Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting My Head Examined

I got the opportunity to model for a portrait anatomy class last night at the Texas Academy of Figurative Art.  This was my second session for this course, and from the lectures I've heard to start each class, it seems to be a pretty intensive study of the anatomy of the head.  In fact, I joked with friends before that class that I was going to get my head examined.

Portrait modeling and figure modeling have some distinct differences, and I have to confess that I find modeling for portraits more taxing.  The most obvious difference is, of course, clothing.  Portrait models are fully clothed, while figure modeling is usually done in the nude.  When doing a figure class, I'm aware that my entire body is being studied, and while I will focus my eyes on a certain point in the room, I usually feel free to look about at times (without moving my head, of course).  When modeling for a portrait class, I'm aware that the focus of every artist in the room is my head; therefore, I try to keep my eyes on one fixed point and not move them.  This takes a lot more concentration, especially when my contact lenses start to feel like they are sticking to my eyeballs.

People who have never modeled (or just don't take their modeling job seriously) might think that, since artists are only studying the head, the model ought to be free to move his or her arms and legs throughout the pose. That's true to some extent, but I try to keep any movement to a minimum.  Moving a leg can affect the position of the head, and if the head moves, the pose (not to mention the lights and shadows) is changed.  So I treat each pose as a full body pose, even if the artists are just studying one part of my body.

Since I treat each pose as a full pose, clothing can sometimes affect my comfort.  When modeling nude for a figure class, my physical comfort is determined solely by muscle fatigue and blood circulation.  When modeling clothed, the neckline of my shirt, the waistline of my pants, the tightness of my socks or undergarments, etc. can all be contributors to the comfort level of a pose.

Last night's class was a relatively short one, only two hours, with just an hour and a half of posing/drawing time, and yet, I left feeling more tired than I do after a three hour figure session.


  1. Hi Dan,

    Haha, "getting your head examined" :)

    I like what you said about how some people assume that even if someone's drawing a portrait of your head, you're free to move around. Like you, I try to limit the amount I do that. Sometimes you can't help it, as you might find your fingers or toes go to sleep and you need to give them a quick wiggle.

    But there was one time I was at a portrait class where I was working with another model. We were both on opposite ends of the room and weren't facing each other. And the other model, maybe every other minute, would start rolling her hands or rolling her ankles. I wasn't even facing her at all, but even as I was concentrating on my spot on the wall, I'd constantly notice the movement in my peripheral vision. I can only imagine how distracting that might have been to the people painting her...

  2. I don't do many portrait sessions, and I can only remember one where I was with another model. I have done quite a few figure sessions with another model. I don't get to do that very often, but after 28 years, there have been a few. One model I posed with had a book with her, and would read during the longer poses. I always thought it was unprofessional since her eyes were always moving and her fingers were turning pages quite a bit. I figure that I'm paid to be a reference for artists, not to read.