Debbie and Jeff – A life model couple

How did you both get into life modelling? Was it together or separately?

We are Jeff & Debbie, a married couple who originate from England but now live in Ireland. We are now full-time life models, having stopped our previous jobs when we got here. It all started when Debbie re-watched the film Titanic with Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet. There is a scene where her character is drawn by him. She is naked and in a lying down pose. We wanted a professional drawing done of Debbie to sort of replicate it and found an artist near where we lived. Debbie posed over several days, and the result was amazing. The lady artist also worked at the local college as an art tutor and said that Debbie would make a good model, and along she went, she started working at various art groups and colleges all over the county.

Years later, when we moved to Ireland, she decided to learn how to draw and started attending evening classes. I used to pick her up after the class, and one evening she told me that she had volunteered me to sit for the group the following week. It wasn’t until later that she told me it would be for life drawing. I must be honest and say I have never been so scared in my life and out and out refused, but Debbie just said that she had been doing it for years and not to be so daft! Eventually, I ran out of excuses and went, but if you have ever heard of people suffering from stage fright, I can totally identify with that feeling! I went, and to make it worse, it was an all-female group, some of which I vaguely knew. Despite the fear and embarrassment, I did it, and they were all really lovely towards me. The same thing happened again, and I was asked by the lady running the group to pose at some of her other groups, and before I knew it, I was working all over the place and colleges and art groups sometimes during term time every day of the week.

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Is life modelling something you do as a couple, or do you work alone? 

Both really. We get a lot of work separately and can offer the female form one week to a group or college class and a male the next. Still, we also work together as a couple and because we are very relaxed, we can offer some nice entwined intimate poses.

When you model, do you only pose in person or do you also pose virtually? 

During lockdown here, we did do some sessions on Zoom, and it kept the groups going through some very difficult times, but in truth, we didn’t enjoy them as much as in a real-life situation. Somehow we needed the group actually to be there and to see them at work and interact with them. You get a feeling about how it is going and the level of artists in the group and can come up with poses that suit the situation. Part of the reason we do this is because through modelling, we have met some wonderfully creative people, and it’s that interaction we feed on, really. Zoom kept it all going to an extent and gave some of the artists an outlet whilst locked in, but we missed the real-life sessions.

How does it differ from in-person, and was it hard to adapt if you post online?

Firstly everyone gets the same angle, so it is harder to offer challenging poses to the more gifted artists and slightly easier angles to those who may be learning or developing. Also, of course, at best, living with an internet connection is a bit hit and miss at times; we never really knew if they were still there! At least if the picture froze, they thought we were keeping really still!

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Have you ever been captured by an artist and have not liked the finished piece?

Often ! You need to develop a bit of a thick skin but equally, sometimes you can look at a drawing and think it’s really complementary and feel quite pleased about yourself. But of course, it isn’t about us; its about the art and the artists or the students, and you are a shape, a form, a challenge of skin, muscle, shadow, structure and tone that has to be captured and it’s not about how you look in a particular pose (remember you are often surrounded inside a circle of easels, so there is literally nowhere to hide anything). Any embarrassment exists inside our heads and nor the artists who see you as a challenge and are working out the best way to get it down in art form. Once you realise that it’s easier!

Some couples find it hard to work together; how do you find it?

We love it, but it can be challenging. Suppose you are working alone and you are asked to move from one short pose to the next. In that case, you can come up with a sequence of shapes and move from one to another, sometimes not really knowing what the next pose will be until you find yourself moving into it, but….as a couple….you are both thinking independently of course and sometimes have different ideas. Also, in the longer poses, the slightest movement between you magnifies the gap between the arms or legs or bodies……and a small gap can suddenly become a lot more exaggerated if you start to move apart or get closer. So we have to keep checking our position, but we can offer lots of arms and legs and hands by cuddling or holding each other, and artists seem to really enjoy drawing a couple who are relaxed with each other’s bodies.

“We love watching what @lifemodelsireland are up to on Instagram .. duo modelling is a particular little niche within the figurative art world, especially for older couples, so we’ve watched what they do with great interest and admiration. We try. But @lifemodelsireland are lovely – we’ve shared tips .. and we might have borrowed a few ideas as well over the years (at least from our side of the water)

Richard and ruth, art models

Is there any advice you would give to a couple looking to start modelling together?

It does add a different perspective to modelling for the reasons mentioned above, but if you are both relaxed with each other, be it male/female or two males or, etc., a female couple, the challenge is what the artists enjoy.

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Are either of you artists?

No. We do try and of course, if we are modelling for a tutored group we can listen to all the advice, tips and techniques that the tutor offers and then go home and try them out for ourselves. We hear it all while we are there and have learned a lot.

What do you get up to when you are not modelling?

We live in a rural area and have several animals which take up a lot of our time, thankfully! We are pretty active and like to keep ourselves busy doing “stuff” but nothing I can really quantify since we gave up the rat race of full-time jobs and all the commuting that was driving us mad.

Is there a theme you both would like to pose for?

Well speaking for myself I’d love to do some outdoor poses. But we don’t always have the climate! But the famous impressionist work of the picnic where there is a mixture of clothed and nude figures would be great.

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What is the hardest part about life modelling as a couple? And the easiest? 

It’s the same as above, but one of the hardest parts is if one of us gets the giggles, it sets the other off. That happens …. a lot !! Also, of course, from a guy’s point of view, I’m posing with my wife, who I find very attractive ….. you can see where this is going……but in that environment, it hasn’t happened, thankfully, but the potential is always there. I’m human, after all, and sometimes I can be in an extended pose with nice relaxing music, dimmed lights, and everyone is busy working away, and you sort of go into another zone……and that’s when I have to think of something very boring!

Do you have any plans for the future?

No, not really we are just planning to go on until we are no longer needed. We are so pleased to be part of a creative process by doing what we do. I still suffer from nerves despite having well over 200 sessions to my name, and of course, I get embarrassed at the moment of unveiling, especially with a new group, but once it starts, I enjoy it and love seeing the art that is produced from our efforts. After all, that’s why we do it.

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