Get Paid to be a Muse (How to Find Work as an Art Model)

art education

Baloo leaves the jungle and enters the world of nude art modeling.

Just about anyone can find work as an art model. Serious figurative artists want to practice drawing people of all shapes and sizes. Most fine art programs in the United States require students to draw the human form as part of their curriculum, so life modeling opportunities exist in pretty much every college town. It takes time to get established and build a track record of reliability. That being said, there are three main avenues to pursue when looking for work as a fine art model: colleges and universities, open drawing sessions, and individual artists.

Colleges and Universities

Modeling for a college or university is just like any other job. They are going to require you to complete tax forms and pass criminal background checks before you can begin modeling. Contact the dean of the art department to find out how model scheduling is coordinated. Check whether models are required to be students. Occasionally, there are stipulations based on how the model fees are paid. The art department will keep a list of models for the semester with their basic stats: height, hair color, eye color, etc. Instructors are able to select models from the list and schedule them for classes.

College and university level classes are conducted professionally. If it is a life modeling session, models are expected to arrive with a robe and change in a dressing room. Standing poses are typically only held for a few minutes at time due to potential heat from lights. Good instructors are adept at posing the models so that their knees aren't locked or in other positions that would cause stress if held too long. Many colleges and universities will provide a few light snacks for the model to ensure their blood sugar level is kept up for the duration of the modeling session.

Open Drawing Sessions

Open drawing sessions exist in many communities and can be found through websites, blogs, and forums. Facilitators organize these sessions in which artists meet regularly to draw from a live model. Models receive an hourly rate and often there's a “tip jar”. Typically, open drawing sessions do not require models to file any paperwork, and the models are paid at the end of the session in cash. Models should be cautious of their surroundings when modeling for these sessions. Because they are not affiliated with a college or university, open drawing sessions do not always attract true artists. The facilitator may not have the proper paperwork for all the session attendees either. It is best not to fraternize with the artists and keep behavior strictly professional.

Here are a few places where opening drawing sessions can be found:

Individual Artists

Once you become a regular model for art classes and drawing sessions, you will be approached by individual artists for work. Word of mouth is an excellent source of gaining new business.

  • Here are some tips to getting yourself asked back for repeat work:
  • Do not speak when posing, and try not to fidget.
  • Do not stare directly at the artist when holding a pose.
  • Wear a robe when taking breaks between poses.
  • Do not criticize the artist’s work.
  • Do not take pictures of an artist’s work or post it on social media without permission.
  • Always credit the artist’s work accordingly.

For safety purposes, only accept assignments from artists that are associated with known universities, guilds, or galleries. Always review their body of work before agreeing to model. If it is a nude modeling session and the artist is of the opposite sex, request that a second person be present. Many artists are night owls, and depending on the location of the studio, it might be prudent to have someone pick you up at the conclusion of your session.


Often being an artist can help you find work as a model. When you are take classes at a college or art center, instructors and other students are more likely to approach you for work. Once they get to know you, and if you spread the word that you want to model, you'll get more opportunities. Immersing yourself in the art world either by being an artist or attending art events will help you build connections as you start to network. Pursue the three avenues above for finding modeling work and consider joining a modeling guild to gain further support in your endeavors.

Art Books

Karen Strum has a collection of books banned called "Corrupted the King's Subjects". Often, these books are art books containing works by world famous artists depicting nudes that are considered masterpieces. Check the collection to see what you might be asked to model.

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About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


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