My first session of figure modeling for life drawing last year was unnerving. I mean, I wasn't too intimidated - I had the basics down; you disrobe, pose for varying amounts of time, and some of those poses can be very long. Not a difficult concept. Because of my experience in front of the camera, I didn't feel like it would be that much of a jump to pose in front of students/artists instead of photographers.
In a lot of ways its not a big difference, and then of course, in some ways, it is.
It's really, really difficult to hold still for longer than 5 minutes. And that's even for the "easy" poses. You know, positions you usually imagine yourself holding more than briefly - such as simply sitting or standing. But I don't enjoy simple for simplicity's sake, I love complex things that have been designed or highlighted for their simplicity. Like the iPhone. Which I don't have. Anyway...
Longer poses require careful considerations. Primarily: "Can I hold that pose for that long?" And the answer probably is no - not without shaking or some limb falling asleep. I often tried to overpose, to give that 110%, but that would lead to the aforementioned shaking and limb-fallen-asleep-ness (hold on, there has to be a word for that. wiki says: paraesthesia) so over time I've learned to balance which poses will or wont be udderly arduous to hold (the yoga has really helped comfortably extend my holding times) and yet maintain a repertoire of cogent, expressive and diverse poses. However, during this learning curve for life modeling I never expected to learn another skill that would be much more rewarding in and of itself: Learning to hold still.
When I was much more unpracticed, less mindful, the timer was my prison. In the very beginning, I thought it would be best if I couldn't see how much time I had left to hold the pose. Good thought in theory. But turns out, I need to check in once and a while and modify my mindset, and make decisions on how to slightly adapt my pose for longevity. There is bliss in the tiny movements.
But in the spaces between check-ins with the timer, the pauses, is what I've had the most satisfaction in practicing. There was quite an adjustment from photography modeling, where I'm used to strobes flashing, music, directions and comments from photographer, and other distractions that I can usually divert my attention to for at least a moment. Not at all the case in the classroom or at co-ops. The only thing you hear consistently is the sound of many pencils drawing on paper. It's become a trigger for me. As soon as I hear that sound, my mind prepares itself for quietness. Stillness. It's become a very peaceful space. A very mindful space.
First I settle in to the pose. Then I pick a focal point for my eyes.
Try it. For 5 minutes. Set a timer, sit down and settle yourself.
Pick something to stare at.
Don't move anything, including your gaze. Don't scratch anything.
Tell me what happens.
Then, try it for 40 minutes.
I've had some amazing sensations come over me, and plenty of quiet time for clear, constructive thinking. Being blissfully aware and present in the moment. Even if I wasn't terribly passionate about contributing to art, these moments of stillness would be all the reason I need to stay a life drawing model for a very long time.
More on my thoughts about this later.