I stepped onto the small elevated platform, extended my leg and pointed my toe while lifting my arms up overheard, crossing at the wrists. I gazed in the direction of the bright studio lights glaring down on me and I felt the eyes of the artists, and heard the rustling of paper. After a few quick moments of this, I realized that I hadn’t done everything I was supposed to do and why I was hired. I quickly lowered my arms, grasped the hem of my dress, and with one movement, pulled the dress up and over, tossing it to the side to land in an unremarkable pile. I didn’t have a bra or underwear on, or anything else, and I was completely nude. I lifted my arms back up and heard the art studio monitor announce that the first pose have now begun.
That was how my first experience as a fine art nude model began. I’ve now modeled for that same studio, two other local studios, plus a sizable number of private (inside an artist’s home!) studios. Over the course of seven months, I’ve posed inside, outside, in front of women, men, from people my own age to those that could be my grandparents. With the exception of wearing a sea-drenched white sheet, all of these have been booty-licsious naked.
By doing this I’ve gained some easy grocery money and the opportunity to see myself painted and drawn, as well as out-of-this-world body confidence and a new and different perspective on the physical body. Here’s a brief breakdown of the things I’ve learned as a fine art nude model:
It’s Just A Body
Yes, it’s your body. And you may strongly identify with your body. But it’s not you. Beyond this, the artists aren’t there to see nudity. They aren’t there to judge your body or to judge YOU in relation to your body. They are there because they are serious about their medium and drawing from a live model far exceeds drawing from a photograph. Most likely, they’ve been drawing from live models for ten, twenty, or even thirty years. As a model, you are shapes and shadows, lines and curves that they attempt to portray as accurately as possible. And speaking of the artists…
They Aren’t Creepers
All of the artists are either professional or near-professional level. Some of them are members of the public studio, otherwise they must pay a fee to attend the session And they must bring their own materials and art supplies are expensive. Really, going to a strip club would be way cheaper if a naked body is all they wanted to see. They are there to challenge themselves artistically, to grow as an artist, or to help develop and shape a piece they may be working on. I’ve now modeled close to twenty times, probably in front of a total of 150 different people and not once have I felt uncomfortable.
It’s Easy – But Maybe Not As Easy As You Think
Each session typically lasts two to two and a half hours, depending on the specific studio (although I once did a private session on the beach which lasted four hours). In a typical setting, the model may hold ten different poses for two minutes each, or a single pose for twenty minutes – and then there’s a five minute break. Repeat, for two or so hours. Easy, right? Stand or sit or lay down and hold. Yes, easy but also not. Body awareness, relating to your own personal knowledge of what your body can comfortably hold is something that most of us don’t typically think of. And this is coming from someone who taught yoga for over three years. Holding your arms over your head for longer than a minute is no joke, while tilting your chin upwards is basically murder for your neck. And that’s not to mention the possibilities of cutting off circulation and the need for cushions underneath your hips or even your feet.
Best. Meditation. Ever.
But for real. This is only true if it’s a pose held for twenty minutes and reclined. You have to keep absolutely still and once you’re an hour into the session, you’ve already had ample time to overanalyze and replay all conversations in your head. Really, the stars are aligning for a forced meditation because what else is there to do except hope that your menstrual cup (if it’s your time of the month to ride that crimson wave) is snug and secure? Truth is in ten minutes or less, you basically forget you’re naked, and it’s obvious the artists aren’t getting any type of sexual or fetishized enjoyment in it. Keeping still, letting go of your thoughts and just focusing on your breath are key for mediation. In my experience, nude modeling is the perfect catalyst for it.
Opportunity For Creative Expression
Alright, it is very limited creative expression. But there is a little bit of opportunity to explore your creative side, particularly in public studios and with collaborative artists. Whenever I model for a public studio, and I may model between 5-20 poses per session, depending on what the studio wants – I’m the one who decides how I pose. Of course, I do have a background in art, and I also follow a few figure artists on IG to get ideas of what postures may be anatomically challenging, or classically appealing for the artists. But still; I decide how to shape my body, and therefore what type of emotional response the posture may evoke, if the artist decides to use it in a finished piece.
Body Confidence Wins
Through some sort of miracle given the barrage of unrealistic expectations set forth by everyone, I’ve never had body confidence issues, at least nothing more than a fleeting insecurity. So I wasn’t expecting to gain any more confidence in that area. Then I began modeling. The artists literally don’t care what you look like. You can’t hide any stretch marks, fat pouches, hair found in random places, the random zit above the booty. It’s all on display for everyone in attendance to see. Even if they are grossed out or repulsed or whatever by whatever my body has that they don’t want to see – again, they don’t care (and they are just very happy to have someone willing to model nude. It’s also in a space where hateful or body shaming comments are inappropriate and not welcome. Commenting (with something hateful or complementary) would suggest that they are judging your body in a sexual way, and that is the last thing any artist in attendance wants to be connected with. I vividly recall a session where I was reclined with multiple pillows underneath my back, head thrown back on a small pillow, eyes closed. The only sounds were of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” playing and the soft scratching of pencils on paper. It ranks as one of my most euphoric moments, and rarely have a felt as beautiful as I did in those twenty minutes.
Being a fine art nude model hasn’t been life-changing, but it has certainly been enriching, and is something that I am happily looking forward to continuing for as long as I wish. If you think you may wish to try out nude modeling as well, here’s how you may be able to get started: Depending on where you live, there may be some art centers or studios or schools (not universities or colleges). Look up to see if they do figure drawing from live models, and email anyone who you think may have to do with public outreach or drawing classes. You can also check out this website for locations and studios. Put together a resume with any experience that may be vaguely relevant. If you have any type of art background, visual, performance, whatever, put it down. If you have any type of experience as an athlete or some knowledge of anatomy, include it. If you don’t have any experience like that, and even if you do, provide a bit about yourself in the email and include why you wish to model. As for private studios; ask for their business card, look them up, and ask questions. In any type of setting, only do what you are comfortable with. As for preparation? Good hygiene, bring something to easily cover up with between breaks, and maybe a towel to sit on. If you aren’t sure about holding the postures, maybe practice at home a few times. But when it comes to the mental preparation, all you can do is jump right in.