Meet Your Models: Courtney Anne Russell

Sketchbook scan

Russell as serpentine inspiration as seen through the eyes of artist Sarah Barrie Fenton. Artwork by Sarah Barrie Fenton.

Bringing a lifetime of dance experience and the heart of a poet, model Courtney Anne Russell is the definition of a muse. Lovely and intelligent, Russell has studied ballet since the age of three, training with the American Ballet Theater, Lines Ballet and the New York City Ballet company before settling in the Bay Area. As a drag and burlesque performer, Russell is an active member of numerous local troupes from the clownish hijinks of Fou Fou Ha to the soulful Butoh inspired stylings of Bad Unkl Sista. A passionate artist and an individual who cannot be defined by conventions Russell pours herself into her performances regardless of the platform.

Where were you born?

 Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

How long have you been with the Academy of Art?

 Since the fall of 2012.

How did you become an artist model?

Through a friend of mine who worked here as a model. Miss McCabe!

List three words to describe your modeling style:

Dynamic, foolish and flexible.  

Who are your personal muses?

Patty Smith, Gene Wilder and Bob the drag queen.

Who are your favorite characters to portray?

Villains, because they are complicated which gives me room to play. I don’t like to express anger or malice in my everyday life so it’s a good channel for that.

What is your favorite type of class to pose for?

Definitely a class that allows me to be one character for the entire time and follow their journey. Although, I like the meditative side of a long painting pose too.

Favorite part of being an artist model?

Getting to interact with a massive pool of people and be able to witness their artistic style and development.


A moment in motion. Photo by Robbie Sweeny.


In a parade representing Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Photo by Johna Goldenflame.

What might surprise people about artistic modeling?

That the bulk of the work is outside the classroom. Prepping, planning and juggling different elements. The fun part is getting to engage the class.  

Do you have a signature pose?

I have a couple. Anything balancing on one leg for 5–10 minutes, dance-y style gestures and standing on my head. 

If you could be drawn by any artist living or dead who would it be?


Dream guest model to pose with?

Derek Zoolander.

Hobbies outside of modeling?

Singing, writing, reading and designing costumes. 

What did you have for breakfast?


What is the last book you read?

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.

If you joined the circus who would you be?

A sad dancing clown.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Either Berlin or Mexico City.

If you had a superpower what would it be?

To heal myself and anyone else. It would come with actual growth and understanding.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Apathy, in myself and others.

Who would play you in your biography?

Julie Andrews.

Do you have a hidden talent?

Mind control.

Final quote?

“I’m tired of being admired,” Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles.