But it’s always nice to be paid for your time.
Last week, I thought of myself as a retired life model. Life modeling was a way to make fast money (notice I didn’t say ‘easy’) when I was at university (all 7 years of it). It had relatively flexible hours, paid well, and was actually in pretty high demand in Aberdeen.
It all started when I was 19. I had a job working in a hotel bar, but Christmas was fast approaching and I needed money to buy my boyfriend (at the time) a gift, before my next payday. I checked out the job centre at the university and noticed a sign on the wall. Initially, what I saw was £7.50/hr (it was 2003). When my tunnel vision subsided, I realized it was for life modeling, and on a whim, I tore off one of the pieces of paper with a phone number on it, and marched home, thinking why not?*
Well, some people might think WHYYYYYYYYY? after seeing one of the sketches from one of my first modeling gigs, a 3 hour informal class on a Saturday morning:
I was a big girl. And I’ll tell you something – being a life model is not a job for people that are critical of their body. It’s also not a job for people who can’t deal with pain. Holding a pose, I became aware of muscles I didn’t even know existed, and not just because I hadn’t done exercise in years. Sitting down might seem, to an onlooker, a rather comfortable thing to do. Until you realize you’re not allowed to move. Then a butt cheek falls asleep and you get pins and needles that you force yourself to ignore. You also notice that your leg is sore and all you want to do is shake it around violently to get the blood flowing. Nope. Not for another 35 minutes.
As if the pain wasn’t bad enough, once the pose is over you might think to yourself I’m going to have a peek at what these guys have done. Bad move. Especially if you’re in a state of denial about how much weight you’ve put on since you were in high school. I could have let that soul-destroying experience break me, gone home for a chocolate cake, and never done it again. Instead? Well, the money was pretty good. And I decided I’d keep going back until I saw something that had been created that I was happy with.
Over the years, I’ve worked for private artists, groups in Aberdeen, Stonehaven and London, and several local art groups (White Space, Peacock Visual Arts, Limousine Bull, Aberdeen College). I’ve learned that when an instructor is telling art students that they haven’t emphasized the ‘folds’ in my skin (euphemism for ‘flab’, I soon discovered), or that my ‘waist should be thicker’, I should lose myself in my own thoughts. I have discovered new levels of pain. I have experienced extreme boredom:
But happily, I have seen plenty of drawings, sketches and paintings that I love. I have even been lucky enough to have been given some of them, mainly because the person creating it is chuffed that someone likes their work, I would imagine.
And then, in 2009, I started work as a teacher, and decided that my life modeling days had come to an end. I had a grown-up job now!
Until Saturday. I received a call from an unknown number, but they left a message. It was a woman hoping she had the right number for an Aberdeen based life model. I could have ignored it, but I was in a ‘what the hell’ mood, and phoned her back to see what she was offering. To cut a long story short, she lived a ten minute walk from my flat and wanted a one on one session. She also wanted movement. As in dancing around her living room to music. I was game.
She painted dozens of quick sketches during our one hour session, and despite a bit of awkwardness at the start (envisage dad dancing), by the end I actually found I was enjoying myself. Plus she let me have one of the sketches destined for “the bucket”:
So it looks like I’m out of retirement, as I’m going back next week!
*I can’t even remember what I bought him. But he
probably totally didn’t deserve it.