Inside the Curious World of Nude Modeling for Artists

From the Chicago Tribune:

For most of us, being unable to get naked in public is hardly a nightmare. But Troxell is an art model. And posing in the nude, something he has done for 30 years, is key to bringing home a paycheck.

With its plethora of art schools, college art classes, art leagues and private artists, Chicago and the suburbs are home to an estimated 50 to 150 working art models at any given time, according to those in the business. It’s a group that comes in all shapes, ages, sizes and backgrounds.

“We couldn’t teach classes without professional models,” said Duncan Webb, the academic dean at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and an artist himself. “They are essential,” said Nancy Rosen, a local artist who works in mixed media. “The model brings everything to the room.”

Models are often students or members of the art or theater communities. Troxell says one model at Chicago’s American Academy of Art was an electrical engineer in Russia, and another has a doctorate in chemistry and formerly taught at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.


  1. I stupidly did that for a month in college, cos the pay was great. But then I started seeing the students at rock shows, bars, etc.
    You can’t trust 19 year old guys to be discreet like you used to…

  2. I was friends with several of the models from my life drawing classes. Some of them were also art students, many were studying other things at the same university. It is harder work than it looks.

  3. Good models are hard to find apparently. The best ones always try to come up with different poses instead of doing their pose the same way all the time.

  4. an ex of mine was a nude model for the local college,easy money and the students would grab her a beer at the pub after. she was a ballet dancer as well so she’d bring her point shoes. she truly loved doing it.

  5. I was an art model at Memphis State in the 70s. They didn’t allow nude models at MSU, and there was a large public outcry when the Memphis Art Academy started using them. I think someone threatened to kidnap the children of the Academy’s president if they didn’t stop the nudity.

  6. <– BFA in drawing and printmaking, among other degrees. We had several models, ages ranging from 25 to 70+. The good models were the ones who could hold still for a long period of time and didn’t try to flex or suck in their gut. You can’t do that stuff for half an hour, you’re going to start drifting and shifting.

    You basically get used to having a naked person in the room in 5 minutes, and it’s not much different than drawing a basket of fruit. Just more challenging. No student or community should have complaints about it unless their maturity level is that of a 5 year old.

    From a student/artist to anyone who’s ever modeled for students: thank you. Even if you’re a creepy 70 year old dude, you help bring a generation of new artists into the world. There’s really no replacement for that kind of learning.

  7. At our tiny ass school, most of our models were other art students.

    Except for the creepy guy who showed up in a trench coat and kept tugging at it. For one, it’s hard to draw if you keep moving and two… gross. He wasn’t asked to come back.

  8. An ex of mine was a nude model. She was very good at it, yoga helped I think. Many of the art students got a bit fixated on her, however.

    I covered one shift for her, it wasn’t hard, because the teacher knew I was an amateur and had me do seated poses.

    It was cold, however.

  9. i have posed many times for many artist, never in a classroom setting, but always privately. i currently pose for life castings where the artist is making a mold of you instead of drawing, which of course entails continuous contact. i keep my body shaved because the smallest peach fuss and plaster do not mix, ouch. the artist oils your entire body to keep the casting and all the spladder from sticking. so you are completely nude and shaved from the neck down. then you are oiled from the neck down. then you strike a pose and are covered in plaster. then you take a break, get oiled down again, and strike the next pose. the casting studio is messy with wet plaster and dry plaster dust so i always take off my clothes in the front office and go back into the workshop nude and stay nude all day. a normal session is 8 hours so i stay nude the whole time, breaks and all. people are coming and going, but only artist and assistants and casters, never strangers. sometimes there will be new artist that are there to learn and observe but no one off the street. i stay nude because of the mess and i have found that after a few minutes the comfort level is established and to cover up during a lunch break just causes me to have to undress again and find that comfort level again. besides, after being in the most vunerable compromising positions and not able to move as 2 people that you just met oil every square inch of your body and then begin to coat you with plaster, eating lunch nude in front of 5 or 6 other people really becomes no big deal.

  10. This sounds really interesting, and I’ve been thinking about doing it at our local art college the Memphis College of Art- which I think is the school Dean Booth was talking about in his post (Thanks for the story, BTW. That’s a really interesting piece of information. XD). I’m an artist and really really comfortable with my body, so I think this would be a good experience. I’m guessing the minimum age is 18, right?

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