Tales of a Life Model

Posted by Elissa Baltzer on November 4, 2011 at 7:10 PM

So once uopn a time many years ago in Paris....sounds like a great start to an intriguing story? Well it is! This is the story of how I started what has now become a 15 year career that I love. When I was younger than I am now I took off on an adventure across the sea to France where I spent one magical almost-year being inspired and seduced by the city of Paris cloaked in the mystery of it's history and the sparkly brillance of it's present day (at the time). I worked as a Nanny for 2 different families, studied a semester at the Sorbonne and then took a semester of sculpture and life drawing classes at a little studio in the banlieue of Paris run by two fantastic Artists. I began with sculpture and then, quickly realising that the clay was never going to make it back to Canada in my bags,I swithced to paper and started drawing the model instead of sculpting. It was fantastic. I learned a lot that semester about colour, proportion, line and artistic community. It was in this quaint atelier overflowing with creativity and artists I had drawn and sculpted with that I also first began posing as a life model.I enjoyed wathing the pieces progress slowly over time. It was fascinating to see how each person perceived me. When I eventually came back to Canada it was with a bust of my head that one of the students had given me...a pretty cool souvenir from France.

Over the years I have posed for classes in many different places in the Maritimes and also here in Montreal. I am always fascinated with the process. You never know what works of art will be created in the span of a class.To dicover the beauty poetry in a well drawn line. What creations may have come into being by the end of tweny minutes, an hour, six hours. How inspiration will weave it's way through the senses and onto the canvas. Watching the evolution of the work and the translation of my pose, light, shadow and medium onto paper canvas or into sculpture is amazing. Each artist sees and resonates with different aspects of the model and the pose. I am fascinated by watching the creation and problem solving that has gone on in each artists' work. When I take my breaks between posing I almost always do the rounds of the art in progress and the ongoing evolution of each piece.

One of the other beautiful parts of my job as an artist who is also a life model is that I get to listen to so many amazing teachers teach. No two teachers teach a concept the same way, and in truth no one teacher teaches the same class in exactly the same way twice so there is always something to learn.

Inspiration abounds. I am inspired also by the students and their work. A touch of violet in a shadow here. A brilliant line of deep yellow there, colours I might never have dared to use myself when painting the model, yet there they are beautiful jewels on someone else's canvas, and I learn from this. When I sit on the subway I then look at the faces of those arond me. I see pale blue on the plane of a cheek as the light hits it, greens in the shadows of hair falling across a face, Brilliant reds in the ear that sun is shining through in the park. And I carry the memories of these canvases with me out of the classroom and into my every day life, seeing colours in the play of light on people and objects in the streets of ths city. 

The job is really about making a beautiful mathematical equation of positions of limbs, torso, angles of the head, semblance of moments that equal beauty, inspration or both. As models what we are conveying and how we are conveying it is really important. It starts with the life model creating a pose and inspiration and ends in a interpretation of what is being seen and felt by the artist. I feel pretty lucky to get to see myself through the eyes and paintbrushes and sketchbooks of so many amazing artists.To watch ephemeral moments that will never reproduce themselves exactly rendered beautifully as art.

Categories: Life Model/ Modèle vivant

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