MARION SAUVEBOIS meets one of the UK’s most successful life models, who explains the rules of the trade

“YOU never, ever undress, or dress, in front of the artists; it’s not the correct etiquette.”

As with any classical art form, life modelling is dictated by a set of conventions and follows strict protocol.

When Rosemarie Orwin chose to leave the grind of a nine-to-five office job to pose nude and inspire hundreds of artists’ work she was determined not to compromise her dignity or the nobility of her ancient profession.

This meant abiding by watertight rules. And there were more than she ever suspected.

First, undressing is never to take place in front of the artist but behind a screen or in a dressing room. Anything else would sexualise a practice which must remain strictly professional.

“There is something a bit voyeuristic if you undress in front of them,” said the 52-year-old, who lives in Okus.

There is also the not so small matter of comfort and remaining warm – too often overlooked.

“It’s not so much rights as basic respect. “The first thing you should be thinking about is privacy and temperature.

“The worst part was when a hall wasn’t preheated. I started to take two heaters with me.

“And you can’t expect a model to pose for an uncomfortable amount of time.”

And these rules go both ways: life modelling is a creative collaboration based on mutual understanding.

“You have to make sure you’ve not been wearing anything that’s going to make a line on your body because it’s distracting and you shouldn’t have tan lines,” explained Rosemarie, who acts as regional officer for the Register of Artists’ Models, the only body dedicated to raising standards, pay and conditions for life models.

“You have to keep your body in shape. I went to the gym at 6.30am every morning.”

Her sense of etiquette coupled with a strong work ethic not only earned her swift recognition – she became one of the most sought-after life models in the UK – but respect in the figurative art world.

Over the years she has modelled for sculptors, painters, draughtsmen and women and has had parts of her body moulded.

One of her strangest experiences on the job saw her stand against a wall while strapped with pieces of string running along the length of her body to form a grid so the artist could section out parts of her anatomy.

Yet, nothing could have predicted Rosemarie’s foray into modelling. Like many, she found her vocation by chance.

She was stunned when one of her notoriously shy friends confessed she had dabbled in life modelling as a teenager. Her interest was piqued and, with her husband Tony, she researched the possibility of modelling herself.

Together they created Modelled me UK, a website to promote Rosemarie.

One day, 12 years ago, the grandmother-of-one found herself in the picturesque village of Sunningwell positioning her body in front of a dozen artists.

“I very nearly didn’t do it because of a piece of feedback from an artist who said the model had to please the artist and didn’t seem to have any respect for them.

“I weighed that up against the positive and contacted Sunningwell School of Art. They booked me for a two-hour slot. I went along with my dressing gown and a cushion.

“I was absolutely terrified; I was frozen to the spot. But at the end of it I was euphoric.”

When a wave of redundancies at Swindon’s WH Smith threatened her administration job she decided to model full-time.

But forging a career as a successful model was not smooth sailing.

As well as fighting for respect in the art world, she had to contend with society’s misconceptions about life modelling.

No, it was not just about standing still for hours on end like a lifeless mannequin. Standing still is an art in itself, which requires not only concentration but utter control and physical strength.

“There is this ignorance of what life modelling is. Some models use a fake name or don’t tell their parents.

“I don’t like it when people say ‘naked’. It’s ‘nude’. It’s not voyeuristic.

“It’s a very respectable job if you do it properly. It’s pivotal to what artists are doing. It’s hard work – you have to constantly think of new shapes to create.”

There is also the constant need to challenge artists and capture their imaginations.

“You have to keep artists engaged. You need to move into a pose and really feel the energy going through. It spurs them on and inspires them to draw. I always tried to give them something different and interesting. Over time you learn to adapt and what is sensible for your body. You can’t start something and abandon it.

“First you have to focus on an inanimate object to make sure you keep your head still. You need to try to avoid looking at a clock because time goes so slowly. The pose has to be as interesting as possible from every angle.

“You have to look relaxed but inside you are gripping every muscle to keep still. You can’t look like you’re in discomfort or pain.”

As demand grew for her services, Rosemarie travelled further and further afield.

She and her husband soon spotted untapped potential for figurative art classes in Swindon and launched their own workshops at Moose Hall in Old Town, featuring models handpicked by Rosemarie.

They have been so popular that the pair are preparing to start a new untutored art session in Broad Hinton from February 11.

Rosemarie, who due to back problems, has had to “phase out” modelling, will pose at the group’s first meeting.

Each session costs £36. Modelled me UK also runs art workshops for businesses and hen parties. To book and for more details visit, call 01793 485150 or 07769 694 994. Alternatively email