An interview with model John A. Carrasco
In North America there is a romanticized image of the professional artist’s model. Movies and books are inclined to feed that image by projecting sexy nymphets and oversexed painters. The reality is modeling requires intense concentration in addition to immense physical and emotional control.
Artist’s models are not the same as a photographer’s model. Cameras are forbidden in a drawing class. Also, if the model is to be nude you must book a life model or a figure model rather than an artist’s model. Asking specifically for an artist’s model tells the agency or guild the model will be clothed.
As a painter and sculptor for 35 years, I can attest there is nothing sexual when we work from a live model. A drawing class collectively pays a model to master their skills in anatomy. An inexperienced model will charge $20.00 to $30.00 an hour and a skilled model is often twice that. Privately, we are trying to capture as much down on paper before the light changes or the model gives out.
Art modeling is demanding. Models must know how to transition into a hundred classic poses. Holding the position for long periods is not easy. Think how hard it is to hold a yoga pose. Temperature is a factor: it can get cold at times and at others the lights can get quite hot, or at least hot enough to make them sweat.
There are three categories of poses: Standing, Seated, and Reclining. Poses are held 5 to 20 minutes. Longer poses are reserved for the more experienced model, as the body can cramp. Poses that expend more energy, such as the asymmetrical contrapposto or standing twists, are also reserved for the experienced model.
Models at modern ateliers are sitting for the best and the brightest talent in the world.
One of the most recognizable San Francisco Bay area artist models is John A. Carrasco. Coveted for his soulful eyes, the silver beard of Dumbledore, and his illustrated limbs, he is immediately recognizable in drawings, paintings and sculpture. John is a legend to museums, artists and academics.
I recently had a great chat with John about his modeling career. He lives in the South Bay but travels to various studios including: Academy of Art (San Francisco), Golden Gate Atelier, (Oakland), Triton Museum (San Jose), Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier (San Carlos), NUMU Atelier (Los Gatos), Sadie Valerie Atelier, Justin Hess Studios & Safe House Atelier (all in San Francisco). John has also modeled at universities such as Cogswell Poly Technical College (San Jose), Stanford University, Notre Dame, and Santa Clara University.
When did you become an artist’s model and how did you get into it? How long has it been? Do you do it full time?
About 4 years ago I answered an ad for Carl Dobsky’s Safehouse Atelier, San Francisco. It just took off after that. I’ve been doing it full time ever since.
Have you received any training as far as poses go or do you just allow yourself to be posed like a human mannequin by the artist or teacher?
I’m self taught and made up my poses.
How long do you hold a pose before a break?
The norm is 20 minutes before a 5 minute break.
What’s the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you in a modeling situation?
I doubled up with another Model for figure, surprised it went very well.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you modeling?
I thought a particular class was nude figure. It wasn’t and I was naked! I laughed, laughed and laughed!
Who are some of the artists that have drawn or painted you that really stand out in your mind?
There are so many. In San Francisco there was Carl Dobsky, & Justin Coro Kaufman at Safe House Atelier. Justin Hess and Alicia Ponzio, Sadie Valerie, Elizabeth Zanzinger, Iliya Mirochnik, Jacob Hankinson, Emilio Villalba, Daniel Keys, Teresa Oaxaca and David Jon Kassan also in San Francisco.
That’s quite a Who’s Who of painters, and I know there are many more. I post many contemporary figurative artists on my twitter.com/Uridev stream and I’m sure many people have come to recognize many of these artists through my posts.
Yes, there is a wave of talent emerging. I’ve been fortunate to also sit for David Gray, Felicia Forte, Carol Rafferty, Zoey Frank, Robert Semans, and Youming Cate. At Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier I sat for Noah Buchanan and Sean Cheetham in San Carlos. There was also Zin Lim, Jacob Dhein, Henry Yan, Oliver Sin, and Zhaoming Wu at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Many more, too many to list really.
How many paintings, drawings or sculptures of yourself have been featured prominently in major exhibitions?
So far over ten have been have been featured and over ten more in sales. There are many more coming up in the near future I believe.
Do you attend the exhibitions and if you do, hang around the paintings?
I do try to attend the exhibits. It’s a privilege to be featured.
I’ve noted you have quite a collection of exceptional portraits of yourself. Did students give you that artwork?
I mostly get to keep artwork from Instructors. Sometimes I’ll trade modeling for the art.
Do artist’s models have groupies? I was shocked that you have more followers on Instagram than I do either on Twitter or on Linked In!
I don’t believe I have groupies, but I do have followers.
Does the general public recognize you either by your beard or tattoos from artwork?
Yes they do. People often tell me I’m plastered everywhere.
How do ateliers or artists hire you if they do not know your name, just your face? Do schools have you listed as a model for them?
Most Ateliers, Academy of Art and other Universities have me listed.
You’ve been modeling full time now a few years, have you become friends with any of the artists you pose for?
I believe artists and models develop a connection either figurative or portraiture.
Are you surprised by anything revealed in the artwork about yourself that you never realized as seen through someone else’s eyes?
Yes I was, very humbled by it.
A good studio model can become immortalized in history. Paintings will last 400 years or more whereas film deteriorates; digital photos are ephemeral, and singers become forgotten. The face and the body of an artist’s model lives on through the work.
Featured image: Augie LaRue Sculpture