life modelling london
Photo by Whitney Waller used under CC

Posing for life drawing classes is a pretty decent way to supplement your income, but you have to pretty comfortable in your own skin if you’re going to be nude in an art class. But if you’re curious, and you want to make a bit of cash on the side, it can be a regular gig.  Chloe Marshall explains how to get into it,  and how to deal with staying comfortable while you pose.

What made you decide to become a life drawing model?

A friend of mine told me she did it at uni, and I decided to give it a go! There’s this lovely evening session in Glasgow called All The Young Nudes and that’s where I cut my modelling teeth.

How long have you been doing it?

Off and on for about six years.

How much money can you make from life modelling?

£10-15 an hour out here in darkest Warwickshire, probably more in London. (Ed’s note: Classes can range from around £12-20 in London)

How often do you model for life drawing classes?

Once or twice a month. The classes are mostly for a couple of hours on weekday evenings.

What advice or tips would you give to people thinking about giving it a go?

Relax! No one’s judging your body. If you’re experienced they might judge your modelling ability, but everyone will be super nice to you if you’re new—I promise!

Not sure? Ask about chaperones. If you’re going to a new class outside of a school, university or college context, and you’re not sure about the vibe, ask the organiser if you’re allowed to bring a chaperone. If they say no, don’t work for them.

Get kitted out before you take any off. The absolute bare minimum kit you can get by with is flip flops or slippers (art rooms are mucky!) and a robe or wrap. I also take an old single bed sheet to lie on, and a hot water bottle in winter for chillier venues.

The obvious bit. Be clean. Have a shower close to the session time. If you walk or cycle around, arrive in plenty of time to cool down and stop sweating before you get undressed, or you’ll get chilly really quickly! No need to do any specific grooming. Just take yourself along as you usually are.

Take breaks. An art-teacher minute is not a conventional minute. They stretch and morph impossibly. Ask for breaks if you need them—to warm up, grab a drink, eat something, whatever. Most sessions have a comfort break in the middle, but don’t be afraid to have a quick stretch in the middle of a pose—just give the class warning before you move.

Do you sit for the same class, or does it vary?

I sit regularly for a few different places. Two different evening classes held in schools, one in a community space, and two group sessions in artists’ own workspaces. I have worked regularly for college evening classes, and daytime lessons too. Usually, art teachers or people organising classes want variety, so if your first session goes well you’ll likely end up on a long rotation of models of all shapes, colours and sizes. Be still-ish, on time and reliable

How many poses do you have to sit or stand in during a session?

It depends on the type of class. For painting classes, you might do the same pose for two hours—though you’re unlikely to be asked to do this as a novice. For life drawing classes, the format might run something like this:

  • 4 x 5 mins / 5 x 2 mins then 2 x 5 mins
  • 2 x 15mins
  • Break
  • 2 x 30 mins / 1 x 60 mins

They might set poses for you, or give you free reign. In both cases, try and relax into the suggested posture and check for movement, tension or cramp-potential! If I’m honest, it takes practice to nail this bit down, and pins and needles are an occupational hazard you just learn to live with.

Any funny stories from your experience so far?

You get great comments when people are struggling “she’s a bit squat… her legs are far too skinny… no-one’s neck is really that long…” that sort of thing! And a claim to fame: James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley’s Hugo) has come once or twice to one of the evening classes I sit for!

If you’re interested in becoming a life model, the Register of Artists’ Models might be a good place to start.

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