God, I’m lucky! That’s what I was thinking as I lay nude on a lounger in someone’s backyard. My gaze turned to a willow’s waving branches, a glass of excellent wine by my side, and artists painting and chatting amiably. I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this.
Not all my life modeling gigs include wine, but it’s certainly a pleasant add on. The scene described was unique in that I was encouraged to remain comfortable (nude) throughout our time together. Typically, the model covers during a break, which is said to help the artists to interact with the model with greater ease. I always think it’s funny after just studying my body and creating work to its likeness. On this special day though, we were in an inspiring backyard, and it was the hottest day of the Summer. I couldn’t believe that the artists only dipped their feet into the pool there during break! I was happy for a proper swim. Later, since it was a group of friends who had gathered for the drawing experience, the host offered beer and wine. I declined at first, noticing that the red wine was yet to be opened, but the host insisted. And then further insisted that I not worry about breaking the pose to have a sip whenever I wanted. I was truly in heaven. I’ve been life modelling for almost 20 years. I guess it’s about time for these luxurious moments.
I had my first modeling experience in my teen years. My best friend was always doodling naked warrior women but had never tried her hand at drawing from life. I remember sitting still in anticipation of seeing my beautiful portrait. She was very nervous about showing me the end result which was a gorilla-like figure. Drawing from life was harder.
In college I figured it would be an easy way of collecting a few bucks, so I applied at an art store that held drawing nights. By this point I’d had a Summer of working nude at Bare Oaks, so I wasn’t shy about my body. I was taught the etiquette that I’m to stay in my bathrobe until the artists are ready. It was a stirring feeling to become nude in front of an audience of clothed people, but I acclimatized. I’ve found that most gatherings are very relaxed and friendly. It feels like a safe space. I’ll never forget the first time I held a long pose for that group. I was encouraged to find an easy reclined position and I could rest my eyes. I recall the artists moving about the room very quietly, deciding the best angle. They began and I could hear slow strokes, some bold, some tentative. I knew from my friend that 90% of their attention would be on me with the remaining 10% on their page. A lot of eyes drinking me in! When the timekeeper let the group know that two minutes were remaining a flurry of action could be heard as they got into their shading. I felt so alive! Ah, to be a muse!
Since that first drawing group I’ve modeled in galleries, colleges, community centers, and private residences. Sometimes it’s a teaching arena, those are my favourite because I get to learn too. Other times it’s a group of artists doing their own thing. Sometimes I hold one pose for the whole time I’m booked, sometimes there are many poses. I’d hear frequently that I’m “so good!” I eventually asked what that meant exactly. My requirements are: show up on time, be comfortable being nude, and stay still. What is “good” about what I’m doing? Apparently, it’s creativity of poses and the ability to stay still… or to show up on time. (They were quick to gab.)
Which leads me to my Mom. I mentioned I’d be modeling somewhere, and she said, Let me know if they’re looking for a big fat lady! After rolling my eyes, I reminded her that they’re looking for bodies to draw. Any body. As long as you can stay still. Which isn’t easy as it sounds. I was considering the best approach of teaching her how to be a model and realized that I should host a Learn to be a Life Model workshop at Bare Oaks! The people there are already comfortable in their skin! They just need some guidance and a safe space to try things.
Keep your eyes open if you’re interested. It’s happening soon.