Ethics and Integrity in Model Bookings

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.

The Power of Gesture

I am still trying to figure out if I am simply a conscientious, dedicated art model who brings her work home with her, or just a narcissistic, 30-something female exhibitionist. Allow me to explain, dear readers.

Today is Sunday, and on Sundays I either take a cue from god and rest, or do housechores. I’ve decided to combine the two on this day. After hitting a impasse with the NY Times crossword puzzle (very frustrating this week!) and consuming a pot of ridiculously strong coffee, I decided to tackle the laundry/dusting/vacuuming trifecta. With the caffeine surging through my body I really had little choice. Needed to move around.

I lugged my vacuum cleaner upstairs to clean the carpet in my “yoga room”. In that room is a full-length mirror which comes in very handy when I want to check my alignment in warrior poses. While I was up there, I did some stretches. Then, while I was at it, I struck an art modeling pose I did last week, because I wanted to test it and see if it looked as good as I hoped. Then I did a couple more, and then began to invent new ones. I’ve been getting bored with my same old repertoire, and have this fear (irrational though it may be) that people will actually begin to notice that I’m repeating gesture poses. Does anyone really pay attention to this stuff? Or is it just me putting pressure on myself to always be creatively fresh when posing? Or (and this is the disturbing one) am I so consumed with vanity that I wil do gestures at home, in front of the mirror, on my day off, when no one is even watching???? Yikes. What’s wrong with me? Ok, don’t answer that.

The truth is that I, along with many other art models, really enjoy doing quick poses. Why? Well, they’re fun! It feels good to move around, bend, twist, stretch, reach, lean, raise your arms in the air and run your hands through your hair (wow, that rhymed!) Quick poses keep the art model warm in a cold studio. Quick poses also “warm up” the artists and get their drawing hands loose. Quick poses are entertaining to watch, unlike a long pose. And best of all, quick poses allow the model to express herself in a way a long pose does not. I love to look at artists’ pads and notebooks after we just completed 20 minutes of gestures. They are fabulous! It looks like a ballet, or a choreographed modern dance, or an emotional catharsis. And when you look at the entire grouping – a standing, a seated twist, a curled up, a walking lunge, a reaching, a dramatic intense backbend – you see the model telling a story. Her story. That day, at that moment, from the start of the timer button set for 20. The sketches have no detail, no facial features, no color. But they still depict, miraculously, the soul of the model. And that is really, really cool.

Fred Hatt was kind enough to send his gesture drawings of me from Figureworks Gallery last Saturday. We had a lot of fun that morning. Well, I know I did!

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An Art Model Gives Thanks

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and that means one thing: a third of the population is out drinking themselves into an inebriated stupor, another third is home slaving away in their kitchens doing prep work for Thanksgiving dinner, and the last third is home lounging, resting, puttering around the house, being generally unproductive and lazy, basically just waiting for tomorrow when we can gorge ourselves on the meal someone else put great effort into. I fall into the last category. But at least I’m not watching inane television or giving myself a pedicure and foot scrub (which I could use after the last two weeks of modeling). I’m here, at my computer, blogging to my friends and readers. There are worse things I could be doing, yes? In fact, I will go one better, and use this opportunity to give sincere thanks on this Thanksgiving Eve, as I have many things to be thankful for. And it shouldn’t require an official “holiday” to force recognition of them.

I am thankful for New York City. In spite of all its maddening qualities, it is still the most generous, diverse, and exciting place on earth.

I am thankful for the art community, which has embraced me as one of its models over these past few years, and allowed me to pose for countless drawings and paintings. They recognize my hard work and let me know, which is most appreciated.

I am thankful for my mother, whose heart is warm and golden, and for my brother, the coolest guy in the universe.

I am thankful for the Beatles “White Album”.

I am thankful for National Public Radio and public television.

I am thankful for yoga and meditation, without which I would have no coping skills, no moments of clarity, and no flexibility!

I am thankful for my wonderful friends like Dan Gheno, Fred Hatt, Sam Goodsell, Jonathan Glass, Stacy Romano, and many others who like and respect me for the honest, genuine person that I am.

I am thankful for all the art model coordinators and drawing group organizers who call to book me for jobs and keep me working steadily at this profession.

I am thankful for my legs, which never fail me. They give me strength and stability, not just in my work but throughout my hectic days, getting me from place to place, transporting me faster and more reliably than any crosstown bus.

I am thankful for great artists, both past and present.

I am thankful for sunflowers and purple hydrangeas.

I am thankful for my good health, something too many people can’t enjoy. I try not to take it for granted.

I am thankful that my memories of my father are still alive and well and vivid in my both my heart and mind.

And I am thankful for a beautiful girl on the Upper West Side named Olivia. She is my 4 year-old niece (soon to be five!). She is creative, intelligent, and hilariously funny! Here we are, messing around at grandma’s house:

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Happy Thanksgiving to you all! See you soon . . .

Matisse . . . just because

How incredible is Matisse? Sometimes I think I could look at his work for hours on end. Although much of it is familiar to all of us, Matisse’s art is always fresh, dynamic, and vivid no matter how many times you view it. To me, a Matisse painting looks as if it was JUST PAINTED, five minutes before you saw it. And for someone like me who has an aversion to stale, static, inert artwork (just my humble layperson preference) that kind of vitality is a huge attraction in every sense; aesthetic, intellectual, even spiritual. I respond strongly to art that breathes and moves . . . has a pulse, so to speak. That Matisse was also a dedicated painter of the human figure makes an art model feel a special bond with the man. Any chance I can time travel back a few decades and pose for the awesome Henri? Guess not. Damn!

When I think of Matisse, the phrase “life force” comes to mind. Logical association for a “life model” to make, right?

Here’s Matisse’s “Bathers”. Love the turtle!

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Weekend Workshop

Did I have a good weekend? I sure did. No, I didn’t go out partying, dancing, and gallivanting around town (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Instead, I was fortunate enough to pose for Everett Raymond Kintsler’s two-day painting workshop at the National Academy. It was a great experience and a great honor to work with such a reknowned portrait painter like Mr. Kintsler. He’s a wonderful man. He gave terrific demos, told interesting stories, and made us laugh a lot, as he is a very funny guy! And his warm, sincere compliments about my modeling were the icing on the cake. I worked hard, and it was so nice to be acknowledged. I did a standing nude figure the first day, and a seated clothed pose for the second day. Ray’s critiques focused heavily on color values, which seem to be the key to a successful painting.

Tomorrow I start a three-week painting class at the Studio School, which I also look forward to. As I say often, one of my very favorite things about this art modeling profession is the model’s freedom to work in many different places, different settings, and with many different artists and instructors. The pace changes, the atmosphere changes, the faces, the voices, the props, the backdrops, the lighting, even the tempo and style of the class changes. The absence of a monotonous, mundane, “grind” bestows a constant freshness on this work. With each new booking, I feel renewed, reborn. Changes stave off “burnout”, and isn’t that a good thing!

Hope you’re all doing well, dear readers. Will write again very soon!

On Newsstands Now!

Yes, folks, I’ve hit the big time. Check out the newest issue (Fall 2007) of American Artist “Drawing” Magazine. Dan Gheno’s article on Long Pose Drawing begins on page 92, and his exquisite graphite drawing of moi appears on page 94. Dan has drawn me probably more than anyone, and this drawing of his is one of my favorites. I’m so honored he chose to put it in his article, which is, as always, informative, insightful, and beautifully written. Pages 96-97 feature drawings by Seurat; the talk of the town these days because of the MoMA exhibit.

Also in this issue, on Page 114, is an article Dan co-authored with Sam Goodsell on the life and drawings of Marvin Franklin, our dear friend from the Art Students League who died tragically last spring. He was a NYC Transit worker who lost his life in a terrible accident on the tracks. It was a shock to us all. I am lucky to have known Marvin, if only for a brief time. Dan and Sam’s article does an excellent job of capturing Marvin, both the man and the dedicated artist he was. His drawings in ballpoint pen should not be missed. My favorite is “Subway Series, Evening Rush Hour” on Page 120. While I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pose for Marvin (and loved every minute of it!) his true muse was the city itself and all its inhabitants. He saw inspiration everywhere.

Pick up this fantastic issue of “Drawing” Magazine and enjoy!

Exhibition Buzz

Art models are privy to a lot of talk and information passed along in art classes. Artists share their news and “goings-on” with us, and we also overhear a lot of things that are more of a gossipy nature. Well, I’m not posting today to blab about juicy, scandalous, salacious tidbits and crazy rumors. Sorry to disappoint. Perhaps, however, on some night when I log onto my computer after having had one too many glasses of cabernet I will feel more inclined to dish the dirt.

But right now, I will share something far more respectable. It is the enormous and overwhelmingly positive buzz surrounding the Seurat Drawings exhibit at MoMA. Everyone from the National Academy crowd to the Salmagundi crowd and everyone else in between is talking about this show and lauding it with glowing reviews. I’m inspired to see it myself and plan to get there soon. I will post it in my Events and News page. In the meantime, here’s how MoMA describes it on its website:

“Once described as “the most beautiful painter’s drawings in existence,” Georges Seurat’s mysterious and luminous works on paper played a crucial role in his short, vibrant career. This comprehensive exhibition—the first in almost twenty-five years to focus exclusively on Seurat’s drawings—will present over 135 works, primarily the artist’s incomparable conté drawings along with a small selection of oil sketches and paintings. Surveying the artist’s entire oeuvre, from his academic training through the emergence and elaboration of his unique methods to the studies made for his monumental canvases (such as the renowned A Sunday on La Grande Jatte), the exhibition will also present important new research on his artistic strategies and materials.

In bridging description and evocation, Seurat masses tones to abstract figures, weaves skeins of conté crayon to test the limits of decipherable space, and engages with the Parisian metropolis, illuminating urban types, revealing the ever-expanding industrial suburbs, and offering a tour through the world of nineteenth-century popular entertainment. Most of all, his dramatization of the relationship between light and shadow resulted in a distinct body of work. Though Seurat is perhaps best known as the inventor of pointillism, this exhibition will demonstrate his tremendous achievement as a draftsman and the significance of his working methods and themes for the art of the twentieth century”.

Here is a Seurat painting titled, appropriately, “The Models”. My 19th century sisters! I’d say they’re due for a long break. Take a good stretch girls!

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