This page provides detailed advice on how to find employment as a life model for instructional classes and open drawing sessions.
These instructions describe how to find employment as an artist model in the United States, although these instructions also generally apply to most other countries (except for those countries where life drawing is not allowed because of strong religious beliefs).
Anyone can be an artist model
So you want to be a life model. How do you go about getting hired as a nude art model?
The good news is that serious figurative artists want to practice drawing people of all shapes and sizes. So with a little persistence, just about any adult should be able to find work as a life model.
Life modeling opportunities exist in every area in the United States. Almost every city has at least a few local colleges with art programs, and artists live and create art everywhere.
Some life drawing facilitators will only hire models with experience and a track record of reliability. However, many others actively seek new models to continually expand their drawing repertoire. Also, many models stop modeling after a few years, adding to facilitators’ needs to continually seek new models. For this reason, facilitators are often willing to hire models with no prior experience, as long as they are motivated.
Prepare to be patient
As a new model, realize it may take a few months before you are actually hired for your first modeling session. It may take time before you will find a session that will hire you, and often sessions schedule their models weeks ahead of time.
Initially, employment opportunities will be less frequent until you establish yourself as an established artist model. However, once you develop a reputation for professionalism and reliability, you can expect regular employment. (See Artist Model FAQs for more information on what employers are looking for in an artist model).
The employment process for being hired for university art classes is different than for community open draw sessions, so the approaches for finding these jobs is described separately.
Demand for models in university art programs
Many colleges require models to complete tax forms and pass criminal background checks before they can begin modeling. The good news is that once you are on payroll, you are one of only a few models the university can use to meet their ongoing needs for art classes. Once you are on staff, modeling opportunities will be more frequent than for an open draw session.
Almost all college art programs in the United States require their students to draw from the human form as part of their curriculum. Some courses will only use models for a few classes during the semester, resulting in relatively few modeling opportunities. However, when the college offers a dedicated course on anatomy or life drawing, modeling opportunities will be more frequent.
Art colleges often do not require prior modeling experience, particularly if they have a high demand for models and face regular model turnover. However, colleges will expect the models they hire to work for them regularly. They do not want to go through the entire hiring process for a model who only wants to work once in a while.
How to get hired at local colleges
Start by identifying which local colleges offer art programs. Be sure to also consider community colleges and two-year colleges.
Art colleges typically have a single Model Coordinator responsible for scheduling all the models for all the art classes. Contact the Dean of the art department to find out how to contact the Model Coordinator.
Typically, colleges have models submit time sheets and pay models by check, with taxes withheld. As a college employee, models are also sometimes eligible for employee benefits, such as staff parking passes, use of gym facilities, and access to faculty dining facilities. Be sure to check with the Human Resources Department to see what benefits you are eligible for.
Occasionally, colleges require that art models be university students, particularly if model fees are paid for though college work study programs. However, even at these colleges, non-students may still be able to serve as art models for extracurricular figure drawing sessions, such as student art club events or open drawing sessions the university may host. Be sure to ask the Model Coordinator if these opportunities also exist.
Demand for models at open draw sessions
Many communities have open drawing sessions, where a group of artists meet each week to draw from a live model. A session facilitator organizes these sessions, by hiring the model and booking the location.
Unlike art classes, where students must register for the class, open draw sessions are “drop in” sessions, where anyone in the community can attend, as long as they pay the session fee and they come to the session to draw.
Models are paid an hourly rate for the modeling at these sessions, although some sessions also provide an “tip jar” for the model. Typically, open draw sessions do not require models to file any paperwork, and the models are paid at the end of the session in cash.
Because the hiring process for open draw sessions is more informal, open draw sessions tend to attract more models. Some facilitators may only hire models with prior experience, while others actively seek new models.
How to find employment for open draw sessions
Finding open draw sessions in your area may require more effort than identifying college art departments. Some open draw sessions advertise themselves through web sites, blogs, or Facebook or Meetup groups. Other open draw sessions do not advertise themselves at all. Open draw sessions typically take place at community art centers, art studios, and local college campuses.
One way to find open draw groups in your area is by internet searches. Use the search terms “life drawing” or “figure drawing,” together with the name of your city.
Some web sites dedicated to life drawing or the figurative arts (including ArtModelTips.com) also maintain lists of life drawing sessions by country, such as:
- ArtModelTips.com – lists life drawing sessions and classes throughout the world
- ArtModelBook.com – lists open life drawing sessions throughout the US and Canada
- bodyscape.net.nz – lists life drawing sessions in several countries
- lovelifedrawing.com – lists life drawing sessions in several countries
- Meetup.com – lists of all figure drawing Meetups throughout the world
- modele vivant – lists life drawing sessions throughout Canada
- Register of Artist Models (RAM) – lists life drawing sessions throughout the UK
Often web pages for life drawing groups will actively solicit new models. ArtModelTips.com lists several life drawing groups that are actively seeking new models via their web sites. See, for example, our US listing of life drawing sessions.
Some websites provide listings of life drawing sessions for particular cities, such as Life drawing in Yorkshire, UK, RVA Figure Drawing (Richmond, Virginia), and DFW Art Models (Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas).
Anther way to find local open draw groups is by asking local art galleries, museums, art studios, and art instructors.
Once you find an open draw session, contact the session facilitator and ask to be hired for an upcoming session. Since you know where the session is meeting, you also have the option of showing up just before or after the session to briefly introduce yourself to the facilitator.
Sessions that actively seek new models may even invite you to observe a drawing session before your first modeling session, to allow you to know what to expect when serving as a model.
How to find employment at community art centers
Community art centers are a hybrid of university art classes and open draw sessions. They are open to the public (like open draw sessions), but students pay to take part in an art class lasting several weeks (like college art classes).
Like university classes, classes that employ artist models may include dedicated life drawing classes, or classes that that just use art models for a few of the specific class sessions.
You can find community art classes just like you find open draw sessions: by internet searches and by contacting local art galleries, museums, and art teachers.
Community art classes typically employ Model Coordinators, just like college art programs. However, the process for getting on their model list is often more informal than university art programs. Often you simply need to show up and sign a tax withholding form.
Simply getting on the model list will not necessarily lead to employment. You may need to convince specific art instructors at the center to hire you, much the same way that you would convincing facilitators to hire you for open draw sessions. Also, since the students are paying for the classes, many art instructors may be reluctant to hire new models that have not yet established a track record of experience and reliability.
Finding employment through online job search sites
Another option for finding life modeling opportunities in your area is online help wanted ads for artists models.
Several general purpose and academic job sites, including the ones listed below, frequently include help wanted listings for life models, searchable by city:
- Arts Council England: Job Search – UK
- reed.co.uk – UK
- HigherEdJobs.com – USA
- Simply Hired – USA
- CareerOneStop.org – USA
- Indeed.com – USA
- Education Management Corporation – USA
- JobsDBCenter – USA
Effective search terms for modeling jobs on these sites include the terms “nude”, “art model”, “figure model“, “life model“, and “studio model“. Use extreme caution when responding to any job postings other than than for established art programs.
If you are in the United Kingdom, the Register of Artists Models (RAM) lists life drawing opportunities throughout the UK
Some tips on effective ways to contact employers
As you develop experience as an artist model, consider performing all the activities associated with any other form of job search.
- Create business cards with your contact information to share with potential clients.
- Obtain references and letters of recommendation from clients you have worked for to share with other potential clients.
- Be sure to include a picture of yourself. The picture need not be a nude or picture of you posing, just a picture of your face so they can associate your name with a face.
- Be sure in all your communications with potential clients that you remain professional, just as you would for applying for any other type of job.
- Tips for art models
- Further advice for models
- New advice for models
- Looking for modeling work? Here’s some guidelines…
Leverage model guilds
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to live in a city with an organized model guild or figurative artist group, see if this group provides training sessions for new models and a list of life drawing sessions in your area.
Check the ArtModelTips.com list of model guilds and associations to see if such a group exists in your area.
Confirm your bookings immediately
Whenever an instructor asks if you are available to model for an upcoming session, be sure to respond as soon as possible. First, the instructor may also be checking with other models to ensure they can book a model for the session. Second, instructors want to know as soon as possible whether you are available, so they can contact another model if you cannot.
Even if you cannot commit right away, you should still contact them as soon as possible and let them know when you can provide them with a definite answer. (“I will be able to confirm my availability tonight once I can check my calendar.”)
Clients appreciate models who respond quickly and make it easier for them to quickly book models. Also, responding quickly makes it more likely you get hired before another model gets the booking. Developing a reputation for responding quickly will lead to more modeling offers. Doing so will also make it more likely that employers will call you if they need to book a model — such as a replacement model — on short notice.
Once you do get the booking, send an email to the instructor right away to confirm it. The email doesn’t need to be formal, but it should include the date, starting and ending time, location, and agreed-upon pay rate for the session. This is also a good time to ask about the number and types of poses that will be expected, parking accommodations, and — in the case of classes — what topics the class session will cover, so you can tailor your poses accordingly.
If possible, obtain the facilitator’s telephone number, so you can contact him or her in case you have a last-minute emergency or have difficulty finding the location. This will allow you to coordinate with the facilitator and mitigate any issues resulting from any last-minute delays.
It’s also a good idea to re-confirm the booking a couple of days before the scheduled session. This protects you from showing up to a session only to find the instructor changed plans or hired another model. Instructors also appreciate re-confirmations within a few days of the session, because it puts them at ease, knowing that you have not forgotten the session.
Once you have succeeded in being hired as an artist model, be sure to prepare for your modeling session by reading the following pages: