Thursday, January 22, 2015

Etiquette for Artists and Their Nude Models

I've been asked recently for some guidelines for appropriate artist's behavior when working with models in a life drawing group. This is what I came up with.

Rules for Artists:

1. DO NOT touch the model, NO exceptions. No touching is a cardinal rule, not to be broken, ever. This rule also applies to artists when working with models privately for life drawing or photography sessions.

2. DO NOT photograph the model and do not ask the model if you can take a picture. A model may feel obligated to say yes because you are paying them, so it's best to not even ask. Make a separate appointment for photography because when an artist's model does photographic modeling, they make at least two to four times as much per hour as live models. Photographers/artists should have a model release specifically stating the intended use of the photographs.

3. DO NOT chat with the model when he/she is modeling. Conversation is distracting for the model and your fellow artists.

4. DO NOT make comments about the model's body.

5. DO NOT invade the model's personal space.  This includes sitting on the model stand any time the model is on it, five feet away is a good starting point.

6. DO NOT ask the model personal questions such as their last name, where they live, etc.

7. DO NOT ask the model out on a date.

8. DO NOT remove your clothes when the model does. I bring this up because it happened in one of my drawing classes when I was a college student.

9. DO NOT allow non-artists to wander through the room. 

10. DO NOT come to drawing group unless you're really interested in drawing the human form,  creepers stay away. You will be asked to leave.

11. DO make sure the model is warm and as comfortable as possible.

12. DO pay your models well and thank him/her profusely for participating in the art making process.  Here in Birmingham, AL, USA. we pay our live models $20 per hour, and photographic models $50-$75 per hour, with a 2-hour minimum, as of this date, 2017.

13. DO assign one person to be a moderator to help models maintain their pose and get back into it after breaks.  This person will speak for the group, giving verbal directions to the model rather than having many people telling him/her what to do.

14. NO Alcoholic beverages.

Rules for Artist's Models:

1. Show up. Arrive a few minutes early to get changed and set up.

2. Bring a robe and change into it, away from the group, in a bathroom or other space provided.

3. Wear a robe on breaks.

4. Do not talk while you are modeling. 

5. Do not social media share the artist’s work without giving them credit and preferably a link to their site.

A Few Other Thoughts:

Everyone be kind and polite and all will be well.

Artists and models are vulnerable in this situation. Don't critique work unless asked, this goes for artists and models. 

I have updated this blog post after input from artists and models, and from artist/models.

If you have any more etiquette tips I'd love to hear them, and I'll add them to this post. Post your ideas in the comments section below.

I'm so very grateful to our drawing group and our models. You are much appreciated!

Here are a couple drawings I've done recently at our local drawing group.

Alexandra, graphite and white charcoal on toned paper, 16x12

Gwen, graphite and white charcoal on toned paper, 16x12


  1. I am a live model in Seattle. I love this list. It is a pretty thorough composite of the do's and don'ts. It doesn't accurately reflect the desire of all models though. I like to have the option to provide a photo, as it supplements what I think is a bit too low of a base wage. It 's not for the models to make the artist happy/feel good. It's really on a model to have the confidence to stand up for their own personal photo policy, and all other boundaries/preferences. I would want to know when artist's are interested in a photo. If I feel comfortable, I say yes, if not, I say no. That type of personal responsibility comes with the freelance territory, and it's good to practice it, so we don't find ourselves saying yes to even more risky inappropriate requests. I think it would be cool to provide a list of phrases, giving models specific language to use in such situations, such as: "It's not traditional to provide photos, but I am willing to in this case. I can't guarantee this will occur in other cases. My suggested donation is $30...." or whatever. For what we do, how hard we work, how invaluable our service is to artists, and we are doing ti nude, I really think $30 should be the absolute minimum hourly wage. However, artists are sometimes struggling to pay, so why not get mainstream on tipping? Sell a painting of a particular model? Maybe send a little gratuity their way. Big open studio drawing group? An extra dollar in the jar is a welcome boon. If we can tip $1 on a $5 dollar cup of coffee, we can tip our nude muses $1 on a 3 hour inspirational session. Also, there are times when talking during a pose is very helpful to the group. It's a case by case thing. Artist's should come prepared to follow all above listed etiquette, and then, if an exception is desired, ask politely if the model minds, and be very gracious upon receiving any answer they might give you. Models, be brave! Stand up for what you want. We are the stuff of great art. We can ask to be honored, without shame, guilt, or repercussion. Thank! Amelia

  2. Hi Amelia, Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for sharing from the other side of the easel. I appreciate what you are saying about the photography. My suggesting that the artists not ask to photograph the model during life sessions, but rather ask the model to set up a different session where the model would make $50-75 an hour. What I think usually happens is that the artists just want to take pictures for their own private use, and think the model is already getting paid so the model will get nothing extra, plus she might end up on facebook or who knows where.
    It was in mind to protect the model and make sure she is paid for her time appropriately. So maybe your idea, if a model IS asked if someone can take a picture she could say yes but the fee is $__. Whatever she thinks it's worth. Not a bad idea. As long as models also know they can say no as well.

    I have a very specific and professional release for the models as to what the photos will be used for when I do a shoot, and I think that's important too.

    I agree the price for modeling should probably be more, especially elsewhere. Birmingham, AL where I live has a very low cost of living so $20 per hour here is not too bad, but I always pay much more for photographic modeling sessions where I will be shooting for multiple paintings, even for costumed models, with at least a 2 hour minimum.

    I also like your tipping idea. I wonder if we could get that started??? :) Who knows. Thank you for everything you do. I'm sure your local artists appreciate you very much!

    1. Tipping where I model, in Boulder, CO, is (tip)ically encouraged and greatly appreciated though not expected.

  3. I took a figure painting class last year at the scottsdale art school, and every afternoon we had three excellent, costumed models for five days. I'm sure they were paid well by the school, but each had a tip jar in front of them, and it was a great way for us to show how much we appreciated them. It was completely optional. But it's something that could easily be done in a workshop or classroom setting.

  4. Thanks for sharing that Amy. I wonder how we get that to catch on? How do artists feel about it? did you hear any grumblings? What is the amount most people were tipping?

    1. At least out there nobody seemed to mind. The person in charge said up front that it was completely optional, but most everyone did tip. And I think most people put in $5. We were about seven artists to each model, so that ended up being a good bit extra for them. But if there are 8-10 artists in a class, even if they tip $1-$2 to show their appreciation, it would be nice for the models, esp if they're really good.

    2. I don't think anyone minded tipping, and I think just about everyone participated. The organizers made it clear that it was optional, no pressure. Most people put $5 in the jar, but some put in more. There were about seven artists per model, so that ended up being a nice bonus for the models. I think even an extra couple of dollars from the artists, esp during an ongoing class, would be appreciated.

  5. Respectfully, from the artist's side of the easel, models often ask to photograph artwork or request copies of sketches via email. Without commenting on the "etiquette" of this (haven't formed an opinion yet), I would suggest that models remember to credit the artist. Often, these sketches are used on FB pages or promotional material with no compensation to the artist. Not a complaint, just an observation.

    1. That is a great suggestion. I will have to do a revised post with this recommendation. Thanks for reading the blog.

  6. Thanks Terry. Good list of general do's and don'ts. Interesting about the tip jar. I'd personally feel awkward having a tip jar in front of me while I'm modeling. Something a little lower key and managed by the moderator might be okay and is the way it works at a couple of the groups I model for.
    Peter in Seattle

    1. I can see how this could feel awkward, thank you Peter for your input. The moderator could do it quietly though and that is a great suggestion. Thanks for reading!

  7. Models should not request the original artwork.

    1. Yes, I agree. Those of us that are professionals can't afford to give our work away. I just explain it like that. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  8. I agree with the comment that the tipping jar should be kept discreet. If it was right in front of me it would feel like it was some kind of side-show act, rather that a figure drawing session.

    I also totally agree with your rules about photos. I wish more artist knew about this because it can be annoying. The only exceptions are learning institutions like colleges or universities. There have been times where I have had the instructor take pictures taken of me, such as in sculpture or anatomy class, which where put up on the wall for reference. However for individual artists or other group sessions who ask I usually decline.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I know with our local weekly group, our models are well paid and most of us are paying all we can just to meet the model fee. I think the tipping could be a nice thing for special workshops or demonstrations.

      And it's good to have the confirmation about photography. Thank you for reading and for commenting!

    2. Where I work, the tip jar is out of sight until the very end, unlike, say, a piano player at a bar whose tip jar is right in front of him or her.

  9. Really very interesting and very valuable information about the TEDx event well done.
    TEDx event

    1. Thank you Charli, for watching my TEDx talk and for taking the time to comment. I hope you will share the talk with anyone you think would be interested.

  10. Buen día,
    He ejercido el oficio de Modelo desde el año 2000 y me alegra saber que en otros espacios siga vivo el placer de dibujar del natural.
    ¡Gracias por el artículo!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...