Last Thursday, I marked off a major bucket list item.
I modeled nude for a figure drawing class for the first time.
It’s something I had been wanting to do for a long time (hence bucket list item) but the opportunity came to me quite serendipitously.
I had a friend who was signed up to model nude. She had done it once already this week and had another session scheduled, but had to cancel last minute. She recommended me as a replacement.
So, last minute I said yes and decided I was going to check off an item on that list.
What I felt before
Honestly the biggest thing I was worried about was not the fact that I would be completely naked in front of strangers. It was the fact that I would have to hold one pose for 2.5 hours. That sounded like a very long time and I was worried about being sore, my muscles shaking, having to go poop in the middle of it, or figuring out the right pose that I could sustain for that long of a time.
I arrived to the art studio 15 minutes early to a room of 4 old men. One of them kindly walked me through where I could change and showed me where I was modeling. Thankfully they had a chair set up so the pose was pretty much self explanatory.
I started to get nervous that there were no women in the room. I thrive off of female energy and the fact of being naked in a room in a remote location among old men started to make me feel very uncomfortable.
What am I getting myself into? I thought.
I started to realize how much society has conditioned me as a woman to be afraid of these circumstances.
I didn’t feel any real danger, I just suddenly was hyper aware of how the situation looked from the outside: a young woman in a room naked with men over sixty who stare at her naked for over 2 hours.
Despite these doubts, I didn’t run away (although I thought about it) and instead brought breath into my body which eased the situation.
What I felt during
I think the initial “getting nude” was the hardest part, but once I was actually naked it felt quite natural.
I settled into my pose and was told to just keep my gaze steady at one point. At this point I was able to relax a little as I felt like I became more of an object rather than a contributing presence in the room.
The men around me talked while they worked; about life insurance, politics, and music from the seventies. This is a demographic of people I don’t usually spend time with so I though it was interesting what they mused about as they channeled their artistry.
I felt like I was under a microscope and experiencing a new meaning of “the male gaze”. It felt ironic, because there wasn’t anything sexual or demeaning about this gaze. It was purely for the art of it.
I had to keep letting go of intruding thoughts of “oh no, am I going to look too fat in their drawings” or “are they staring at my tits” or “dang how am I going to sit here for this long”
Instead, I focused on my breath and being in the moment.
Surprisingly the 2.5 hours went by pretty fast. They do it in 20 minutes increments so you have 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. The trick was getting back into the same position. The hardest thing was remembering which way I had my hair because my hair is WILD and will do whatever it wants.
It felt very meditative and I actually liked just sitting there and being – that was my only job, just to sit still and BE.
Every time I noticed an itch come on or a pain in my foot or a tickle under my nose I allowed myself to be very observant of the sensation. Giving it some attention while feeling like an “observer” of my body instead of feeling like it was MY sensation made the feeling pass. It was actually a really cool spiritual lesson.
Also, as time went on, I felt the 20 min increments becoming increasingly faster as I got used to them. I was genuinely surprised sometimes when the timer went off because it had felt more like 5 min.
What I felt after
All of the artists were very gracious and allowed me to take pictures of their work. It was amazing to see how their artistry manifested and how different everyone’s perspective was.
Some of them just drew my face. Others drew a side profile of my entire body. Others drew me straight on. Others just drew my chest up.
Some worked on one piece the entire period of time. Others did 2 or 3 pieces using different angles.
It was shocking to see me come alive on paper. I’ve never had anyone draw me before and it felt quite thrilling to see myself as art in that way.
I did notice some negative self-talk coming on as I thought “are my boobs really that long and flat? Is my stomach really that big? Do I really have rolls there?”
Luckily, I am able to hear these thoughts and then gently push them aside as I know I am a goddess incarnate and it doesn’t really matter what my boobs or stomach looked like in the drawings.
This experience taught me about getting over my fear of men and how much I internalize sexism and fear of getting raped. It’s sad that in this situation that’s where my mind immediately went to, when it really should just be about the art of it.
In the end, I actually really enjoyed it and discovered that I’m quite good at being completely still for long periods of time.
See below for some pictures from the amazing artists!