The Naked Truth About Naked Drawing Classes

I took off my robe and tore it on the floor, and all eyes were glued to me. No, this isn’t a Penthouse fantasy, but the beginning of a nude drawing class. I have had the opportunity to attend to them both as an artist and as a model figure, who has become, ahem, expressing experiences.

My first foray into figure drawing was in high school when I wanted to build a portfolio that I could use to apply to an arts college. So my mom signed me up for classes at the local university. I was just as nervous about the situation as an awkward teenager, and it turned out when I arrived to find that the model was an old man. While the instructor set the lights, I dug through my supply bag and tried to act nonchalant. I didn’t have to act long – the robe was dropped, and not much happened. The model settles into a pose, and my discomfort goes away as I focus on outlining the sketch.

It turns out that someone sitting still naked isn’t really alluring.

Trying to confuse how to depict the oddly shaped shadow under a model’s ankle bone, or how to draw a thumb that is positioned at an odd angle, it’s hard to see people in terms of conventional appeal. Wrinkles, cellulite, paunchy belly, weird patterns of body hair, hunchbacks, and so on all serve to add visual interest to a sketch. The drawing is long and quite often exposes the richness of body types, providing a reminder of the diversity of human biology. Toiling at the task, scanning every millimeter of a person’s skin and watching every muscle tense and twitch, I marvel at the complexity of our bodies – the myriad personalities contained in the mound of flesh.

I ended up studying art in college, and the first year I took a drawing class where I often spent eight consecutive hours staring at nude forms. In this intensive studio setting, nudity becomes almost commonplace, no more than hours inhaling charcoal dust while staring at the knobby old woman’s spine. Additionally, there’s a lot of homework, which often means having to find models during non-class hours. Seeing that posing nude wasn’t a big deal, I was stripped occasionally in friends’ dorm rooms for a few sketches, apart from having my torso thrown in plaster and covering my naked body in paint and splashing it on the canvas.

After college, I worked in a coffee shop while looking for a job, and modeling was a great side-hustle, paying more than double what I made as a barista. I’m also really interested in posing for others as an artistic exercise. After spending so much time on the other side of the easel, it is interesting to take what I have observed and apply it to create dynamic poses. Some classes or sessions consist of a single long pose, but more often each pose lasts anywhere from a minute or two to half an hour. In those situations, I have fun choosing one that conveys a certain mood or one that I think will be interesting for others to draw on.

Modeling is also a deep meditation experience.

I am full of nervous energy, and “sitting down,” as it is called (even when standing), forces me to stop and soak in a feeling of silence. I developed a yoga-like hyper-awareness in my body. Apart from giving me a feeling of serenity, modeling has become a way for me to claim my body for myself. Every woman is familiar with the feeling that her body is not entirely hers. It happens when a stranger tells her exactly what they would do to her if they had the chance, or when someone criticized their appearance, or during some other amount of anger to which women were often exposed. Some people may think that posing nude for strangers will feel insecure or objective, but I feel safer and less condescending than the street harassment I regularly subject me to. Most people I meet in drawing sessions take them seriously and tend to focus on the task at hand with the laser. Plus, it’s an out-of-body experience that’s cool enough to see yourself depicted in a drawn or painted form.

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