Just as the initial rush of the academic year was tapering off, and I was settling into a more relaxed routine, events conspired to test my flexibility.

First, seeking to fill in some of the gaps in my modelling year, I applied to do some work with a reasonably nearby college. They liked my CV and I was invited for an interview, which seemed to go well. However, I didn’t get the job. Perhaps the young male tutor didn’t feel comfortable at the prospect of an older male model. I don’t know.

Due to a lack of tutors, I have been standing in as a tutor myself at hen party life drawing sessions. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these are activities undertaken by groups of friends of the prospective bride before the wedding, corresponding to the men’s stag party. It is a purely recreational activity, usually with an all-female group, lasting just 1 hour, and frequently one part of a celebratory weekend. The models are usually young fit men, who often are not traditional life models. I did such a class with a first-time model who really looked the part, but seemed unsure about the job. The next week, we were due for a repeat, but with 3 hours to go, he called in sick. A flurry of messages failed to find a replacement, so as a last resort, it was decided that I would be both model and tutor. I arrived just in time to greet the 26 women, who had been for a lunchtime drink, and were then welcomed with the champagne provided by the organiser to soften the blow of the missing model. So with the 26 relaxed ladies and me in the venue, it was with some trepidation that, after a short briefing, I disrobed for the lesson. I need not have worried. The ladies were delightful, and the hour soon flew by, leaving them expressing what seemed like sincere appreciation. And I earned 2 fees!

The next day, a Sunday, at 1530, I got a message asking me to model the next morning at 0900. Fortunately, I was easily able to reorganise my life to accommodate this request.

Then on the Monday afternoon, I got another late request to model on Thursday evening. This time, a near overlap of times and the distance between events forced me to decline the invitation.

So overall, it has been an interesting week so far.

Warm-up poses

Student drawing

My first technological concern as I disrobed for this week’s classes was how to maintain adequate body temperature. With a failed heating boiler in my main place of work, I had to resort to small electrical heaters to achieve  a modicum of comfort, but the classes were completed.

With many beginners’ classes at this early stage of the academic year, I often hear tutors referring to lines through the figure. The usual start for a drawing of the figure is a vertical line down from the top of the head, from which the positions of various body parts can be plotted. Artists also need to check the alignment of reference points on the figure in order to achieve realism and conformity. Traditionally, these lines are visualised by holding  a pencil at arm’s length across the view of the model. To help the tutor explain this, I carry a useful little builder’s tool, a laser line projector. The one I use is made by Bosch, and is about 5 inches long and 1 inch diameter. It produces a neat red line that quickly allows the student to see the theoretical line that the tutor is asking them to use. There is probably some health and safety concern about such use, but I  just ask the tutor to tell me when he is likely to get near my face, so that I can close my eyes.

More generally, there is concern among life models about cameras. Traditionally, cameras are taboo in the life room, both to protect the model’s privacy and to discourage drawing copies of photograph. Now, everyone carries a phone and every phone contains a camera, so complete prohibition is impractical. Also, it is useful for a student to photograph their own work at various stages, so as to record the creative process. The advent of tablet computers with sophisticated drawing programmes has added another complication. If an artist uses a tablet for drawing, its lens will be pointed at the model. Some models try to control this by insisting that the lens is covered by tape. I see this as impractical, and simply ask students to use photographs just for their study work, and not to publish them. After several years of this policy, I have yet to find any embarrassing photos of me on the internet.

This has been a fairly routine week on the modeling front, but a busy one. On the busiest day, I modeled for 3 classes lasting 3 hours, 2 hours and 2.5 hours. The first was about 15 miles from home, the second within 1 mile of my house, and the third 40 miles away in the opposite direction from the first. This meant setting off for the first before 8am and returning from the last after 10pm. The timing between 1 and 2 was tight, but I had time between 2 and 3 for a rest and a meal. All 3 had a good number of students, which makes it more worthwhile.

The main problem this week has been the weather. It has turned distinctly colder, which is obviously a concern for a nude life model. At 2 of the locations, the heating system coped, but at the 3rd, in the biggest, oldest building, the boiler failed. The solution was to provide a 1kw electric heater. In a drawing studio big enough for some 30 students at easels, with 15ft high ceilings, this is woefully inadequate. By standing almost touching the heater, just far enough off to avoid burning, and taking frequent breaks to move and restore circulation, I was able to cope. However, the experience was far from ideal for me or for the artists working in their coats.

The pace of the classes progresses along 3 distinct streams. At one college, I was with a class of absolute beginners for 3 sessions. This was just like the previous week with another group, and next week will be the same with a 3rd group. In the 3 sessions, I hold a single pose each time, the first for a pencil line drawing, the second adding tone, again with pencil or graphite, the third a tonal drawing using charcoal. My 2 sessions at another college are with the same 2 groups each week, steadily progressing between techniques in their 1 class per week. Both again used a series of poses this week. The evening classes are for adult education. This week, they were ostensibly beginners, but there was some obvious variation of experience level. After a few short warm-up poses, I used just 1 long pose, seated on a stool.

Next week, the total number of classes will be the same, but fortunately with no more than 2 in any 1 day.

The title reflects the unexpected reaction of one new student this week. Somehow, this 18 year old male had missed the part of the briefing about life drawing that explained what he would be drawing. He arrived late for his first class, and the first thing he saw as he entered was me standing naked facing him. He promptly turned on his heels and left again. When the tutor found him and enquired about the problem, he asked if the model could be dressed, please. For that first lesson, he agreed to a compromise of drawing me from the waist up only. Fortunately, he was one of a group that had 3 x 3-hour classes with me during the week, so by the end he was able to conquer some of his inhibitions. It was a sad reflection of our society that a young person can still be so shocked by simple nudity.

That group was the largest and most challenging of the week. All of their classes used a single pose, 2 standing and 1 sitting on the floor, but all physically demanding. The remaining 2 sessions this week were more varied, with 2 different student groups and many much shorter poses. These were less stressful on the body, but required considerable mental activity to produce a wide variety of interesting poses that could be held for the required length of time. All were standing poses, and I probably used about 20 variations. Knowing the tutor, I could allow for an artistic interpretation of time – one of the 1-2 minute poses lasted 11 minutes!

So, now I am well back into the swing of things, and ready for an even busier week to come, this time with the same 5 core classes, plus 2 evening sessions. One of the latter falls after a day with 2 other classes, so that will be a tiring day.

I have now settled in to the routine of college work that will be the basis of my weeks from now until the end of the year. The 5 half days form 2 full days and 1 morning, which is good in leaving lots of space for other stuff. The downside is that the 2 full days each involve 2 locations, with a journey over the lunch break to get to the second. I would prefer to be in the same location, not least so that I can get some exercise during the break; particularly with these early sessions, 6 hours of standing still during a day can be quite a trial. However, in this business, there is little enough work to go around, without being choosy.

The long poses are broken by both my requirements to stretch muscles and the students’ need to get some rest. So a typical 3 hour lesson is 15 minutes student preparation, 35 minutes in pose, 5 minutes stretch, 35 minutes in pose, 20 minutes student break, 35 minutes pose, 5 minute break, 35 pose, ending with 10 minutes for clearing up and summing up lessons learned. So, with 4 periods in the pose, I need to have a means of accurately resuming after a break. The tutor helps by putting tape to mark where I touch the floor, and possibly using a pen to indicate where my hands touch my body, or where limbs cross. Students are also asked to check the position against their drawing. Unfortunately, with 20 or so artists in a circle around me, I often get conflicting opinions about the exact position required. Now, we have the technology for students just to photograph the pose for a later check. However, some tutors are wary of students using such photos as a basis for drawings, and some models worry about subsequent use of the photos. I have no such qualms; cameras are now ubiquitous, and I don’t think that many people will want to exchange pictures of me. To help get the body position correct, I carefully check what I can feel and see of my pose. For the head angle, I look carefully at what I can see, and where the binocular image of my nose touches objects in the room. It is important for a model to pick a point on which to focus, and to make this away from students’ faces; many find eye contact unsettling when they are new to the life studio. Unfortunately, it is quite common for someone or something to move into a position that obscures this point.

So, off to watch that impressively steep early learning curve.

As anticipated, the booked sessions for life modelling are now up to 5 half-days per week, beginning on Monday. With a couple of others to be confirmed, my spare time is rapidly disappearing. I expect all of the classes to start from the basics, with many students new to this discipline. For me, this means hard physical work. Typically, I will be required to use the same simple standing pose for an entire 3-hour class, but with short breaks every 30-40 minutes. The students will begin with line drawing, using pencils on cartridge paper, in order to get used to representing the proportions of the human form in a 2-dimensional form. After that, they will move on to tonal work, gradually introducing new media (charcoal, graphite, pastels, various types of paint) and increasing the difficulty of the poses. The more difficult poses for students will often be simpler for me, as, for instance, the challenge of foreshortening  may be posed by sitting or lying down.

In a slightly different sphere, this week sees the final product of a photographic project in which I took part. The photographer is holding an exhibition of the finished work in London, which we hope will be well received.

For the immediate future, my main challenge is in tidying up the garden as the end of the growing season approaches. So off I go…..

The last 2 months have been quiet in terms of life modelling: what has been termed “the clothed season”. I did a couple of days of summer school in July, doing introductory classes for new students that should be starting at college in September. There were also a few adult education sessions, the last being a full day in August. During that, I met an unusual combination among the students – a mother and daughter. The daughter is a German living in UK, and her mother had come over for a short visit. She spoke little English, so I had a chance to practise my German. It turned out that their home was not far from where I had lived in their country. It was perhaps indicative of our differing cultures that I was able to conduct this mundane conversation without any awkwardness, due to the German acceptance of nudity as a normal feature of life. Though I try my best to make it otherwise, in the UK we still generally find it difficult to get to that stage without some preliminary discussion of what is going on in the life drawing class situation.

Now, with less than a week to go to the start of the new academic year, students are enrolling, timetables are being finalised, and tutors are thinking about booking life models. This usually leads to clashes regarding my availability, but so far I have had an orderly start. I have a confirmed booking for Monday mornings and tentative booking for Monday afternoons. Another college wants 3 sessions (half days) each week, with days to be decided. That should take half of my working week, leaving potential for 5 more sessions of modelling or for my various other small jobs. For instance, next week I have 1 full day acting as a volunteer patient for my local medical school. There is a link between my motivation to help medical training and my desire to remove embarrassment from nudity, which I will explain at some stage.

It was reading Artmodel’s Museworthy post under the heading Disclosure that led me to introduce myself on here. She wrote about problems confronting a female life model in the USA, and the blog was copied to a UK forum for life models, leading to some lively discussion almost entirely supporting her point of view. My own experience is considerably different, but her writing reminded me of many aspects of my work that reflect what she has seen.

I am an English male life model. I have been regularly employed in this role for less than a decade, having pursued a completely different career for most of my life. I had dabbled with life modelling while at university as a means of raising money, but then had little opportunity to do more until recent years. Finding myself with more time on my hands, it was fortuitous that I saw an advertisement from a local college seeking models for their art classes. I was happy to give it ago, at the same time as applying for various other jobs. It was a slow start at first, but as I became more involved, I relished the challenge of the job. Mentally, I found it quite relaxing and a complete contrast to my former career, which demanded constant action and decisions. Physically, I came to realise that this was much more challenging than I remembered from my university days. As I increased my efforts to do a good job for the tutors and their students, so the results became better appreciated. By word of mouth, demand for my services increased to a level at which deconfliction became difficult. This was only for short periods, as schools and colleges are limited by term times.

Museworthy was disturbed by the attitude of male employers to female models. This is not something I see directly in the main, but she reminds me of the odd behaviour I do sometimes encounter. In particular, there are a few male tutors who seem distinctly uncomfortable working with a naked man. They will do their best to schedule female models for their classes. However, most of the teachers with whom I work are female, and exhibit no such hangups, being happy with male or female models. I have met the odd one who seems to want to make the point that although I am a big man, they are in charge, so they try to push my physical limits with the poses.

That is probably enough to introduce myself. If there is any interest, I will return with more details.

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