Sometimes it helps to have a good moan. I had one recently to a naturist mate, all about the trials of freelancing life. I’m fairly new to being my own boss, and there’s so much positive talk of the joys of working for yourself. The difficulties get skirted over.
You soon find out what they are. The networking events which turn out a waste of time. The people who promise you jobs then so strangely forget what they said. The positive opener, a dozen emails, a sparkly meeting – I’m in there for sure! – then the nearly-client changes her mind. Worst of all, when the work’s been commissioned and done and the invoice is sent – no-one’s exactly in a hurry to pay.
Cashflow problem? said my mate. Had I thought about life modelling? He used to do it – and you’re happy naked, right?
In Britain there’s a life models’ register. You audition – and pay – and once you’ve passed, your profile goes up and you get a number. That’s how the artists and tutors, who’ve also registered and paid, find you. I was warned the auditioners throw you in deep: either you’ve got the nerve or you haven’t, and trialling with just one or two, or with one gender only, is too easy. Pass that way, and you could go to a job and be faced with fifty sketchpads and a hundred eyes.
In my case it was six women and five men plus the tutor/auditioner, at a studio in south London. It had a small – and very chilly – undressing area. You get clothes-free and put on a robe, then the class arrives and sets up easels in a circle. In the middle is the space for the model: a stool, a folded rug on the floor and a crate, for poses at different heights. Three-sixty exposure, this: forget about your most flattering angles.
At 6.30pm the tutor shut the door, turned to me and said, ‘When you’re ready…..’ and I chucked my robe on a chair.
I was glad that I’d had some advice beforehand. ‘Keep your weight even across your base’ – which means not standing mostly on one leg, or leaning on one arm if you’re seated on the floor. If you do, you’ll lose that arm or that leg to either numbness or severe pain pretty quickly – and by now, they’ve started to draw you. Be sure not to trap, say, your foot under your bottom, for same reason. Don’t lift anything you can’t keep in place. Artists like ‘dynamic’ poses, though, so be arresting if you can. As you gain experience, you learn which positions work best and which you can hold most easily. Vitally – try to twist, putting curves and flow through your body: the artists look for your line.
There was quiet jazz in the background; the minutes flowed by. What I hadn’t foreseen was the problem of feeling my hair, which is long: some pieces fell over my face. Most of us fidget constantly, making minute posture adjustments every few seconds; I must toss it the strands away without knowing it, thousands of times in a day. Motionless, the pieces tickled my cheeks maddeningly.
But I didn’t make major mistakes and no position really hurt. I got a bit stiff. Between poses, there’s a couple of minutes to stretch. Then at half time, a tea break, and the tutor made me tea. To robe up, or not to robe?
A life model needs to hold power,and keep self-possession. What I needed to work out was how best to do it. Here naturism helped me: I know now that clothes make you conscious of clothes. Clothes-free, I’d shed my ‘I am undressed’ feeling, so to stay in that space, I stayed as I was. I admired some of the drawings – and stayed comfortable, though I do know that one of the men was overly enjoying talking to me because I was naked.
More poses. It’s strange to be empty and still so close to a busy, Christmassy street of shops. No pockets for my money. They’d put the heater alongside me; my tea was to hand. I daydreamed to the point of sleepiness. Being naked is peaceful. It’s turning a corner and seeing the sea where I didn’t expect, and resting my eyes on the blue.
Good news – I passed the audition. My first paid job’s in three days. The money will come in handy for Christmas presents.