Recently I started to do some portrait modelling at an art school. I’ve been on the artist side of this equation many times, but this is my first time being the model. Remaining still, being stared at, and sitting and re-sitting in the exact. same. position. for extended periods of time is definitely harder than it looks. It’s also weird to walk around the room and see other people’s paintings of me, even though I paint myself all the time. And it’s just nice to be in the classroom environment again.
I didn’t opt to do nude modelling, since I was kinda unsure about doing it and that’s something you need to be REALLY sure you want to do (I had a few models in college that were clearly very nervous and uncomfortable which then creates an uncomfortable energy in the room.) But I did get to talking to a few of the more seasoned models at the school about their experiences. We talked about how life drawing/painting classes are a truly unique context to see a naked body in, while also being probably the most positive and affirming. I honestly think everyone should take one of these classes if they can.
A life drawing class at Vassar, from the 1930′ s. Image via
So many people aren’t used to seeing the naked human form, especially the naked female form, in a non-sexualized context. So, when I took my first figure drawing class my sophomore year in college, I guess there was some initial awkwardness. Life drawing is a different kind of objectification- you’re seeing the body as it really is, as the point of the class is to replicate what is in front of you with observational accuracy. You break down the body into shapes, planes, values, etc. just as you would with any still life of actual objects. Simply as a fellow human being with a body of her own, observing a variety of body shapes like this honestly made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. Seeing that everyone has somewhat uneven skintone, birthmarks, scars, stretch marks, and other features that we all stress waaay too much over and will oftentimes illogically think that we’re the only ones with these flaws, feels almost therapeutic.
I’ll leave you with Stephen Colbert (as Chuck Noblet in the excellent Strangers with Candy) doing life drawing modelling because… reasons ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)