I figured I might as well put my insomnia (it’s currently 5am) to productive uses 🙂
I think the second-most asked question (this being the first) that people ask me when they find out I’m a model is what I think about while in the middle of a pose.
That’s a very good question. I can’t say there’s one specific thing I think about in order to keep me focused. In fact, my mind often drifts. For instance, in many drawing groups, music is usually played, and I tend to find myself thinking about scenes representative of the music. Softer classical pieces usually get me thinking about pastoral, countryside settings. In fact, during my very first session, I had what was basically an out-of-body experience (they do tend to happen when you model*) and the music playing made me start to envision the closing credits of a black and white French movie (don’t ask me why I thought of it—it’s just what my brain decided I should be thinking about!).
I like to think of it as “active meditation.” My mind is active, but I also remain present in the here and now so that my face and body don’t move in response to what I’m thinking about. For example, during the course of your day to day activities, you might think of a friend. And you smile a bit. Or you might think of someone you don’t like, and you might frown or your hands may shake a little. You have to be careful that your body isn’t telegraphing whatever it is you’re thinking about. Surprisingly, I’ve found that this isn’t really that hard.
Now if you’re doing gesture poses, your mind most likely won’t wander that much. For one- and two-minute poses, you’re keeping the time in your head, so you already have something occupying your thoughts (oftentimes, I’m thinking of my next pose simultaneously). And I find that there isn’t enough time in shorter poses (three minute poses, five minute poses) for my mind to substantively wander. I’m usually transfixed with holding the pose. And since shorter poses can be a bit more strenuous, I’m consequently concerned about making sure my body doesn’t quiver. Trying to remain still is enough of a challenge to occupy my mind.
But longer poses are a little different. They’re a bit less dynamic because you need to be able to hold them for longer periods of time (and this definitely does not mean they’re easy to hold—far from it, as I’ll explain in just a bit). Eventually, your body gets somewhat “used” to the position it’s in, and that’s when I’ve found that I have a bit of “alone time” with my brain. I’ve found myself, over the years, to fixate on a variety of topics, such as:
- Daydreams. Just like I would if I were trying to entertain myself in a boring math class.
- What I’m going to eat when I get home (I’ve discussed before why I prefer to model on a mostly empty stomach)
- New blog posts
- Well, pretty much anything!
As I said above, whatever you think about, make sure your thoughts don’t betray your pose. Meaning, make sure you don’t crack a smile, nod your head, frown, tense up, etc. as a result of whatever it is you’re thinking about. I like to think of it as letting 90 percent of your brain go wherever it likes, but that remaining 10 percent is focused on the here and now. If you’ve ever been on a conference call and started to daydream when someone else started talking about their unit, but when they got to you, you heard your name loud and clearly and were ready to present your briefing, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
I also maintain that you basically have to think about something while you’re in pose. Even with longer poses that are easier to hold, parts of you are eventually going to start hurting or fall asleep. I think you’d go mad if you didn’t give yourself something to think about just to take your mind off the pain a little bit.
Which leads me to why I called this post Finding Your Happy Place. A few years ago, I was on the bus with another model. We were both modeling for different classes at the Corcoran, but found ourselves taking the same bus afterwards (for me, back to home and rest, for her, another modeling gig!). So naturally we start swapping war stories (so to speak) and the topic of painful poses and playing through the pain came up. Times where your body is ready to go on strike, but you’ve still got another 10-15 minutes on the clock. She told me she climbs into her Happy Place: a place in her mind where she can occupy her thoughts on something—anything—besides her screaming muscles.
I do likewise. There are certain poses you’ll get into that, after a while, just plain hurt after a few minutes! And I start to think about how long I’ve been in pose, and realize that I still have another 15-20 minutes before I can break out of it. The last thing I want to be thinking of is my aching body.** I find that if I start thinking about something, my mind starts chugging along on its own little train of thought and I can at least take my mind off the pain to where it’s uncomfortable, but manageable. Thinking about current events, work, a fun time you’ve had, etc. can help shift your mind to where you’re not actively focusing on the pain. If you’ve ever “played through the pain” while playing a competitive sport or while you were exercising, this is exactly what I’m talking about.
To sum up, it’s virtually unavoidable to keep your mind from wandering while you model. Just be sure to keep at least part of your thoughts on the here and now, and don’t let your thoughts betray your emotions.
*this can actually be a scary thing, the first time it happens. You may find yourself in the room, but not really “in the room,” so to speak. Like you’ve left your body, and you’re almost like an invisible blob in the middle of the room. Sometimes, when I “come to” and realize what’s going on, I find myself having to fight back that sudden jolt that inevitably comes about. If you’ve ever started to fall asleep in class, and you get that rush of adrenaline as your head starts to drift towards the desk and you snap back awake, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Again, this can be a bit scary at times, as I’ve felt myself losing my balance when this happens.
**however, if a pose is excruciatingly uncomfortable, you need to know when to “tap out.” Generally, you should stick to your pose the entire length of time. But there have been a few times where I knew my body was getting ready to quit on me. Usually I find the affected body part tends to start bucking and shaking like a bronco. If you’re in pain to the point where you know you’re going to hurt yourself, let the artists know that you need to take a quick break to shake out, or apologize and tell them that it’s too painful. In most cases, they’ll just alter the pose ever so slightly, which can make a world of difference.