Steady work. Those are golden words for people in freelance professions. Steady work means steady money coming in, and for many that’s where the discussion ends. Go for the steady work. For those of us who work independently, that’s the closest we get to job security. In art modeling language, that would mean a long term booking, like a four week, five day a week painting class. Some painting classes even go on for six weeks, or, in some cases, an entire semester!
I have conducted my career differently, though. First of all, I don’t work in just one school, which means my jobs come from varied sources. There are many art models who work almost exclusively in one school, taking on the role of “house model”; they become the familiar model that everyone paints on a regular basis and sees all the time, and who is always available to them. That model is solely dependent on that one school for work and has no other place of employment. This is not me.
I’ve chosen to create my “steady work” not by scooping up the long term jobs, but rather by cultivating it; forging solid working relationships and, in some instances, friendships through professionalism, collaboration, and proper ethics. I’ve found that the good karma of a positive attitude pays off in the long run. For example, I do not cancel bookings I already have, to take a “better” job that’s offered later. I’m just not comfortable doing that. I wouldn’t like it if someone did that to me, so I can’t in good conscience do it to someone else. If a person made the effort to book me in advance, then they shouldn’t be canceled on. It’s that simple. I don’t care if it’s a sketch class at a local community center. A booking is a booking.
So I was presented with a situation this week where the model coordinator at one of the schools I work wants me to do a four week painting class starting in January. I already have several bookings at Spring Studios which conflict with that class, so I told her I couldn’t do it. Well, this didn’t go over very well, and I was actually asked to CANCEL those bookings so I could take the painting class! “You’re going to turn down a steady, four-week job for five little bookings?” she said to me. I took offense to that. They’re not “five little bookings” to Minerva. Or to me. Spring Studios is one of my very favorite places to pose. Plus, Minerva is my friend, and I have worked for her for some time now. Why should I screw her over because another school thinks it’s giving me a jackpot moneymaker of a job and can’t fathom why an art model would turn them down? They don’t seem to understand that I DO work steadily, every single week. And that’s not because I’m the greatest art model who ever lived and people are tripping over themselves to hire me. It’s because of a combination of things: yes I’m a good model, but I also put my heart and soul into my work, I’m reliable, I don’t cancel on people, I always return calls, and I try my very best to carry out my work schedule in a fair and ethical way. These are the reasons I work steadily, and not because I grab the “big bookings” at any cost. That’s ruthless, cutthroat stuff that requires a character trait I don’t possess.
Art models are independent contractors, which means that your personal ethics and honesty are more prominent and evident to others than if you were a regular employee working out of habit and obligation. Art models are in control of their schedules. And while the freedom of this job is a tremendous plus (in my opinion at least) it also puts the character of the model on display at all times; Does she show up on time? Is she respectful to others? Does she present herself well? This is a terrible pun, but art models are “exposed” all the time. We have nothing to hide behind – no co-worker to pass the blame on, no customer or client to blame, no faulty computer system to blame, etc. With art models it’s all us, the good and bad. If we mess up, it’s usually our fault. And by the same token, if we do well, it’s our triumph (that’s the good part!) Ok, I’ll make one exception – the subway! When that system malfunctions and inconveniences people, that’s not an art model’s fault. Even we can’t escape a stalled C Train!
So every one of my bookings at Spring Studios next year is staying put in the pages of my calendar. No cross outs, no way. Minerva gave them to me, and I won’t defile them. The painting class will have to find another model – an AVAILABLE one.