The Value of an Art Model

During my early days of life drawing, one of the questions I asked myself was the value of a model. I pondered it because in drawing sessions, it wasn’t like we had enough time to capture all the detail a model could give over a picture. Examples are the ones shown in this post that could hardly be said to be photo-realistic due to lack of visual details as I didn’t do the model’s beauty any justice.



8.5 x 8.5
15 min pencil + 10 shading
Mar 25 2016
(Please click to enlarge)



In classes or drawing sessions, we didn’t have control over pose, nor did we have a lot of choice for view angle in a pose so as not to disturb the others once the model had struck a pose. Most of the people drawing were drawing to develop their skills, not to produce custom, thought out and planned art. It was rather a lot of trouble to have to be somewhere, hire a person, book a room and such, for something one could probably do just as effectively with a picture off the Internet or elsewhere, possibly even a large one if projected on a large smart TV that many people had in 2016.

So what was the value of a model?


Economic value

For purposes of skills development in life drawing sessions where poses didn’t last more than 20 minutes, or even for 30 minutes, so there was limited time to capture their essence in lots of details should your style be such, the economist in me doesn’t put the value at much. That’s not to offend models in these sessions, nor to my first teacher who insisted on doing life drawing only from models and never from pictures if I could help it. I genuinely mean that as I’ve modeled for some life drawing session, unpaid even! If I thought it was unworthy in any true sense, I would never have done it! But for the sake of drawing to get develop a little skill that isn’t at some crazy level, I couldn’t, and still can’t, see the value of having to get a space, person, at a scheduled time and be limited for control of poses and views. I could generally get the same thing done with photos I could find online.

For a laugh, if you really wanted to talk about the economic value of a model, it is actually as simple as what you pay him or her. So back to my times modeling unpaid, I was worth nothing economically as a life drawing model. 😉


Artistic Value

For artistic value, the answer I came to was completely different from that for economic value. It was nothing short of priceless, even if economically, the value is still what you pay the model. That’s because:

  1. You have control over so many things you could not in class or group drawing sessions, to be able to set up what you need to create the piece of art you envisioned doing. With models, you can request poses and choose the angle from which to draw them, as well as duration for poses so long as they could hold the poses, or get back into them. You could not do most of those things with models in sessions or classes. If you were lucky enough, you could even get the model you want, or a model you want, rather than having to work with whoever modeled for a particular session. They may be quite the fine model, but they may not be what you were hoping to get.
  2. Your art is more original because there isn’t a photo existing of the same thing like drawing or painting from a photo, like I did with my shading exercise called A Shade of Ginger. There is a photo of Ginger in that very pose, with more detail, and it is the original art, not my drawing. It is not the same image because my drawing “filtered” that image with my vision of it, if you will, but my work has been “cheapened” by the original photo, being a reasonable facsimile reproduction with a human touch, at best. Further, it’s also a reproduction any number of other people could do, with their “touch” and “vision”, which could possibly be better than mine. There’s no reason for having any artistic value to my piece, in other words.
  3. Your art also has a humanity to it in that you worked with someone to produce it. You each have a story. The piece has its story, including originality, that is appealing to people, rather than you just “interpreting” someone else’s valuable work or generic stock work. The former may be flattery by name, but just copying by nature. The latter is practically worthless to have neither originality nor effort to even find something unique to draw or paint.
  4. If you used the same model often enough, they could also be considered your muse. Whatever your relationship may be outside of the art, whether friends, client, lovers, etc. you now have a relationship attached to your art in having a muse rather than just a replaceable model. The model means more to you than just a model, and is likely both an influence and inspiration for your work. Regardless of what your work might look like, it is legitimately inspired work now! 🙂


Acting on my Attributed Value of a Model

Over the roughly six months I was in this study on how people learned to draw, I went to a lot of life drawing sessions and even some weekend retreats for drawing from real models. I supplemented that with drawing from some photos I found online. That was because I was just developing skill. I didn’t have my own model, and wasn’t ready to be paying for one just for skill development where I just needed to be able to improve my drawing reproduction skills of what I saw in front of me.

When the study was over and I didn’t have to be accountable for showing some practice at drawing each week, I set my sights on making art, which had always been my goal with drawing. It was never about drawing for the sake and/or joy of it. I had always been intent on getting it as a basic skill for creating original, well thought out, visual art. As a result, I generally stopped going to life drawing sessions. I got my practice through the more convenient method of using free online photos of models, finding poses I wanted, sometimes even figure types and/or features.

For my art, though, I was very fortunate to have a friend willing to pose nude for me to create original art together. The spirit of doing things together meant I didn’t have to pay her, though I do try to show my appreciation in other ways. There was absolutely the possibility she’d get some art from me if she liked what I created with her, though I was careful to caution she might never like any to be upfront and fair with expectations. Not having to pay a model also helped keep me focused on the art rather than money for posing sessions, and time within the sessions costing money. Working together with a model multiple times also meant I had motivation to show her progress in my work, and inspired me to new possibilities with a muse rather than just a model. I could also do longer term planning for development of my art. I will introduce my model in a different, dedicated post which she more than deserves soon. In the meanwhile, here are a few other drawings of the same model as above, from the same life drawing session.


Standing & Lying Nude
8.5 x 11 each, combined into collage
Left – 5 min pencil drawing + 5 shading
Right – 15 min drawing + 10 shading
Mar 25 2016
(please click to enlarge)


More of my art can be found on my innudendo Instagram.






3 thoughts on “The Value of an Art Model

  1. Beautiful Article, I always thought of having a model so I can have a reference for drawing nude women. Great work and it’s good you have a friend that is willing to do that I’ll look to start considering that myself. Thanks again for the post and nice artwork you have!


    • Thank you. My model is a kind and brave soul to be modeling nude for a friend in me, and a luxury in art I can’t replace. It’s different than having a paid model, and I’m sure it’s different than having a model with whom one is intimate, like Picasso and his muses. I don’t know anything of the latter but thought I’d mention the situations which I separate in my mind as being different with regards to having subjects for drawing. I like your art as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Value of an Art Model — Innudendo | brownscomicart

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