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The Naked Truth About Nude Art Modeling

June 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Robin Eileen Bernstein, Salon

“Have you ever been intrigued by what it’s like to be a nude art model?” the email from my school asked

Over the years I’ve scrutinized, squinted at and visually dissected every inch of easily more than 100 naked humans. That’s because my passion is figure drawing, so I rack up a lot of hours staring at unclothed adults. Yet these men and women — old and young, all shapes, sizes and ethnicities — whose bodies are exposed from every angle, whose nude images grace my walls, remain unknown to me. I rarely know their names.

Who are these people who bare all to a room full of strangers? How does it feel to pose under unforgiving lights as students mentally measure the distance from your clavicle to pubis? I often wonder what it takes to do a job most know little about yet is essential to rendering the human figure in art.

My first model was not nude and not even human. As a kid I relentlessly drew Astro Boy, my favorite TV cartoon character, which made me an anime fangirl decades before Pokémon. By the time I took my first life drawing class at 17, I was hooked and, in the decades that followed, I took classes at various schools when time allowed. It’s one of the few activities in which I truly feel like I’m “in the zone.”

There’s a routine: A model poses on a platform surrounded by students at easels or in chairs. It usually starts with a series of dynamic gestures, one-minute poses so named because the goal is to capture the movement. There might be several five-, 10- and 20-minutes poses in a typical three-hour session. After every 20 minutes, there’s a break when the model dons a robe. If a pose continues beyond that, it’s marked on the platform with tape so the model can resume the same position.

I’ve asked myself if I’d ever have the guts to pose nude for a class. Twice I’d done it clothed —  once while pregnant — when the model was a no-show and volunteers were needed. And in my early …read more


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