How to be an Artist’s Model #2: the Female Perspective from Annie J. 4/10/15

Last month I interviewed Michael O., for his insight on being an artist’s model.  Yesterday, I spoke with model Annie J. to get the female perspective.

Annie is much sought after in the various artist ateliers and venues in Atlanta. She models at Chastain Art Center, Atlanta Artist Center, Spruill Arts Center, Roswell Visual Arts Center, privately for many area artists, and is the subject of many portrait demos and workshops. She has also posed for The Portrait Society of America – the ‘olympics’ of portrait modeling.

She is small in stature, but Annie packs a lot of energy, personality and a genuine love of the arts. She passionately promotes artists and their work, as well as area art centers on her Facebook page. She recognizes the struggle to make a living in the arts and does what she can to help.

Karen: Why did you decide to become an artist’s model?

Annie: Well, I didn’t really decide. I was approached by an artist who had been watching me during church sermons, noting, I suppose, my stillness. She helped to give me direction and I have been modeling for artists since then. 

Karen: So, you knew nothing about art or modeling?

Annie: I come from an artistic family, was familiar with art and am inspired by the great masterpieces.  When I lived in California, I modeled petite clothing for clubs and some stores. Additionally, I used to sing in operas and I’ve always had  good sense of body line and angles while being on stage. For opera and theater performances, we were trained to ‘not pull focus’, by remaining very still.  Due to my non-modeling training, I am able to hold still for long stretches of time.   

I started out as a portrait and costume model, wearing various outfits. Here in Atlanta, the teal kimono was a big hit; seems that every artist wanted to paint me wearing it. I enjoy the romance of the costuming and, having a background in theatre, I have lots of costumes from which to choose.  

Today, I am a portrait and costume model, as well as a figure model.

Karen: You are very fit – do you have a workout routine?

Annie: I’m not super fit, but I do walk my dogs and one is a senior, so I have to carry him up and down the stairs.  When I was younger, I swam, participating in synchronized swimming, perhaps the origin of my ballet-style poses. Modeling is a good workout, as is singing in concerts.   

Karen: What about diet?

Annie: I try to avoid carbs, ah, but I’m Italian!!!  I eat lots of fruits and veggies.  And yeah, a bit of peppermint candy is always helpful during modeling sessions, to perk me up. You’ll always see a little box of Altoids on the model stand. 

Karen: What is some of the most unusual modeling you have done?

Annie: I think for me, plein air modeling is the most unusual and unpredictable. It has been a challenge, due to the extreme temps that occur sometimes here in Georgia. I am fair-skinned and have to wear plenty of sunscreen.  Also, posing for sculpture students is unique, because I am on a stand that is rotated every 15 minutes or so. I prefer to not break a pose, but for this situation, we do break, so the stand can be moved with safety for the model. 

Karen: How long have you been modeling now?

Annie: Almost 14 years.

Karen: Have you had any injuries related to modeling?

Annie: I have never had  injuries. Whew!!! Oh, sure, I’ve pushed myself  hard, but never hurt myself; I have great stamina. One time I fainted, and luckily I was in a private home studio. The home was very warm, a floral arrangement was just delivered to the home…and I’m kind of allergic to flowers. So, I was overcome. I also learned that I have low blood pressure, so I increased my salt intake.  I have absolutely never fainted since that one time. The artist was very kind and concerned.  I was, of course, mortified and didn’t even know what happened – good thing I didn’t hit my head!

Karen: Will you tell your age? 

Annie: I am 51. It is true that the body changes as we age. I have seen the changes, really after hitting 50. It’s tough, but hey you gotta keep going! And I can keep up with the 20-something’s any day…

Karen: Is modeling your only job? How many hours a week do you model?

Annie: No, I do have other jobs. I work for a national company, New Neighbors League Inc. We assist people who have relocated to metro Atlanta and with relocations to other cities. I also sing with the Georgia Festival Chorus. I typically model 20+ hours a week, though sometimes more when I’m in a workshop.

Karen: What’s your advice for anyone who would like to be an artist’s model?

Annie: BE YOURSELF…if you try to be someone  you are not, it won’t work. I tried to be ‘edgy’/progressive/cool, but that’s not me..I’m a classical model. 

 You cannot sit there ‘like a bump on a pickle’ when you’re modeling. You have to have energy and share it with the artists.  It’s a relationship and even though models are silent, we are responsible for bringing a good vibe into the sessions and making it a great experience for the artists. It matters. 

 Also, study art books.  Find out what you can do as far as poses. Practice poses. Gather interesting props that you feel will add to the pose, but not distract. 

As for holding poses:  I can hold a pose for 45-plus minutes, but most artists do not expect that. It would be good for a new model to be able to at least hold a pose for 20 minutes, then try to increase the time. But it is OK if a model cannot hold a pose super-long. I’m just crazy and driven!  

Art modeling is a CRAFT and it takes serious dedication to the craft. 

Also, and probably one of the most important facets:  NEVER ARRIVE LATE TO A MODELING GIG and don’t be a ‘no show’.  Here’s a quote I coined:  “Flakiness is not next to godliness.” 

I  help to mentor new models who are interested and truly demonstrate a desire to learn. I so want to help and it is my way of giving back for all the great opportunities I have had. I am grateful to be a working art model and plan to continue. It’s an honor, indeed. 

Thanks for your insights, Annie!


Step 1- Portrait of Annie

Step 1- Portrait of Annie

Step 2- Portrait of Annie

Step 2- Portrait of Annie

Portrait of Annie Watercolor & Graphite 11" x 15”  2015  Portrait of Annie

Watercolor & Graphite


11″ x 15”




                                                                                                                                           Related links:

Chastain Art Center: 

Portrait Society of America: