I have always been a really kinetic person. I’ve been antsy since childhood. My teachers scolded me for doodling in my notebooks instead of paying attention (I did this in order to pay attention. As a kinesthetic learner, I wouldn’t absorb anything if I wasn’t moving). I still pace around my apartment when I need to think something through and, of course, there’s dance and all the other active stuff I do.
But then there’s art modeling.
When I first started modeling and decided I wanted to model for art classes as well as cameras, one of my friends who had been an art model for years told me, “it’s really important that you stay still.” I was a little worried, but seven months later, I’ve found art modeling to be extremely important to my work, humbling as fuck, and a great use of my physical abilities.
First of all, absolute stillness does not exist. We all have to keep breathing, and breathing means moving. This to me is quite a relief. I don’t ever have to focus on ” not moving,” I can focus on breathing. I find art modeling to be a lot like meditation. Sit still, focus on your breathing, see where your thoughts wander off to. Except with modeling you have to keep your eyes open and allow a room full of scribbling people with furrowed brows to draw you. Being present and relaxed helps.
Mindset is also something that I find helpful when Staying Still, especially for long poses. It is amazing how much easier life is when you go into a twenty minute set thinking that twenty minutes is easy and will go by in no time, versus thinking that twenty minutes is forever and this is gonna hurt so bad. What you think, you create, because all you’ve got when you’re art modeling is the focal point you’re staring at and your own goddamn body. I’ve legit talked myself through poses by thinking about how time is a construct so therefore the amount of time that I’m holding this pose doesn’t really matter at all and shouldn’t be the focus of my thoughts. It works.
Posing for hours on end also teaches you a fuckton about your own brain. You’ve got nothing to do but think, and eventually you start noticing where your thoughts tend to go, or how far they’ve gone down a rabbit hole. In an effort to keep my Modeling Mind as meditative as possible (say that six times fast), I envision my thoughts as Charlie Brown Grown Up voices that I note and then take a big, deep breath and then let go of. My body might not be moving, but my mind goes all over the fucking place.
When my thoughts aren’t wandering, they are intent on maintaining the pose. Figure modeling teaches you a lot about your physical limits and your ability to sit with discomfort. Much of my time is spent making micro-adjustments to my posture, where I’m holding my weight, which muscles are engaged versus which are relaxed, or where I am holding or releasing tension. I have learned to be okay with parts of my body falling asleep on me and not being able to move to wake them up. Fun fact: limbs tend to fall asleep at the 15-17 minute mark, which means you’re sitting with numbness for 3-5 minutes. At least at that point, the set is almost done and you know your break will come soon. Body parts get sore, muscles cramp, your scalp itches. All of it has to be okay. You’ll be able to move again soon enough.
All of this discomfort is ultimately worth it at the end of the day. I always walk around and see what each artist has captured at the end of three hours. The work, no matter what level of expertise people are at, is always beautiful, and I’m happy to have helped. It’s kind of funny to think about. I spend the entire session in stillness, spinning in my own head, and the artists are frantically trying to capture what they can in a short amount of time, also getting frustrated, feeling inadequate, being happy with something done well, judging themselves, adjusting. An art studio is a room full of very silent, turbulent people, all hoping to make something beautiful.
I’m glad that I stuck with art modeling. It’s helped me with a lot more than just my modeling career. I’m grateful for stillness in a way that I wasn’t before and that change in perspective is pretty cool.