7 lessons learned from getting my kit off

So life modeling.

The class last night was actually part training for noob models like me. The group was split in two and one half posed while the other half drew them, and then we swapped.

I learned many things during those 3 hours, some more surprising than others:

1.I still can’t draw for toffee.

This one is not a surprise at all. I did discover that my issue is focusing on specific details rather than seeing overall shapes. But what can I say? I’m a writer; detail is my thing.

I gave it a go anyway and it turns out drawing good poses seriously helps you to create good poses when your turn comes around.

Here is my feeble attempt:

I mean, you can tell it's supposed to be a human being. That's improvement
I mean, you can tell it’s supposed to be a human being. That’s improvement

I’m bizarrely proud of the left foot.

2. But some of the warm-up exercises were fun.

The first lot of poses were 2 minutes long. Obviously you can’t get a photographic copy in 2 minutes so we just had to sketch out the ‘energy and movement’ of the pose. Which is kinda fun.

This right here is actually my favourite picture of the night:


And here’s one somebody did of me, which is a bajillion times better:

Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it's me?
Anybody recognise setenta? Or the fact that it’s me?

3. It’s harder than you think.

“Just turn up and stand up.” someone said. “You’ll be fine, you just sit there.” said another. And I’ll be honest, I did think it would be fairly easy.

No. Really, really no.

I want you to raise your arm above your head. Go on. Is it up there? Right, now keep it there for 20 minutes.

Too much? Okay then, twist your upper body to the side. Any side will do and you only have to go far enough to feel your back muscles engaging. Done? Now you can’t move for 7 minutes. And doesn’t breathing seem kinda difficult now your diaphragm is twisted?

Just ignore the stitch/cramp/pins and needles when they turn up, and try not to shake too much.

4. The initial shock at disrobing never really went away.

Seriously, every single time we swapped over and I had to take the robe off, my mind went


5. But then I always got used to it.

After that initial shock I just got into the zone, and during the 20 minute pose I actually relaxed so much I almost fell asleep. That’s bad, by the way. All your interesting shapes relax out if you fall asleep. It’s apparently perfectly fine if various limbs fall asleep though, you just have to shake it out when you’re finished.

6. Everyone should do life drawing /modeling at least once in their life.

There are several parts to this.

Firstly, at the start of the evening I was terrified at the thought of all these people (including men!!) looking at me naked.  I’m female and apparently fairly attractive and also fat: I spend 99% of my outside life being looked at, appraised, judged, admired, wanted, dismissed, shouted at, chatted up, and catcalled because of my body and the way I look.

But in the class, even though I was more on show than I have ever been, nobody was looking at me that way.

I was turned into shapes and objects to be drawn, without being objectified. I was being seen rather than just looked at. I had at least 7 pairs of eyes on me but felt completely safe. Every woman should get chance to experience that (sadly rare) sensation. Every man too.

Secondly, some problems in the world come from over-sexualisation of people and parts of said people. Take breastfeeding in public for an example. “Sexy stuff in a restaurant?! Nobody wants to see that! Think of the children!!”.  But breasts are actually not sexual organs, they’re just another part of a body. Like feet.

There’s no point just telling people to stop shaming mothers who feed their babies in public; they will argue, and get angry, and threaten rape, and all kinds of horrible things. But if we could get people to see that women are not just sexual objects, they wouldn’t struggle with seeing breasts used as something other than sex toys, and the shaming wouldn’t happen.

I honestly believe a life drawing class is a perfect platform for making that happen. You expose people to a bunch of naked bodies with no sexual context whatsoever, and they can’t help seeing them as bodies of actual human beings. Like I said – seeing objects without making it into objectification.

If everyone did this at least once, and got used to seeing bodies in this way, I wonder how much better society would be.

7. Do the things that scare you most. You might find something you enjoy.

That small voice in the back of my mind that thought I might enjoy modeling? It was so right.

I enjoyed a solid 3 hours of safety and the absence of judgement.

I enjoyed learning how to hold my body in interesting poses.

I enjoyed trying something adventurous, even though my shoulder is still complaining about it today.

And I really enjoyed seeing the drawings people made of me. It’s so interesting to see myself through other eyes.

Also I appear to be kind of good at it. For the 20 minute pose, half of the class drew me. Including the teacher. She said my pose was really interesting, and I nearly burst.

Not sure what happened to my head.
Not sure what happened to my head.
The teacher's drawing.
The teacher’s drawing.
My favourite drawing of me.
My favourite drawing of me.

Limit #10 (again): fat people shouldn’t make art of themselves.

I think you’ll find we can and should.

And honestly….I probably will again!


5 thoughts on “7 lessons learned from getting my kit off

  1. thank you very much for sharing. as a painter and occasional model, I really feel the same, and I had a lot of similar feedback from my ffriends or colleagues that first time model for my life drawing class. it s really an experience that change ( positively) your mind.


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