A Painter’s Model

Today, I have taken a day off of painting and instead posed for a painting. So, I thought a few words on that aspect of my existence would be in order, as it is closely tied to my decision to become a painter.

Namely, the curious thing about painting and myself is that this relationship first started by me being painted, to only later evolve to me being the painter. And while I clearly love the later bit, I feel somewhat divided about the former. Here’s why:

Most of the times when I model, I pose for my husband. Occasionally other painters paint alongside him, but the project is his and mine primarily. This means that when he paints me, Marc and I jointly chose the location, the pose and the clothes. Subjectively speaking, this is the fun part: creating a beautiful work of art together and sharing a unique artistic experience, each on our own side of the canvas. In fact, being able to witness the magic of the process on the other side of the canvas was largely an eye opener into how amazing the life of an artist is and how much I want to live it myself. So, from that point of view, I feel happy and grateful to pose.

Objectively speaking, however, being a model for artists is considered an extremely boring business. In fact, it is considered to be not only boring, but also quite painful, depending on the pose a model has to hold. Undeniably, there is some truth to that too, especially when you get out of the la-la land of posing for your spouse and into the world of posing for other painters. Yet, there are ways to make it, if not entertaining, than at least bearable. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you’re as comfortable as one can be – once the painting has started, there is no changing of the pose. So, you what to make sure you will not commit to a pose you can’t sustain for prolonger periods.
  • If the pose allows, find a way for to amuse yourself or be productive while modeling – In most of the paintings I posed for, I would either read, write or take online language courses.

For instance, while this painting was painted, I was listening to Italian language lessons on my computer.

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Here, I was reading a very entertaining book by my brother in law.

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And here, another great book, which I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t finished yet.

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In this painting, I was writing a chapter of my own book.

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And here, I would have been really bored, if I wasn’t tormented by the idea of a hornet bite from above or a shake bite from below. Stomping on the ground helps to avoid the later, or so I told myself.

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In any event, let’s keep going…

  • If you’re being painted outside, make sure you’re protected. – More precisely, I would strongly recommend you ware lots of sunscreen, a bug repellant and a hat (if the painting allows). I realize that the photos above look quite idyllic, but the reality is that it was insanely hot in most of these instances (Marc actually got a heat stroke after finishing one of these paintings), and everybody involved was getting massacred by bugs (mosquitos mainly). The message being: posing is already hard enough on its own, so if you’re being painted outside, make sure you’re exposed to the elements as little as one can be.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for a break. – It’s easy to get into your head that a masterpiece depends on your endurance. Be that as it may, your ability to function properly after the painting session is over, and go on with your life, depends on taking frequent breaks. When I first started posing, I would literally wait to ask for a break until something started hurting. As I’ve learned later, posing alongside a professional model in a fine art studio, models are not only taking constant breaks (every 20 min, and using a timer to make sure they do), but they are actually the ones dictating the work v. rest balance. Now, it is true that painters get a lot shorter window of opportunity to achieve what they want when painting an outdoor, rather than a studio, figure painting. If that’s the case, you as a model might want to give them a bit more leeway. But still, don’t repeat my mistake and wait for a break until you get so stuck in your pose that you can barely get out of it.

To conclude, as a model, treat yourself kindly. And as a painter, take note of the fact that while posing may not be intellectually challenging, it can be very physically strenuous. So, do unto your models as you would have them do unto you. After all, you never know, one day your model may be painting you 😉