Whenever I tell people I’m an artist’s model, probably nine times out of ten, the first question I’m asked is, “Wow! How do you hold still for so long?”. That curiosity is perfectly natural and expected. I obligingly give my usual stock answers: “concentration”, “mental focus”, “yoga poses and training”, “professionalism”, getting used to it after years of “experience”, yadda, yadda.
But I always try to remind people that art models “hold still” for long, sustained poses only part of the time. We possess (or are expected to possess) a repertoire of dynamic short poses, known as “gestures”. I’ve talked about gesture on this blog many times and will continue to do so until I’m blue in the face. Why? Well, they’re essential for artists to develop their drawing and observational skills and to get a feel for the human body in motion. For models, they are fun! I love doing short gesture poses. They’re my favorite of all my art model responsibilities. I could – and have – done them for entire sessions.
I have nothing against long poses per se. My only qualm is that they can start to wander into “model as inanimate prop” territory. Not always of course, but they can. Let’s just say the potential is there. Halfway through, the model senses that dreaded feeling that he/she is morphing into a “thing” – a lifeless, immobile thing that’s barely breathing. And that gets a little too close for comfort for me especially, since my strengths as a model are my expressiveness and my ability to generate a degree of excitement when I’m up on the platform. I like to move, and I enjoy it when artists capture my movement (sometimes I give them a hard time, as I’ve been known to present many a challenge!) Short poses suit me, my purpose, my figure, and my professional identity extremely well.
Short poses are generally considered either one minute, two minutes, or even five minutes long. “Ones”, “twos”, and “fives” in art model lingo. Many people consider a ten a short pose, but I don’t. Ten minutes is ample time for an artist to create an actual drawing as opposed to a sketch. Therefore a ten isn’t a true “gesture” pose in my opinion.
Here are some of Fred Hatt’s quick gesture sketches of me. These were done last Saturday morning at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn:
From the same session, these are more gesture sketches of me done by Randall Harris, the director of Figureworks. Even though he and Fred are very different artists, use different mediums, and were sitting at different places in the room, you can probably identify the same poses if you look carefully: