On this blog I've discussed a lot of different aspects of modeling work; teaching styles, what goes through my mind, what I know about what's going through the artist's mind, but I've only touched on what happens while modeling besides of my own rambling thought process. I get this question a lot, especially when people learn that I am modeling nude. I've decided my go-to answer will be:
"It's actually a big orgy."
People can draw their own conclusions based on whatever level of sarcasm I muster.
While modeling isn't an orgy, it's not a silent impersonal job to me either. The communities I encounter are a significant part of why I enjoy the work. The ambiance of each group varies; it's part of the reason I prefer private groups to university classes. The variation is also part of the attraction. One group I work for is a collection of moms learning to paint; They talk about their children, their vacations, their dogs (love the dog talk!). Once, when I was too dehydrated and had to sit down, they knew just to feed me water and almonds until I felt better.
I have a different gig with a large group of friends, basically a drawing group set up so they can spend time together doing something they all love. Half the time I'll be modeling in a half-empty room while the rest of the group chats in the kitchen. I love this atmosphere as well. Everyone is in a great mood, there's very little pressure, and there are usually snacks. I can even bake for them if I want to get up early enough.
Another group is a mix of artists, art enthusiasts and art historians, which is critically stimulating in multiple ways. It's interesting to see the different ways people discuss art. As I've written before, I was taught to remove value judgements from my discussions of art. I write off likes and dislikes as a matter of taste rather than quality, rationalizing difference in opinion nicely. Those not educated in this fashion are open with their opinions, ready and willing to defend them, though not without a tendency toward sweeping statements. This is where I'm especially grateful that I've been taught to step back and find merit in things I normally wouldn't. It applies as equally to discussing art as it does to art itself.
My way of seeing art doesn't always fit into the conversation at hand. I have no way to argue against value judgements, little of the knowledge or even the vernacular evaluate something in terms of worth. Unless I confine myself to the small population that have been educated in my way, the ability to engage in such discussion is invaluable. Having the opportunity to listen to these discussions during drawing group allows me to foster my a transition from historian to critic. I learn what kinds of value judgements are effective, and what serve only to end the conversation. It's like an orgy of ideas. Whether it's a new perspective on an artist, a feeling of safety, or a title for my next blog post, whenever I show up to any drawing group I know I'll come away with something more than I had before. That is what happens there.