Examples of Life Modelling Poses

Here are some pictures of recent poses I have done. If you are about to try life modelling for the 1st time and have not seen a model posing, this can give you some ideas for how to pose. It is a very individual activity however and must be necessarily adapted to suit each model.

by Deborah Collins

These six 10 minute poses demonstrate some varieties of balance. One is leaning on a chair; there is one pose with weight distributed evenly between the legs; the others have most weight on one leg. The top left hand pose is a good example of a twist, whereby the body faces one direction lower down, then another further up. Artists tend to love a twist; it is a challenge, but also makes the pose more interesting and lets them see more of you from one position.

One leg up on the seat gives more levels to the pose. Arms leaning back makes the pose feel open and lends complementary triangles of negative space, shown here balancing the shape of the upward bent knee.

I am skinny so taking advantage of my angles works for me. Different body types do well to emphasize their features accordingly

Here my back is arched forward gently creating a different impression. My back naturally forms an ‘S’ shape which artists frequently want to draw. Posing to accentuate the ‘S’ however is not good for my back if done excessively. Sometimes I need to give it a break and rebalance by curving the other way. As a model it is vital to understand these needs of the body so you don’t over do it.

A pose showing the curve of the back

The same 10 minute poses as above, from a different point of view

Longer poses tend to be more natural so the model may settle into them. Picture by Deborah Collins

Some artists use longer poses to concentrate on portrait. These are by tutor Cathy Bird

Elbow to knee connection creates negative space and helps artists to measure

Negative space is the area in between which is not the body, and may be formed by limbs connecting with the body and creating a shape. Artists use particular measurements in a pose to relate to other lengths to help them achieve an accurate sense of proportion. They often hold a pencil up in line with a pose and with one eye open measure how much of the pencil length is taken up by the head for example. They then use that measurement to compare other details in the picture. The length of the head may be comparable to say that of the arm touching the knee.

Here is a post I wrote a while back about how particularly to pose in the group situation at Spirited Bodies;


That was for a previous event and I would like to add that on the forthcoming occasion – 21st July – there will be some shorter timed poses to warm up, from 5 to 15 minutes. Then there will be a period of freestyle posing when models may change pose when they prefer.

There will also be at least one timed half hour pose when I would like all models to remain still at the same time. This is good for feeling what life modelling is like, as well as giving artists a better chance of creating a good picture!

Also I have just found this http://jasonandthegoldenpose.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/finding-your-happy-place/#comment-103 which is the blog of a male model describing his experience as a life model. He’s got some good advice and covers many topics from what to think about whilst posing to what to expect financially from being an artist’s model.

Becoming Sexualised, Thick-Skinned & Engaging

For some women, the decision to try life modelling may precipitate a considerable shift in the way they are perceived by their peers, family and any other acquaintances.  If  you’ve never been perceived as a femme fatale, I’m not saying it’s guaranteed when you bare all for artists, however the confidence which you begin to manifest regardless of your traits pertaining to conventional beauty, may attract new attention.

What you do with this is of course your own business! The point is if your associates are surprised by your choice of activity/occupation, they may treat you differently. This can range from overnight being considered some sort of prostitute, to the pleasant surprise and genuine appreciation that you are comfortable in your skin. There is still a lot of taboo about nudity even here – London – and now in 2011. I hope this dissipates, but sadly women from certain cultures may be a long way off such freedom.  If I tried to recruit among some of them I’d surely receive death threats.

Obviously not everyone cares to try the open nudity thing! Including those among us who are quite comfortable with themselves, while others will consider it unnecessarily provocative, and as going against their higher principles.

The effects of life modelling are individual to each of us.  If you have a bold, independent persona then you may hardly be affected, or on a different angle it may be the peace and stillness which makes an impression.

There is an undeniably sexual element to life modelling.  While the traditional mainstream strand of the scene has no business acknowledging this,  it is invariably a factor, though not ever present.  It’s no surprise that the most sought after models for commercial artists looking to sell work, are young(ish) female slim or curvy dancers or performers.  As it stands most models fall into this category, but for that reason, other types corner their own niche more easily. There is a demand for all types, and what is most important is that the model enjoys what they are doing and exudes presence, connecting with artists.

The upshot of the attention received as an artist’s model is that one must have or develop a thick skin. You may need to be able to deflect unwanted attention while remaining professional; you must also be prepared to put up with being discussed as if an object during an art class. Each part of your body is considered as a technical detail in a landscape to be captured on paper. It is measured – though not up close unless it is for sculpture in which case calipers are wielded against you – and discussed as mass, tone, bulk and bone.

Other untutored groups may operate in ambient silence almost holy for its concentration.

Guidelines may be given on poses preferred, but usually choice of pose is the model’s prerogative. Each model it ought to be understood, knows his/her body best and further, poses are produced in sequence. By this I mean that there is often little time to relax between poses, so one tends to follow a pose with a countering poise, sharing the stress in alternating muscle groups.  Other factors of performance may come into play, so that a sequence appears to tell a story, or a model directs her gaze to a fresh direction with each new move.

One thing I noticed with the Spirited Bodies event, was that the new models had something we professionals lost a long time ago!! A certain element of rabbits-caught-in-the-headlights did come to mind. This made them unquantifiably fascinating to watch. How they unfolded with each new pose and with each moment of being there, just being there. Their faces of shock and bewilderment turning slowly sometimes to curiosity and engagement.  I was awed, fixated and unmovable for a while myself just watching. I’d never seen so many artists there (indeed it was a record-breaking turn out).