Brook Castrejón Solis, artists’ model booking agent, explains what it takes to make it as a figure-drawing model.
First, please tell me what you do.
I am one of a few artists’ model booking agents in the San Diego area. I book models for the Art Institute of California, San Diego (in Mission Valley), for UCSD Extension, for Sony Online Entertainment, and the ArtGym program at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park, as well as for a few local private painting and drawing groups.
Is there a big market for artists’ models in San Diego?
There is definitely a market, but it’s extremely competitive. Most of the community colleges have figure drawing classes, and there are open drawing sessions all over the San Diego area. The Athenaeum on Park Boulevard and Watts Atelier in Encinitas are two places that offer a large number of figure-based classes like portrait painting and extended pose figure drawing. Southwestern College, Cuyamaca College, Grossmont College, Palomar College, SDSU, the San Diego Art Department, the Art Academy of San Diego, and the Losina Art Center all employ art models (as independent contractors.)
So who are these models you work with? Any particular kind of person you’re looking for?
The models who are currently most in demand are men and women with toned bodies and ideal proportions, with classical and/or interesting character type facial features. But the most important characteristics I look for in my models are reliability, punctuality, overall professionalism, and the ability to create dynamic, interesting, inspiring poses. Of course, they also need to be able to hold those poses without shifting. I have found that dancers and artists tend to make some of the best art models, probably because of their understanding of how a pose translates from various angles, and from a heightened body-awareness.
Let’s talk about the modeling. What exactly does it consist of?
Most modeling work is nude, although there are limited opportunities for models to pose in costume or fully clothed. Models in San Diego work in 20-minute increments, with each posing segment followed by a five-minute break. A typical drawing session will begin with 10 two-minute poses to warm up and then progress to 4 fives, 2 tens, and then finish up with twenties or even a repeated forty-minute pose. Long pose sessions generally open with warm up gestures before the model takes a pose that will last the remainder of the session. Models can expect to work in 3-hour blocks.
What are some of the advantages of this type of work?
A big advantage to models is that they can create their own schedules. Many of them have day jobs or go to school, so they can pick up modeling gigs in the evenings or on the weekends. The pay is pretty good, too. Most places pay $20/hr.
Another plus is the wonderful artists you meet when you’re a model. The art community here is really warm and supportive. Also, depending on where models pose, they can get some excellent vicarious art instruction.
Also, figure drawing provides instant gratification. If a model is in a great pose, sometimes they’ll hear a murmured “beautiful!” or hear some applause afterwards. During breaks, they can wander the room and see how their poses worked from the differing vantage points.
What would you say are the most challenging aspects of the work?
The most challenging thing is not scratching when you have a really bad itch, or holding in a sneeze for the sake of the artists.
If models pose full time, it can be a challenge to constantly update their arsenal of poses, especially for quick pose classes where poses range from 30 seconds to five minutes. But finding new poses from looking at art, watching theater and by just standing in front of a mirror and trying things out can also be a fun and rewarding part of the job.
Modeling can take its toll if poses aren’t crafted carefully to avoid limbs falling asleep, muscle knots, and in the worst cases, nerve damage. My models pride themselves on filling artists’ pose requests, but they may have to modify some poses to ensure their own well-being and their ability to stand up afterwards.
For newbies, the most challenging thing is often actually taking their robes off for the first time in front of a group of strangers. It can be downright scary. But it is vital for a model to shrug off any bodily insecurities along with their robe, and this is a moment when time spent on the other side of the easel is extremely helpful. The more life drawing experience someone has, the more likely it is that they have observed a wide range of body types and posing styles, and that they’ve arrived at the conclusion that it doesn’t take a “perfect” body to make an excellent model.
It sounds more grueling than one might expect. Do you have many models who do this work full-time?
I do have a few models who pose full-time or very close to it. They usually are able to get in a variety of session types, from quick-pose to long-portrait.
Full-time models have to be very pro-active in finding work, and they have to do a lot of driving.
Turnover happens, but not as often as with most entry-level jobs. My core group has been with me for several years although there are some models who just pick up a booking every couple months or so.
What would be the best way for a newbie to get started?
Go to a live drawing session to see what it’s like. Sketch the poses you find interesting (even if you can only draw stick figures, these sketches can be the best reference for your own poses.) If you’re too intimidated to draw, at least observe closely.
Notice that it’s not all about being nude. It’s about giving the artists inspiring and interesting poses. Look at a lot of art. See what inspires you. Try out some of the poses at home in front of a mirror. Rotate the poses to see how they work from different angles. Work on creating poses at different levels: standing, stretching, crouching, sitting, semi-reclining, reclining. Pose head to toe. Make sure even your hands and feet are doing something interesting.
Can you offer any additional advice for someone interested in trying their hand at modeling for artists?
Being a good model is not about being naked in front of others. It is about being a professional offering a valuable service. So, act like a professional. Arrive fifteen minutes early. Time your breaks. Don’t talk or chew gum while you’re posing. Robe up when you’re done.