I just got home from working an art modeling triple. Yes, you read correctly – a triple! Two shifts of figure drawing at the Studio School on 8th Street, morning and afternoon, then a long subway ride up the Lexington Line to the National Academy for evening portrait drawing. I’m physically tired for sure, but I think a good portion of that is attributed just to travel exhaustion.
And though my legs ache and a cramp is still pinching in my lower back, it’s my mind that requires the most decompression right now. Why? Because during all those hours and hours of posing in quiet art studios, holding still in one place for ten or twenty minutes at a time, you are trapped with your own thoughts. Like a hostage. And that, my friends, is quite possibly the most challenging, unsettling, and crazy aspect of this job. Many times, curious artists ask me, “What do you think about while you’re posing? Don’t you get bored?” The answer: sometimes. but not as often as you might think.
During posing, the art model watches the artists, but not too much to avoid the “darting eyes syndrome”. Or the model observes her surroundings; every detail of the room to the point of minutae, like the paint drippings and splatters on the floor. I once noticed blue paint splatters on an exit sign over the door, a good ten feet off the ground and spent five minutes wondering how that could have happened. I also noticed that the ceiling of the big drawing room at the Studio School looks like a spaceship.
Or the model contemplates life, and that’s when things get personal and confusing and emotional. I spent an entire class last week thinking about the ex-boyfriend I ran into recently, and about how good he looked and then started to ponder whether I should give him a call. This is a person who caused me a great deal of heartache, and here I was posing for work actually considering calling the guy! Thank god for the timer beeping loudly at the end of my pose. That little gadget promptly snapped me out of my momentary insanity.
Less drama-filled and much more mundane are my thoughts of errands I need to run and housechores I’ve procrastinated and bills I forgot to mail. Thrilling stuff. But hey, I’ve organized a lot of my life while posing quietly and motionless for art classes. Really, if it wasn’t for art modeling I’d never remember to renew my subscription to Yoga Journal Magazine. And that’s important!
So if you’re an artist and you’ve ever wondered what’s going through the model’s head while she’s posing, here are the possibilites in a nutshell: the origins of paint splatters and broken easels, past (or present) romantic woes, and grocery lists and ConEd bills. Hopefully there’s no visible evidence of any of these thoughts in the drawings!