Life model code of conduct and professional standards

Art Catalyst Australia (ACA) acknowledges the Victorian Life Models Society for essential information provided here. ACA has a duty of care towards models and is committed to promoting professionalism as much as safety.

All models listed on this website are expected to adhere to the professional standards and conduct detailed here.

Note for prospective members of the Life Models Society

If you would rather not publish any details online and would prefer to be on a printed list of models only then consider becoming a member of the Life Models Society. LMS members have their details added to the quarter LMS model listings distributed to individual and groups subscribed to the list for quarterly updates. 

Clients bookings

Some employers hire a range of different models, others form a short list of tried and trusted models. It may take up to a year before you start getting regular work. When someone rings to offer you work, they will tell you the time, date and address of the venue where you will be modelling.

You should also make sure you get the name and number of a person to contact in case any happens. It is also professional to ask them for further details about the class, whether s/he would like you to bring anything (props, costumes), what sort of poses they will be expecting (short or long, one long pose, etc.) and so on.

What to bring

When you model, you should always bring a robe to wear when not posing, a sheet to sit on for longer poses (to place over the often dirty cushions and seating provided by the venue), something with which to tie up your hair if it is long, and keep a copy of the standard working conditions handy in case you are ever asked what they are!

You may also like to bring:

  • a watch or timer
  • a pair of thongs or slippers (the floors of art studios are often dirty)
  • a bottle of water and
  • perhaps some props or cushions of your own for poses

What happens when you go to model

When you arrive at the venue, you will usually be greeted by the person running the class. He or she should then show you a private changing area, and indicate where the nearest toilets are. You then change into your robe and slippers, and wait for the class to begin. It is best to arrive about ten minutes before the class begins.

Drawing sessions typically start with a series of short poses (usually 2-5 minutes, although you will occasionally pose for as little as 30 seconds) to help the artists warm up. After this, most classes go on to longer poses of 10-20 minutes (note that 20 minutes is the maximum you should be asked to stay in the same pose).

If the artists want you to hold a pose for longer than 20 minutes, they should mark your position with chalk or masking tape at the end of the first 20 minutes, give you a break of 5-10 minutes, and then help you get back into the same pose.

Modelling rates

Rate: The standard minimum rate of pay for life models is $35.00 an hour, with a minimum callout payment of 2 hours. Some venues pay more than this. If a venue offers you (as an experienced model) a booking for less than $35 per hour, politely remind them that standard rates across the industry have been set to safeguard a minimum hourly rate for all life models working in Australia. 

For photographic work the hourly rate endorsed the Life Modes Society is $75.00 per hour.

If long distance travel is involved then models should request additional compensation for their travel time. 

Accepting payment

When doing work for small art societies or private jobs, life models are usually paid in cash. Larger groups and organisations (e.g. community centres) may issue cheques in the name of their institution or organisation, in which case they will ask whether you have an Australian Business Number (ABN). If you do, you will usually need to write out or bring an invoice for the modelling payment (add GST to the bill if you are collecting GST). If you don’t have an ABN, you can get around this by filling in a GST exemption form, and declaring that you model as a private recreational pursuit or hobby.

Some models work under a pseudonym, to preserve their privacy. If you choose to do this, there are two ways you can handle this when being paid by cheque. Either you can ask for the cheque to be issued in your real name (in which case you may need to remind the teacher to address you by the pseudonym), or arrange with your bank to accept cheques addressed to your pseudonym.

Universities and TAFEs typically put models on the payroll and pay directly into their bank accounts, deducting tax from their earnings. If you get work at one of these institutions, remember to bring along your tax file number and banking details, as you will need to fill in employee forms.

Personal matters

Always make sure that you are clean when modelling. Female models should keep track of when their periods are due, and bring tampons. Male models are often concerned about getting erections, but experienced models say these are in fact very rare.

Remember also that the people drawing you may not be as comfortable as you with nudity. Make sure you wear your gown when you are not posing. Never walk around, chat informally or negotiate pay or conditions when naked. It is also best to avoid making eye contact with the people who are drawing you when you are modelling: some people find this intimidating.

Emergencies and personal difficulties

Venue: The person running the class should ensure that you have a warm, comfortable environment in which to model. If the room is cold, you have a right to insist that they heat it effectively. A good compromise can be modelling clothed or with socks and a hat on while the room warms up. Sometimes the modelling space will be heated by one or two small heaters, which can start to burn you if you model too close to them. Don’t suffer in silence: ask the teacher or someone in the room to move the heater!

Another potential problem is being asked to do a long reclining pose on a cold, hard laminex table. If this happens, you could lie on your clothes or robe as a temporary measure, but politely suggest that they arrange a blanket, mattress or cushions for future sessions (a gym mat can be a good option in high schools). An alternative is to bring your own rug or cushions with you to classes so that you know you will always have something to sit or lie on.

Last minute crises: If you injure yourself or fall ill before you have to model, you should always notify the venue first and offer to replace yourself by finding another model on the list to do your job on the day. If the is acceptable to the venue or artist,  let them know who will be modelling instead as they have right to re-book you or to decline the booking if your replacement is not considered a suitable substitute. If crisis strikes too late for you to do this (e.g. a car accident on the way to the job), ring the venue and let them know.

Failing to turn up to a job without explanation, warning or finding a replacement model is very bad form, and will likely result in you not being booked again by that venue or artist, so please ensure you have a contact number for the artist or venue host.

Posing problems

If a pose is starting to become agonising, do not feel obliged to suffer your way to the end! Ask how long there is to go for that pose, and if it is longer than you can endure, let the teacher know that you are suffering and ask if you can either end the pose there or modify it to reduce the pain. After a difficult pose, make sure you stretch your muscles. If you are asked to do a pose with which you are uncomfortable, either because it is painful or for other reasons (e.g. it is suggestive, and you are not happy about this), you are within your rights to refuse to do it.

Double booking

If the venue has made a mistake and booked two models for the same session, both of whom are prepared to work, both models should be paid! If both of you are prepared to work, you can take it in turns to model or model together as a pair.

Dubious employers

The great majority of artists and art teachers are considerate, respectful and friendly towards models. However, very occasionally you may encounter someone who behaves in a disrespectful or otherwise undesirable manner (e.g. making suggestive comments or advances, allowing someone who is not part of the class to come in and watch). If this happens, put on your gown and tell them to stop (or inform the teacher of the class if the person responsible is a student). If the behaviour persists, or if you feel very threatened, get dressed, walk out and inform ACA, Life Models Society or if need be, the police.

If you are asked to model by someone you are not sure about, particularly for a photographic job, there are a few measures you can take.

  • It can help to contact the LMS and ask about the artist in question.
  • You can arrange to meet the artist in a neutral space and look at samples of his or her work (remember that if you are asked to remove your clothes, you are working and should be paid the minimum callout rate).
  • You can ask to see the artist’s website or for a contact number from a gallery that represents them.
  • Another possibility is to arrange for an escort from the LMS to go with you to the first modelling session

Unauthorised photography

When you are posing in a drawing or sculpture class, you are being paid the standard rate for drawing/painting sessions. Occasionally, one of the artists may want to take a photograph of you so they can finish their work at home after class. If you are not comfortable with this, refuse, or put on some clothing and assume the pose so that you are not nude in the photograph.