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The naked truth about nude art modeling

Over the years I have researched, squinted and visually dissected every inch with ease of more than 100 naked humans. That’s because my passion is drawing figures, so I rack up many hours of staring at adults who aren’t seduced. Yet these men and women – young and old, all shapes, sizes and ethnicities – whose bodies are exposed from every angle, whose nudes adorn my walls, remain unknown to me. I rarely know their names.

Who are these people who are all naked into a room full of strangers? How does it feel to pose under unforgiving lights as students mentally measure the distance from your clavicle to the pubis? I have often wondered what it takes to do a job that most know little about but so important to create a human figure in art.

My first model was not naked and even human.

As a child, I endlessly drew Astro Boy, my favorite TV cartoon character, who made me an anime fangirl decades before Pok√©mon. By the time I took my first life drawing class at 17, I was hooked and, in the decades that followed, I took classes in various schools when time allowed. This is one of the few activities where I really feel like “in the zone.”

There is a routine: Models pose on platforms surrounded by students on easels or on chairs. Usually begins with a series of dynamic movements, the one minute pose is so named because its purpose is to capture the movement. There may be multiple five, 10 and 20 minute poses in a typical three hour session. After every 20 minutes, there is a break when the model puts on the robe. If the pose continues beyond that, it is marked on the platform with a ribbon so that the model can continue in the same position.

I have asked myself if I ever had the courage to pose naked for class.

And in my early twenties, a photographer friend who shot an artsy black-and-white nude from my roommate offered to do the same for me. I am the game, but it is in the privacy of my home. In college I drew myself naked, again in person; it was homework, I remember.

Am I going to be in the strobe now, for class? Depending on my mood and wine intake, answers range from “sure, why not?” to “not a snowball chance in hell!” So when I get an email from the Art Students League of New York where I’m currently studying, with the subject line “Curious about modeling for art? Learn all about it this Thursday,” I open it up.

“Have you ever been interested in what it feels like to be a nude art model?”Learn all about it this Thursday,” I open it up.

“Have you ever been interested in what it feels like to be a nude art model?”

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