The supply list is simple: Bring your imagination, a pack of soft-vine charcoal and a newspaper-print pad to Life Drawing 101. But you may need more. Only a handful of high schools expose art students to nude models. Now that you’re supposedly a grown-up, you have to try to act like one. So here are four things to keep in mind so you don’t act like immature jerks:
Kate Moss Doesn’t Work Here“Unlike fashion modeling you don’t need to be scrawny. All shapes and sizes work–and ages,” says model Susan Finkelstein. She herself is 49. And this veteran of 25 years of nude modeling is comfortable with reality. “I’m sagging, I’m a little jiggly, gravity is getting me. It’s okay,” she says pleasantly. And when she looks at the students’ renderings of her, she says, “I make a joke of it. I say, ‘I’ll accept all surgery, as long as it’s on paper.’ ” Many models and booking agents say that students actually prefer more normal-looking models, since skinny in art is often synonymous for straight lines. Rubenesque model Patricia McPhie, for one, says she’s booked up. “If I were triplets,” says McPhie, “I could work full time.”
McPhie wasn’t always so confident. Her reaction when she was first asked to model for art classes: “I said, ‘What are you, out of your mind?’ ” When she finally agreed to do it, she thought she would be wearing a robe and showing maybe a breast. But inside the classroom, the teacher asked her matter-of-factly to disrobe. McPhie took the plunge. “I was a little surprised,” she recalls. “But I was too embarrassed to let her think I was embarrassed.”
Are You That Happy To See Me?How hard is the work? Depends on whom you talk to. Sometimes when John B. is posing, he says, his johnson will pop up–he insists that it’s just Mother Nature’s way, and it’s not necessarily tied to a thought. He recalls one woman saying, “It’s as beautiful as you are. It’s a great extra thing to be able to draw.” But an all-girls high-school group, he says, didn’t know how to handle it. “They were doing things that were kind of more distracting, like kicking their sandals off and wiggling their toes…giggling and pointing,” says John, who’s 41.
But that’s not OK, according to Holly English-Payne, model coordinator of the Great Neck Adult Education Program at the Cumberland School. “That’s totally wrong. You do not do that,” she says. “You do not subject people to that. That is not done. At least two people have been completely blacklisted because they would not control themselves.” Here’s her tip: “As my brother-in-law said, you think of baseball. In England.”
This Isn’t a BarAlly McBeal notwithstanding, art class is not a good opportunity to hit on a model–according to the models themselves. “The minute someone comes on, it makes the model feel naked,” says English-Payne. “See, the models are nude, not naked.” And don’t discount the models’ self-interest, either. John B., who’s a former ballet dancer, acknowledges a love of exhibition. “I thought it might be a good way to earn a few extra dollars,” he says. “I figured it was a waste to show my body just on beach days. It’s a good other way to show beauty.”
This Is Probably Not Your CareerMinimum wage at the local greasy spoon is $5.15 an hour. But models make an average of $16 an hour. Does that mean you should head down to the art department to apply for a job? Stop! Many college art departments say they don’t hire their own students. Stephen Lamia, discipline coordinator of the visual arts department at Dowling, explains: “It would, in our opinion, put the students in a very compromising situation.”