Hazard Pay?

For the past two weeks I’ve been posing for Sharon Sprung’s painting class at the National Academy. It’s going really well, as always. The class has me down on my knees – literally! But it’s a very different, unusual pose, and the red kneecaps are the least of my concerns.

Today, on a five minute break, I was walking around the studio when I hit my head against the protruding part of an easel. OUCH! But no big deal. I did another 20 minute pose session, stood up to stretch my legs, walked around again to chitchat and socialize with the artists and BANG! I hit my head again! Same easel. Same side of my head.

Is an art studio a hazardous working environment or am I just a klutz? Probably a little of both. There is some truth to the former for sure. When a room is crammed full of boxes, chairs, stools, platforms, easels, canvases, turpentine and oil bottles, minor catastrophes are bound to happen. Over the years, I’ve experienced my share. I once slipped when stepping on an unstable, improperly placed block that was functioning as a step. I had a near-miss when a spotlight came crashing down and almost hit me while I was posing. I had a chair arm break off under me. I’ve been accidentally poked by artists’ paintbrushes, and inadvertently sat down on exposed thumbtacks with my bare ass. Yes, OUCH!

Ah, the indignities an art model must endure. But my all-time favorite is the curious, mysterious art class phenomenon which is the discovery of wayward paint on my clothes. My clothes. I’m not even wearing them during class! They are folded and sitting in a pile, next to my bag in the corner, innocently minding their own business. When I get dressed after class I find paint on my jeans. How the hell did it get there? And it’s always cadmium yellow for some strange reason.

As for my own klutziness, the truth is I fell only once. I don’t mean a stumble or a quick balance adjustment (those are normal). I mean a bona-fide fall. It was about two years ago during a drawing class at the Art Students League. I didn’t hurt myself badly. I just picked myself up and showed everyone what I can do. Nice little metaphor for life right there.

As for an art model’s perilous working conditions, I don’t think we exactly qualify for hazard pay. When I think of what other people have to face on the job on a daily basis – coal miners, construction workers, mass transit track workers, firemen – to say that art models are relatively safe is a huge understatement!

I love my work so much that a scrape here, a stubbed toe there, a charcoal smudge, a splinter, a bruise, are all worth it to me, in exchange for the joys and rewards of being an artists’ model. So honestly I can’t complain. From firsthand experience, I know that life could be far, far worse.

2 thoughts on “Hazard Pay?

  1. J Alan says:

    A day in the life of an Art Model…..
    It’s interesting reading about your day here.
    Reminded me one time, one of my “Hotlights” caught the softbox on fire.
    Apparently a piece of paper somehow got in the Chimera Box and the 2000watt tungsten ight caught the paper on fire then of course the box….
    I was shooting a girl model and I was distracted across the studio looking at some proofs and she said to me “do you smell something”? and I said no, not really..
    I turned around to walk back to the camera on a the studio stand and just as I got there the box caught on fire……you should have seen the look on her face……priceless.
    I wish I had caught that shot 😉

    btw, I always wondered how a paining/sculpture model can hold themselves so long a pose……
    I presume you don’tmove?
    What patience!

  2. artmodel says:

    Hi Alan,

    What a story! Seems like creative studios of all types – art, photography, etc. – hold the potential for calamity. I can imagine the look on the young lady’s face! Would have made a great shot, indeed. A day in the life . . .

    As far as an model holding still, it does require some degree of discipline. We don’t move (or aren’t supposed to!) and if you are in a distracted state mentally on any given day, it’s tougher – for me at least. I hold pretty still on a fairly consistent basis, much to my amazement. But that’s what they tell me, and I won’t dispute it!

    The body wants to move. It’s unnatural to hold still for extended periods of time, which is why art models are mercifully granted breaks every 20 minutes or so. If you start to feel discomfort in a muscle or joint, or if a foot falls asleep, the best way to handle it is to TRY to block it out and just stick it out for the remaining minutes. I know that my yoga practice and meditation has helped me significantly in my art modeling, whether it be for balance, flexibility, or stillness. A lot of art models do yoga.

    Thanks for your story and your comments, Alan.


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