What does it involve and is it for me?
First of all you need to decide whether this really is for you: this matters regardless of whether you're squeamish about your body or not. Bear in mind that a bunch of complete strangers will be staring at you intently for hours on end – whilst you're naked. Expect life-modelling sessions to last around 3 hours, with a couple of breaks for rest.
One of the ironies of life modeling is that you're more likely to be in demand if you have an interesting or unique body shape (remember Lucian Freud's ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping'?). Life modeling is about having an interesting look rather than being beautiful or in top shape. Don't let paranoia about how you look stop you.
However, you do need to be comfortable with both nudity and a certain amount of discomfort and boredom. You might also be asked to create your own poses: get practicing in front of the mirror and, if you're thinking of life modeling on a regular basis, consider taking some life modelling lessons yourself to get a feel for what art directors may want you to do. It is also fairly common to ask two models to pose together – you may be asked to pose with a member of the opposite sex so ask yourself honestly how comfortable you are with the idea.
How much can I make?
Pay varies widely but you can expect, on average, between £8 and £12 per hour.
Here's a useful breakdown of hourly rates for life models by country:
- London: £11.06
- Rest of England: £9.77
- Scotland: £8.48
- Wales: £7.80
These days life modelling is a professional occupation and most employers regard life models as employees – you'll probably find there isn't much work going that pays in cash so prepare to have to work on PAYE and supply a National Insurance number.
How do I get started?
Your first port of call should be local art colleges and education centres. Here a few contacts to get you started.
- The Art Academy
- Royal British Society of Sculptors – contact them for a list of figure sculptors in your area
- The London Sketch Club – contact them to offer your services to members
Keep an eye out for adverts in shop windows and local papers too – your local Gumtree may also throw up the odd life modelling job too so check in every now and then. It may also be worthwhile posting on Gumtree yourself stating your availability for life modelling.
There's also a mega handy website The Art Models Register (RAM) – a sort of unofficial life modelling union – which features jobs all around the country. All the jobs are restricted to RAM members only – but membership only costs £31 per year so it's probably worthwhile signing up if you're struggling to find work elsewhere.
Being on the public list of RAM members could make a big difference. Some colleges and private art groups will only employ RAM members and Bare Facts model booking service for London also only supports RAM models. London applicants must audition at the life drawing workshops in Holloway or Richmond but RAM does state that most applicants are accepted. Outside of London, there is no need to audition so you join as an Associate Member initially. Then, once you've sent two tutor references from jobs you can convert to full membership at any time, for no extra charge.
If you decide life modelling isn't quite for you, there may be work out there as a hand or foot model. Check out websites ‘Hand Models 1' and ‘Derek's Hands' for more information.
One for the girls…
Fancy a hen party with a difference? Why not mix culture with a bit of naughtiness and book a life drawing session with a male model? Yes, a naked male model!
There are plenty of companies out there that will offer you a life drawing session for your last days of freedom. Many are very flexible and will cater for your needs. Sessions last from an hour to 90 minutes and prices vary from around £65-100 per session or around £20 per person.
Most companies are flexible with the venue too. You can arrange it yourself at a hotel or at your own home, or they can arrange it for you. Take a look at websites henlifedrawing and hennites for ideas and more information.