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Life Class (drawing) modelling

By MidgePhoto, written 1528499910

Note: The author has not life-modelled and probably should not.

Modelling for drawing or painting with one artist (or a group or class with tutor) is one of the areas of work open to models and can complement photographic and other modelling work.  It seems to be generally enjoyed by those doing it.

Finding the work

The local art centre, university or college may well have a course or session, and is likely to appreciate knowing of a willing (or just interested) model.

There is a website for artists models with advice and notices - the RAM website (Register of Artists Models):  http://modelreg.co.uk

Many models here on PurplePort have modelled for life-drawing and other traditional art activities, and they seem generally helpful.

Life drawing/modelling is to be added to the existing categories of work or interest on PP, in due course.  So you can tick that and be searchable.  See https://purpleport.com/group/bugs-errors-suggestions/163852/Suggestion--Life-Drawing-as-model-work-option/page/9999999/?referrer=midgley#last

The usual conduct of a session

You will typically be expected to hold a short series of poses for just a few minutes each. The artists warm up by doing rapid sketches. Perhaps 5 of 2 minutes each.

There might be a couple of intermediate length poses (say 15 minutes).

You then go into a static pose that you will be expected to hold for quite a long time (perhaps 2 hours with a break).


This is generally forbidden.  Classes of young people may have their mobile phones sequestered.  A partial exception is sculptors, and even there the pose is likely to be recorded with the model clothed.



Make sure you note on your diary what sort of drawings you are posing for. One model arrived in a slight rush, strode into the class and threw off her robe, to be reminded - in front of a surprised-looking class - that today was just faces [1]. It isn't always full-figure nude.

Look at some life drawings, and think about and try out some poses before your first session.

Arrive slightly early to the studio. Warm up, go through the poses, etc, and perhaps help setup.

"Make sure you use the loo before taking up the pose, two hours is a long time with your legs crossed." (IanWarnerPhotography)

Ensure the space is warm. ("Take portable heaters [2]...yes, even in summer! Staying still and relaxed whether nude or scantily dressed for so long, you become cold very quickly." (CTE)

Choose your positions or poses carefully. What may feel comfortable after a minute might not be so pleasant 15 minutes in.

Relax. Deliberately. If circumstances allow, do a few minutes of relaxation exercises before you start.

If your muscles are tense or you are stressed as you go into a pose then you are more likely to cramp up. Ask the teacher to make chalk marks on the ground to show where your feet or whatever are, so you can resume the same pose after a break.

Learn to flex and relax your muscles without altering your position. Then you can ease the cramps a bit without changing position. Guardsmen are taught to tense and relax their calf muscles every so often as that reduces the chances of them fainting.

Have something to think about. Compose your shopping list, lan a holiday, or dream up a short story.

Examples of life drawing and poses:


Recurrent advice given on PurplePort is to enjoy it, to have fun.

If you have never been in a life class you may be surprised how formal it all is. You do not wander around starkers! You walk to the podium in a robe. Your robe is brought to you when you break (do wear it). The artists will usually be very quiet and the whole atmosphere is like being in a library!

You will be surprised how quickly you find you have forgotten about being nude.


Don’t stress either. You don't have to stay unduly still. You can still scratch an itch, perhaps depending where, move a hair out of your eyes, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask to move if you’re physically in pain or shake out a hand that’s gone dead. Most groups are lovely and understand that you’re a human being.

Expect mini-breaks between long poses where you can stretch, walk about, and drink tea. If not offered, make sure you ask for these basic needs when you need them. Depending on the duration of your assignment, you are entitled to a break in the middle.

Make sure you stretch properly in between poses.

Know what poses you can sustain for the various periods. The longer pose would normally be seated or reclining. Avoid poses with your arms raised above your head unless you have proven to yourself you can do it. Even 5 minutes is a long time with arms raised. Do your most dynamic poses first since you won't be holding them for long with the first set, and then gradually simplify the poses as you get into the longer sets.  Aim to do a variety of poses. Standing, sitting, crouching and lying. This gives the artists a variety of shapes to draw from. The class leader should make it clear for each pose how long it is for. If they don't then don't be afraid to ask.

Rotate yourself around when posing, so you don't leave one artist in the far corner just drawing the back of your head or your feet [3] for the whole session. Avoid making or maintaining eye contact with an artist, as this may disconcert them.  

Life models move, that is part of the artists' challenge, so don't stress, just try not to move a lot. Settle into your pose as early as you can to minimise change. If you need to ease it a bit then try to move one bit at a time to minimise distraction (e.g. a hand or a foot, and back into place). The tutor should always make sure you are comfortable and if at any point you are struggling holding a pose then let them know so you can have a 2 minute break, or even change the pose.

And don't twist your back


By all means talk to people. Have a look at pictures. Young students in their first class may be reticent, the mostly retired people who do various classes are likely to be amiable.  Recognition of the model from the drawings or paintings is said to be unlikely - charitably we may assume this is because artistic impression and intent are more important than the specific features, and the appearance of the major parts of the body interests the artist rather than fine detail. 


As with modelling for photography life-drawing assignments might be offered in various places. At least one reportedly reputable artist has drawn a model in his hotel room (see First Life Drawing Session Tomorrow, Any Advice?). This seems no more remarkable than doing a photoshoot in a hotel room, perhaps where someone is working away from home.

Some may be in purpose-built artists' studios whilst others in local authority buildings, adult education centres, and the like. There is one in the back room of a pub in Chagford, Devon. One model I know conducts sessions at her home.

Things to take

The tutor or artist will generally provide any props they want (if any) otherwise an uncluttered pose may be preferred. You might ask in advance what items they have in their studio so as to have a rough idea of what you can interact with (e.g. chair, stool, yoga mat, pillows, etc). If you are invited to select and bring something then keeping it simple is probably best. The artists are more interested in the shapes you create and the emotion you can convey than any accessories. Indeed, they can draw extra bits and add them in later - it isn't just photographs that get post-production and additions from stock.

You might take some body oil to help define muscles and something to model with (such as a long white drape).

Credits and references

Lili Thorpe

Lili Thorpe asked a question about this topic which will be asked again. This article condenses the advice of several people in a long discussion into one document.  I hope it helps.


LifeDrawingArtist pointed to good advice online at the website http://modelreg.co.uk saying their set of guidelines for models and artists/employers is useful and inviting you to drop him a line if you have any other questions.

Leigh Anne

Leigh Anne described her routine and offered advice.

Nick McGrath



Leaf was nervous the first time she modelled nude for her local art school.  "I had no idea what to expect, and I am naturally very shy, so the thought of a large group of students all in a circle around me, looking directly at me, studying me, was intimidating.  But very quickly got used to it. it is actually a really good job."

If the people drawing you are students, they will probably not interact with you.

If it is a 'life long learning class' or similar, it will be full of lovely people of mixed ages who are often regulars to the class, and are really friendly and supportive.

My classes are usually 2 - 6 hours long. I usually am asked to start with some 5 minute poses first to warm up, then a longer pose, which may last for the rest of the session. They mark out where I'm sitting, so I can move when I get breaks. I usually sit for 40 mins or so at a time. I recommend very natural poses, not twisting too much. Don't put too much weight on any one limb or particular part of your body. Try to spread your weight. Try to relax into the pose, as soon as you can. You don't want to be tense. And the sooner you relax into a pose, the better, as you'll shift in your position when you do this. If you need to move because you're uncomfortable, try just moving a hand or a foot at a time, whilst keeping the rest of your body really still. Any movement will be distracting to the artists, so try to avoid it or contain it.

Don't cycle or walk up a giant hill to your classes, like I used to do. As soon as you stop still, you'll start to sweat! I've stood in front of a class many a time, and visibly sweated. Literally, dripping from me, running down my body, down my crack and all. One artist painted in lots of ink splatters to represent my perspiration!

Do not eat too much beforehand. No beans or anything like that lol! Bring water, and something sweet. You'll feel sleepy so sugar is helpful.

I recommend staring at one spot on the ground, to keep your balance, and to make sure your head stays in the same position. If I'm seated, I usually close my eyes after a while.

I go into a serene and meditative state when I am life modelling. I also come up with bizarre ideas for shoots whilst I'm sitting there - most of my surreal images are a result of this! It's a good time to start thinking over problems, solutions, and plans for the future. It's wonderful to have such time to think - a real luxury!

If you are worried about them being strangers, and feel intimidated, go round and talk to everyone. Tell them it's your first time. They will all be supportive. Talk to them about their drawings on your break - their techniques, materials used, etc. By the time you get back for the second part after your break, you'll feel like you're in good company. I love to see how others have drawn me, it's very interesting, and they will love some feedback from you!


There is a PP group for life models and artists for discussion, etc.  https://purpleport.com/group/life-models-and-artists/ 


Similar but distinct

Figure modelling and portrait modelling for artists are also worth considering. (They may deserve an article)

Figure modelling is much the same as life but clothed. The model wears tight fitting clothes such as leggings/yoga pants and a vest top so the shape of the body is visible.

For portrait modelling  one model "dress up with a theme. An interesting neckline on clothing is essential, hair ornaments such as flowers, a hat or a statement necklace go down well with artists. I have previously dressed in a folk dress or as a Hollywood star for portrait. If anything I have found that artists have preferred a model making an effort with their outfit for portrait rather than turning up in everyday attire."




[1] This may be apocryphal. It falls into the category of stories too good to check.

[2] https://purpleport.com/portfolio/colonel556/image/3309544/Model/?type=tag&tags=life%20pose&referrer=studiof11 (heater in use with pose)

[3] Unless, I suppose, they really want to.



And finally, here is an amusing take on the live drawing studio from Blower Lyon