Life lessons: sketching nude models (part 2)

This post is the second part of a story I recalled while walking down memory lane. It involves a life drawing class with nude models. It may interest you to read part 1 first, and I would highly encourage you to read the comments, as well.

Given the interesting events of the first nude model drawling class, and the subsequent attention from a male student in a dorm, I spent the rest of my week fretting.

Partly I was intrigued about the the philosopher student’s offer to pose nude for me in the name of ‘practicing’ my sketching. But it was weird; he was a few years older, and he had a fiancée I had never even seen in the dorm.

She did finally make an appearance during that week and I was surprised to find that she was relatively tall, with a nice smile and long, curly red hair. I don’t know why I had expected a short, bespectacled dark-haired girl…

The fiancée and I only saw each other in passing; the philosopher declined to introduce us but I do remember him looking a little bit shocked when he saw her and me standing mere meters apart in the hallway outside of his dorm room.

Perhaps he *forgot* to mention his plans to strip for me to his fiancée? 🙄

I just roll my eyes now but back then, I didn’t think anything of it.

I do remembered pondering how this engagement of theirs worked since the philosopher was living in a single room in a dormitory, and the girl lived…I don’t know where, somewhere off campus.

But I didn’t ask any questions. I wasn’t romantically (or sexually) interested in the philosopher, just curious. After all, he was the one who wanted to be naked in a room with me…

All of these events prepared me for the next nude model drawing adventure. I felt a lot more prepared, even somewhat sophisticated, for having experienced the first class with the nude girl model and then the philosopher thingy.

Here I was, a freshman in University sampling what adulthood had to offer:

I was going to classes with naked people in it, and dealing with men who propositioned me, offering to do *adult* things with me that I hadn’t done before.


Finally, my art class rolled around. This time, we were going to sketch the male model.

We anxiously anticipated his arrival after we filed into the room and set up our easels. Then, the professor started her speech again, and reminded us of the professional nature of this event.

We waited a while, but the man who was to pose for us didn’t show up. After several long minutes, the prof left the room, probably to go find him.

She returned a little while later with a scrawny, very embarrassed looking older man. Older being relative to us ‘kids’ – most of us were around 18 or 19, and he was, best guess, probably around mid 30s. But he looked much older.

He was skinny, awkward, had wispy hair of some indeterminate colour and was dressed in a very odd looking polyester robe. I think the pattern was paisley or something…

I remember seeing some students exchange looks with each other. This guy wasn’t exactly what we expected. But, we sat patiently in front of our easels and waited for the prof to direct the man up on top of the table so we could begin sketching.

I remember clearly seeing his struggle: should he drop the robe before getting on the table, or after he was on top of the table?

His embarrassment made us feel uneasy too, and this bothered me somewhat. We were just getting used to confidently sketching a nude body, and now this?

Today, I have maturity and hindsight to analyze these circumstances. The man was probably doing this as a quick way to get some money – it was an easy way to earn income after all.

But the embarrassment he displayed was a little unusual. Why did the University pick this guy? He was clearly uncomfortable with the entire scenario. Could they not find a man who was a little more confident? Or at least neutral in his expression?

I guess I’ll never know now.

The only way to get rid of the discomfort, both his and ours, was to get through the class, so we all commenced sketching quickly but without much enthusiasm.

The nude male model was actually more difficult to capture than the girl was because he was hairy…pretty much everywhere. How does one sketch hair with charcoal?

After a while, perhaps halfway through class, we noticed a change in demeanor in the man. He started to relax. It was visible enough to me, so I’m sure other people noticed it too. This makes me wonder about the transformation that he must have felt while up there on the table.

He went from being embarrassed, maybe a bit humiliated, to relaxed, and perhaps even enjoying himself.

I was left with many questions:

  • Did he ever feel regret for having decided to model nude? It was pretty evident that this was his first time (whereas I wasn’t sure if it was the girl’s first time).
  • Did he feel pressured to take this job? Maybe he had a wife, perhaps a child…or maybe he was just short on rent or food… sometimes, these decisions influence why someone does something a little out of the ordinary.
  • Did he ever feel vulgar, or cheap, for posing naked?
  • How did he feel about his own body, in the privacy of his own home? Was he as uncomfortable there, in his bathroom in front of a mirror, as he was here in the classroom full of young art students staring at him, drawing him?

Before you ask, no, he did not end up with an erection the entire time he was posing. I mean, we all checked occasionally, because we were all sexually crazed first year students, and sex was always on everyone’s mind, but he did not, um, express any arousal.

I don’t know… lol

There were other questions that came up:

  • Does body image matter? Clearly, he was not the most attractive person I’ve ever laid eyes on, and yet, the University hired him to pose for art students
  • Does attractiveness mean you’re more worthy? What does this mean for those of us who struggled with self-image or self-esteem issues?

Body positivity is all the rage today… I know, I see it on twitter. 🙄

We’ve all heard the expression in the eye of the beholder – attractiveness really had nothing to do with someone’s ability to pose nude for a life drawing class. We needed a nude model, any nude model, whether he was considered attractive or not was completely irrelevant.

Today, when I look in the mirror after my shower, the first thing I see is a c-section scar, and some scar tissue below it. It bothered me, for a long time. There are still days when I’m bothered by it, because the tissue makes my tummy stick out a bit. But that scar is part of who I am today, and it does not define whether or not I’m attractive to you (or him or her or anyone). What matters is that I feel good about myself, scar or not.

(Don’t worry, I won’t post a full frontal nudie here…) 😛

I’ll tell you something else. When I write these reflective stories here in my blog, something happens to my self-image. I start to think of myself differently, more positively. I have learned, over many years, to accept myself.

There is really nothing any of you can say to me here or anywhere that will make me feel inferior, unattractive, cheap or narcissistic.*

*No matter how many selfies I choose to post here.

The comments are the best part of these posts. I encourage you go to back to the first one and read some of the stories readers have shared expressing their own views about nudity, nude modeling, and related topics. And read AVWalter’s experience with a family member who freaked out over a painting…it’s really quite insightful.

Another side note: my shy or repressed nature about sexuality and/or nudity has changed over the years. I spent my formative years in Switzerland which was much less prude-ish than North American culture was/is to this day. Women on public beaches or on lake-side parks lay topless on blankets in the middle of the day, suntanning in my Swiss town where I grew up. Sure they got ogled by some of the coming-of-age boys (and girls) but that was part of the culture at the time.

When we moved to North America in the 1980s, I was 11, just on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I remember well that nudity, or even semi-nudity, was not considered ‘appropriate’ – some people even complained when a mom changed a small child out of a bathing suit at the public pool into some clothing without holding up a towel. This did not happen in Switzerland, and I was surprised to witness such a thing in Canada, in the early 1980s.

There is a story I will share about a personal experience regarding a bikini top that I will save for another day.

Thank you for reading. I’m looking forward to the comments. ❤

19 thoughts on “Life lessons: sketching nude models (part 2)

  1. Dear Writer of Words, I loved reading your post as well as the comments. I too have tummy scars running down the front of my body from caesarian section and other surgeries and it forms an upside down arrow pointing in the right direction (smiley face). I used to be worried about the look of it but had decided to rock with it. It is part of me. I nude modeled, scars and all, but only for my photographer husband for his exhibitions. Everyone eventually got to see these beautiful scars, at least those who came to the gallery.
    I love your writing very much. Thank you and sending you love. Summerhill

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always nice to hear from you, and to read your experiences. That’s interesting about the scars pointing in an arrow…I think in certain countries they used to cut the c-section differently, so some women have a criss-cross of scars across their abdomen.

      Anyway, like you say, embrace yourself. Like that man did who modeled – he must have gotten comfortable at one point, because he stuck it out and then collected his check. Maybe he was less nervous the next time, if there was a next time.


  2. I have to confess I am often curious where your husband is and what he thinks about your posts. It sometimes seems as if you are using the journal as a sounding board as to things you might confide in a husband or a significant partner. I am also curious at times if you want to run away with another man as some men bloggers do flirt, some of them on your site, as the subject matter is…flirty.. Does your husband mind? I don’t condone your style, it is not my style. To each his own. We all carry our devils and have different ways of working them out.


    1. I’m trying to understand how your comment relates to the topic in this particular post. How it adds value to the theme, the idea, the story itself I was telling.

      I was reminiscing about something that happened 30 years ago…and enjoyed reading the feedback from people who also took life drawing classes, or had experience with modeling. Some of them emailed me pictures of their drawing they made in those classes – just a wonderful way of exchanging similar interests.

      When you say you don’t “condone” my style, my suggestion is: don’t subject yourself to my style.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m intrigued by…well, the whole post, but especially the last part. Are you actually getting flak for posting such honest, insightful, sexually liberated blog posts? What sort of judgmental, repressed person would stoop so low? And why is it any of their damn business? Your life, your blog, and you are graciously sharing these glimpses of yourself. I, for one, appreciate that. People are so ridiculous sometimes. Embrace who you are and keep up with these posts! Anybody who thinks less of you really needs to step off their moral high horse and leave you alone. I’d call out that bullshit if I ever saw it. My two cents, FWIW.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, people will judge, right? That’s ok. I treat this blog as my space to dump my thoughts and ideas into, and for the most part, people have enjoyed this, and told me so.

      Thank you for your ongoing friendship and support, Mark. You’re one of the perks of blogging – new friendships made across the wifi! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember drawing nude models. I was always stressed about doing a good job – more so than looking at them in any sort of erotic light. I haven’t drawn anybody or anything for years now…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read a few books lately where the heroine has been plus sized. I’m pondering self acceptance a lot. I’m still thinking about this subject, so I have nothing good or bad to add, just know I’m thinking about it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a huge topic on twitter, tumblr and some other social media. You know when I was in my 20s I thought the most attractive feature in a female body was its athleticism, the lean muscles, the lack of body fat…Today, I look at the mom bodies with the scars, and the extra cushioning, and if she’s feeling good about herself, happy, and confident, then that attractiveness is translated to others around her.

      My weak spot is my stomach area. To train my brain to accept that part of me has been a work in progress. But it’s working (slowly)…

      In terms of painting or sketching (or photographing) a female body for art purposes, the curves, the hills and valleys, are what makes them attractive subjects.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I took a drawing class once and I remember the teacher was so annoyed they sent a make model because she thought women were so much better to sketch for that very reason

        Liked by 1 person

  6. There are breaks taken in life drawing classes, mostly so the model can stretch and move a bit after sitting stock still. And students grab a coffee from the godawful machine down the hall, and then circulate to see what others are drawing. The first time a model is brought in, it’s usually a female. And, every year, there are some guys who, in the presence of their first female model, cannot put a mark of the paper. They stand there, for a whole class, frozen in the face of a female nude. By the second class, they start to draw again, and by the next week–she’s a bowl of fruit.

    And then they bring in the male models. The impact on female students is similar, but interesting in its differences. While male students have issues of sexual attraction (being male, and being artistically inclined, they are visual), the female students have issues of discomfort and embarrassment. I’m not sure why, whether they are embarrassed for themselves, or for the model, or for being required to look where they’ve been trained socially to never look. In any event, that fades, too.

    We had one very talented girl in the class, Nevi, who was from a sheltered, Italian background. She was near apoplectic at her first male model. But she fully recovered in short order. We knew she was fine when they brought in a particularly attractive young man, who was also a yoga instructor. He could hold a pose, forever! At one point, he did a headstand for a post, and we all began drawing feverishly, fearing that he’d be unable to hold that for long. We were wrong. Nevi started her drawing, cramped up against the top of her paper. At break, there were several comments, but she didn’t respond. Then, at the end of the class, when students circulate before critique, Nevi flipped her drawing over, completely changing the dynamic. Now it was a drawing of an attractive young man, holding up the ceiling–but with an erection. We knew then, that Nevi had fully recovered from her initial shyness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow this is a really interesting turn of events for that girl. lol But it just goes to tell you how absorbed one can get in an activity, where focus and brain chemistry are so in tune with said activity, that nothing else matters but the end result.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

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