly and my fellow classic nude art model! I have been an art model for at least 5 years the area and city where I live the demand has been a bit slow but your information, advice and candidness were and are a great help to me and I enjoy your newsletters immensely! For anyone female or male wanting to be a nude art model I would highly recommend they read your books and contact you direct when you have time to talk!

Very Truly Yours
Fellow Art Model
Columbia SC

Rodrigo said...

Hello Kelly . Thank you very much for your advice . I'm from Chile and I write with the help of google translator. I'm nude model for human figure drawing classes, painting, sculpture.
I work as a model for classes and for artists. Your words are dee much help. You agreegue in facebok Thank you!

Rodrigo said...

Hola Kelly . Muchas gracias por tus consejos . Soy de Chile y te escribo con la ayuda de traductor de google . Soy modelo de desnudo para dibujo clases de figura humana, pintura , escultura .
Yo trabajo como modelo para clases y para artistas . Tus palabras son dee mucha ayuda . Te agreegue en facebok Muchas gracias !

Kelly Borsheim Artist said...

Thank you and gracias! Art modeling is hard work. I wrote those pages many years ago after working a lot with new models. As I mentioned in the article, it is a job that one has little training since normally a model works alone and unless the model is also an artist, s/he may not have any idea of what happens in the privacy of the studio space. No colleagues to watch and follow their lead!

So, I am happy that these pages help you know what to expect and how to work.
Thanks so much for helping the art happen!