An introduction

Needless to say, the wonderful parody on the index page isn't very likely to depict what one will see at art classes or open studios. This photo is more in line with what one will experience in the real world.

This is a painting session, but a drawing session will not be that much different. Artists will be preserving the image of a model using various media such as pencils, pens, chalk, colored pencils, charcoal or Conté Crayons, and a variety of surfaces such as sheet paper, note pads, easel pads, newsprint (the stuff that newspapers are printed on) or whatever the artist is moved to use.

Art is the product of individuality.

The star of the show

So we now have a group of artists, from a few to a classroom full, with one thing on their artistic minds: they want to draw something. The term "life class" presupposes that their subject will be living, and generally that subject is a human being.

And that's your cue. You're their model. They want to draw you.

Although in some specialized life drawing settings, the model is dressed ("draped", in the jargon) in street clothes or costumes, the large majority of sessions require that the models be nude. And this group of artists wants you to be "undraped".

Get used to that concept before you even consider figure modeling.

In a prudish culture, societal standards deem that nudity is dirty or obscene or shameful. In many places, the very act of being unclothed in the presence of others can result in legal charges such as "indecent exposure" or a "sexual offense". People's lives have been ruined by being clothes-free in unapproved places.

In the art world, those Victorian social prohibitions do not apply. Within the walls of life drawing studios or classrooms, nudity is the norm.

Reality time, prospective life models: for two or three hours, you will be standing, kneeling, sitting or reclining with every square inch of your body exposed, and yes, even "those parts". You will be motionless, and many pairs of eyes will be studying your entire body intensely as they commit you to their media.

Some advice for the guys:

• Put the concerns about "that" happening into context. The open studio setting is about as sexually stimulating as a doctor's exam room. You are not showing the artists anything that they have not seen before — unless you're their first male model, which is unlikely — and the dimensions are of no interest to them.

• The art studies classroom is considerably different from the open studio. The artists are usually fairly young students, and if your gig is early in the academic year, you might very well be the first undraped male that they have ever seen outside of Web porn. In that case, it's possible that they are even more uneasy than you are. Just be professional and make the sitting productive and rewarding. Focus on what you're doing, not on who is drawing you.

There is of course the extremely unlikely scenario that one of the artists is an ultrahot megababe with a flawless body barely covered with a tank top and short shorts, who sets up her easel six feet from you and smiles sensuously as she stares at your paraphernalia.

In that case, the little guy may very well respond in the normal male manner. However, it is likely that the artists have seen that as well and will ignore it, knowing that it is transient — except for the hottie, who is feverishy committing it to paper. Best bet: let her stare, think of Rosie O'Donnell or Michael Moore in a thong (images guaranteed to wilt a flagpole), and get her phone number later to arrange a private session.

Is a life model nude or naked?

Here's a pertinent question: is an unclad life model nude or naked? How should one view the au naturel state when modeling to put it into perspective?

Although "naked" and "nude" are often used synonymously, even in the art world, "naked" is burdened with largely negative connotations. It suggests an inadvertent and probably embarassing exposure such as being caught coming out of the water after an impulsive skinny-dip on a hot summer day.

"Nude", on the other hand, involves a freely chosen state of undress with which one is comfortable, alone or in the presence of others. For example, a typical nudist in a resort, club or nude beach has no "hangups" about being clothes-free. To him (used generically hereafter to refer to both sexes), nudity is just another way of dressing.

Dispel the notion of being naked. The experienced life model knows that he is nude, not naked. He also knows that while he is on the dais or wherever he is posing, the artists are viewing him with the detached interest that they would give to a bowl of fruit.

If it will help, artists use the terms "male" and "female" rather than "man" and "woman" when referring to models. That depersonalizes the situation and puts their interest into perspective. To them, you're a still life with legs.

IMO, until Marcel Duchamp rises from the grave and produces a sequel entitled, "Naked Descending A Staircase", or Francisco de Goya is discovered to have painted a masterpiece that he called "The Naked Maja", use "nude" to describe your state during a life-modeling session. If nothing else, it gives the wannabe dwellers in the 19th century less ammunition to fire at our art.

The next section deals with who is and who is not suitable for being a life model.


© 2012 RP Renaud -- all rights reserved