Tag Archives: atelier

The Female Artist Model: Malice In Wonderland

Coming off the Women’s March and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I would be remiss if I did not address the darker side of how female art models have been viewed and treated in history. As in all things professionally, there seems to be separate standards for men and women.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painted by Marshall Jones

In Sarah Phillips book, The Modeling Life, she says, “Standing at a unique juncture–between nude and naked, between high and low culture, between art and pornography–the life model is admired in a finished sculpture, but scorned for her or his posing….”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

She goes on to say, “throughout history, people have romanticized life models in an aura of bohemian eroticism, or condemned them as strippers or sex workers.”

As a female artist, this has never been my perception of an artist’s model. Sadly, after 35 years as a painter, I still occasionally have someone project some nonsense from a book or movie onto me. Just because someone is an artist does not mean they are a starving artist, bad at business, or egotistical.

The passion of an artist is often projected into a fictional version of themselves.  In these fairy tales, it is control over another, not passion, that is portrayed.

In fact, artists are in a business that requires being treated as such. It is a labor-intensive discipline that takes years to master. Finding an artist’s model that can work synergistically with you is a great rarity.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by James Edmond
Pigeon Plumtree III, James Edmond drawing in progress (L) and finished drawing (R)

San Francisco Bay Area Models like Carla Kandinsky became the face and body associated with The Bay Area Figurative Movement in the 60’s and modeled over 50 years. “It was before the feminist movement, before topless dancers had taken over San Francisco’s North Beach nightclub strip. It was far from respectable work. She feared telling people what she was doing for a living”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Adam Miller
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Adam Miller

When Carla Kandinsky was modeling at the San Francisco Art Institute she was approached about swimming topless in a large glass tank at Bimbo’s and to pose for nude photographs. She declined both. She said she realized art students did not see her as naked. It was form and shadows. It was like looking at a Coke Bottle.

Kandinsky wrote a poem once about her experience of modeling. In one poem she describes, “old men who draw their fantasies, making you years younger with thighs the likes of which you’ve never seen; cruel younger women wielding crayons like razor blades to hack lines deep into your face and draw the droop of breasts with merciless accuracy and older women dabbing in in delicate watercolors, their own lost youth and sex reflected in your painted eyes.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Kevin Moore
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Kevin Moore

Barbara Tooma modeled over 4 decades regularly with the California College of the Arts. In Peter Steinhart’s book, The Undressed Art, Why We Draw, Barbara tells us how often “artists project themselves onto the model without even realizing it.”

The Bay Area Models Guild was established 72 years ago by Florence Alan (a.k.a. Flo), herself an artists model over 47 years. Her face and body are familiar to fans of Diego Rivera, Wayne Thiebaud, and Joan Brown. Although Mrs. Alan died in the late 90’s, she left a legacy protecting models from work related risks. Both artists and artist models are screened heavily.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith

The Guild determines the length of time of poses, breaks, establishes guidelines for both the model and the atelier. Models must hold poses for long periods of time and return to those poses after breaks which is quite strenuous on the body. They must contend with the coldness of most studios and trespassers in university settings.

Longtime model Ginger Dunphy reflected on this recurring problem in The Undressed Art: why we draw by Peter Steinhart. “Crazy people walk into the studio at the Art Institute with cameras and take pictures.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Other models, like Marianne Lucchesi, experienced a creepy stranger sneak up on her at an evening session at San Jose State University and try to have a conversation. She had to stop posing, put on her robe and have the man removed.

Art models are so linked with their painters that we can forget we are looking at real people. Chosen for their deportment and stamina as much as their face, models are chosen for their other worldly quality, sensuality, a look of intelligence, or attitude.  An example of an “other worldly persona” would have to include the infamous Lizzie Siddel who was adored by the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood for her beautiful auburn hair.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger

An artist and poet in her own right, Siddel posed for Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti.She was infamous because a bout of pneumonia left her addicted to laudanum (which she died at age 33 from an overdose). Most of all, she was infamous because Rossetti exhumed her body 7 years after her death, to retrieve a book of his poems he had placed in her grave!

Gustav Klimt sought a model that would mirror the eroticism of Art Nouveau. Viennese fashion designer, Emile Floge was his favorite muse. A sibling of his sister in law, her side parted natural Afro makes her image instantly recognizable.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Today’s artists often look for a model with attitude to reflect the feelings of women tired of being repressed financially, emotionally, physically and politically.

Pigeon Plumtree III is by far the most recognized female artist model in the USA. She is the embodiment of a 21st century woman of attitude. Even her name has attitude. She renamed herself after a Madeline Kahn character. In Road to Avonlea, Pigeon Plumtree was known for her beauty, fame, and selfishness. (Another woman with attitude).

Pigeon has been modeling for 19 years. A friend asked her to sit for her drawing class at a local senior center. “As soon as I settled into the quiet, and the stillness I fell in love. I can still remember the sound of the breeze through the trees and the birds outside. It was a magic place to find within yourself.”

A dancer and an artist by training, artist modeling was a natural evolution to her skills. She moved to New York and spent a decade immersed in modeling for art ateliers, established artists, and attending art openings. It was a long way from the non racially diverse small town in California’s Central Valley she had grown up in.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Harvey Dinnerstein
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Harvey Dinnerstein

Art modeling for pigeon has taken her to ateliers coast to coast. They included The Art Students League of New York, The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Painted, drawn, and sculpted by many of today’s leaders in Figurative Art, Pigeon has been the subject of Elizabeth Zanzinger, Sharon Sprung, Adam Miller, Zhaoming Wu, Marshal Jones, Oscar Peterson, Harvey Dinnerstein, Mario A. Robinson, Aaron Coberly, and Judith Peck among many others. Several have given her practice sketches or other work of herself over the years. Although Pigeon prefers collecting the Gallery Announcement Cards that features work she is in, she is partial to a small bronze sculpture gifted her by an sculptor she posed for. She feels great gratitude that after years of modeling she can find her work reflected in books, galleries and museums.

I initially contacted Pigeon about writing this article shortly after the second San Francisco Womens March. We both live in the Bay Area and she is such a recognizable face in contemporary art it felt important to include her. Like women across the nation, we discussed our #metoo feelings and experiences and how they have impacted our professions.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Clarissa Payne
Painting by Clarissa Payne

Pigeon shared how she was sexually assaulted by a well known atelier student in Seattle several years ago. It was a 4 week pose. The painting she sat for is now well known and that student now is very well known. The original atelier was very professional and she met many artists she worked with for years. Like all women, we are learning to process our anger but not shoot ourselves in the foot professionally. We want to protect others from what we have been through. It only takes one drop of ink to darken a glass of water.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Michael Elsasser
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Michael Elsasser

Pigeon told me that over the last two years she has been phasing out any nude modeling for her own reasons. We both love human anatomy and love the endless blocks of shapes and shadows the nude is capable of.

As an artist I can tell you a body is never the same two days in a row, nor in the afternoon is it the same body it was in the morning. It is one of the most beautiful and challenging subjects for an artist to duplicate. We also discussed our growing unease with how nudes are mis-used in a social media context.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Sharon Sprung
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Sharon Sprung
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Marshall Jones

Pigeon eventually removed any nudes featured in artwork from her social media pages. Sometimes poses that are not sexual become sexualized in another form by others. Pigeon and I have both have received creepy friendship invites from around the world from people who were seeing something different in the art that was posted. She as an artist model, and me, for the work I paint, but also for the figurative artists stream I curate and write about.

Judith Peck met Pigeon in 2011 at an Odd Nerdrum workshop in New York. Since that time she has completed many paintings featuring Pigeon. Three have been sold already, including one from a Purchase Grant from the D.C. Commission Of The Arts and Humanities. The others will be exhibited at the Gallery at Penn College opening March 15, 2018.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

I asked Judith what quality Pigeon has as a model that makes her paint her over and over? “ Pigeon represents every woman and I can project emotion with her body language and expressions”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Oil Wash by Susan Jansen
Pigeon Plumtree III, Oil Wash by Susan Jansen

Artist models, in the hands of the right artist, can be immortalized through their work. They become the silent voice for the time they live in. Pigeon is one of our voices.

We left our conversation in the mutual hope that society as a whole will evolve out of the sexualization of women. Over the next 8-10 years perhaps girls with selfies will stop turning themselves into masturbation fodder for boys, that toy dolls will not be designed look like hookers. Social Media has created a distortion of our purist creative endeavors.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Drawing by Shana Leveson
Pigeon Plumtree III, drawing by Shana Leveson

 


Featured Image: Artist Model Pigeon Plumtree III at a workshop for Sadie Valeri Atelier.  Photo by Sadie Valeri, featuring artists David Jon Kassan and Shana Levenson.

The Artist Model: The Muse Behind The Magic

An interview with model John A. Carrasco

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 1 - Rita Romero
Rita Romero

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.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 2 - Daniel J.Keys
Daniel J. Keys

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.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 3 - Elizabeth Zanzinger class
John modeling in an Elizabeth Zanzinger class

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.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 4 - Kelvin Chen
Kelvin Chen

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 AtelierJustin Hess Studios & Safe House Atelier (all in San Francisco). John has also modeled at universities such as Cogswell Poly Technical College (San Jose), Stanford UniversityNotre 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.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Jie Gao

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!

I think we’ve all had some dreams like that!

Who are some of the artists that have drawn or painted you that really stand out in your mind?

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Charcoal from Gorilla Brigade session in Toronto, Ontario

There are so many. In San Francisco there was Carl Dobsky, & Justin Coro Kaufman at Safe House Atelier. Justin Hess and Alicia PonzioSadie ValerieElizabeth ZanzingerIliya MirochnikJacob HankinsonEmilio VillalbaDaniel KeysTeresa 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.

Yesthere is a wave of talent emergingI’ve been fortunate to also sit for David GrayFelicia ForteCarol RaffertyZoey FrankRobert 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 LimJacob DheinHenry YanOliver Sin, and Zhaoming Wu at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Many more, too many to list really.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 7 - Elizabeth Zanzinger
Elizabeth Zanzinger (Charcoal and white chalk)

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.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 8 - Cuong Nguyen
Cuong Nguyen (oil)

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?

They find me through Facebook, Instagram, or Model Mayhem. There are also local Guilds for artist models.

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