Going naked for art

Do journalists “borrow” ideas from each other? It sure seems like it. In the past few months there’s been a mini-fad in writing by or about people who pose (nude) for art classes. We’ve already had a couple of articles about that, here last October and here, in December. Well, that was only the beginning.

There have been more than a few like that recently (and undoubtedly others that haven’t come to my attention). I dunno. Maybe ’cuz it’s winter up here in the northern hemisphere, and not that much fun to go naked outside in most places.

Anyhow, I’ll review the articles I’ve found. They’re interesting since they usually talk about what it’s like to go naked in front of clothed strangers, often from the perspective of folks who aren’t used to that. If you’ve never tried it, perhaps this will encourage you to give it a try.

This will take more than one installment. Here’s the first.

Swindon Life Model: The Naked Truth [Article still available here]

Swindon is a largish town in the south west of England, not far from Stonehenge. Rosemarie Orwin calls the area home. An office worker until two years ago, she couldn’t bear that sort of career any longer and decided to take up… nude modeling.

“I’ve never had any confidence in my body and thought well it’s a bit extreme but I’ll give it a go.”

Rosemarie’s debut class in the buff turned out to be a group of 40-year-old art buffs from Oxford:

“It was very nerve-racking because I’d never been in front of a group of strangers with my clothes off before. And of course they’re standing behind their easels measuring you and pencils are coming out at you.”

“But literally after I’d finished I came out and punched the air with complete euphoria saying ‘I did it, I did it’.”

Despite not being the quintessential voluptuous, big breasted muse, since taking her clothes off Rosemarie’s career has quite literally taken off.

She now poses for art classes, sketching groups, sculptors and photographers all over the south of England.

Not only is Rosemarie’s new career proving to be very successful, it sounds like it’s quite a lot of fun besides:

Rosemarie’s diary is filled to the end of May, she has body painting bookings for a corporate event in Reading, is being turned into a range of ornaments for an international ceramics company and is even perhaps to become a model for a mannequin sculptor.

And just in case there’s a chance of Rosemarie having to spend too much time with her clothes on she’s organised a series of life drawing workshops in Swindon the first of which, on March 20th, is already booked out…

She works through an organization called modeled me uk, which provides modeling services to the local art, fashion, photographic, and promotional communities. Their website provides much more information on nude modeling… and many pictures of Rosemarie at work.

Stripped! Secret lives of nudes [Article still available here, here]

Michelle Oyola has written a fine article for Webster University’s newspaper that briefly explains a few things about nude modeling and then has three nude models share what it’s like to be naked in a crowded room… of people who are fully clothed.

Webster is located in St. Louis, MO — an area not usually considered the most welcoming of locations for people who like to be naked. But evidently St. Louis has a strong art community, in which nudity-minded people are well accepted.

One of the models profiled, Catherine Kustelski, enjoys nude modeling not only for its artistic aspects, but also because she can be a good role model for other women in terms of body acceptance. She says that

she views her body as a good example of a figure for artists. She doesn’t own a television and tries to not be involved in the mainstream media because of the image of women portrayed in media today. She feels she is in good shape and tries to feel good about herself. She hopes other women can see how comfortable she is with her body and follow her example.

“If a woman in class is looking at me and sees how comfortable I am with my body, maybe they can be comfortable with theirs.”

Another model, Bruce Williams, is actually a long-time practicing nudist. He

celebrated his 52nd birthday this month, but his nudist beliefs are as strong now as they were back in college. Williams was one of the original University of Missouri-Columbia streakers during the 1970s and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In Austin, Texas he was part of a nudist group. Taking the next step to figure modeling was a natural decision for Williams.

And then there’s Julie Wheat who is 29 and “a full-time figure model who first tried figure modeling because she wanted to know what it was like to be the subject instead of the artist. ” She also speaks of the self-acceptance and self-confidence that nude modeling fosters:

Wheat said she was very nervous the first time until she took off her robe. After that, it wasn’t a problem for her, she said. She didn’t care what people were thinking about her.

“If people want to scrutinize me for the way I look, it’s not that big of a deal,” Wheat said. “If they got a problem with me, they don’t have to draw me.”

Wheat said she didn’t always have high self-esteem. In high school, she wouldn’t leave the house unless her hair was perfect. Now she doesn’t care, even though more people are looking at her. She said people realize things about themselves as they get older and self-esteem gets better as people age.

You don’t have to do nude modeling to acquire that attitude… It’s pretty common among naturists in general.

Model is 60, naked and proud [Link still valid – article also here]

Lori Basheda writes for the Orange County [California] Register, saying “It takes a special kind of person to stand naked in front of strangers.” Don’t figure that simply because it’s California that people in OC have open-minded attitudes in general. It’s just about the most conservative part of the state.

But Maura Laura LeBron, who Basheda writes about, certainly has a healthy, open-minded attitude:

At age 55, when many women are embracing the world of bathing suits with attached skirts, she answered an ad for a nude model.

LeBron is 60 now. A full-figured size 14. And she enthusiastically drops her robe for students in painting, drawing and sculpture college classrooms across Orange County.

She and her husband, Paul, a computer techie, have never been big on clothes. “We’re kind of like nudists, but just at home,” she says. “But it never occurred to me to go out in public.”

Then one day her husband spotted an ad in a nudist magazine. It was perfect. Not only is LeBron a closet nudist, she is a closet artist. She has expressed herself with jewelry, stained glass, abstract paintings. The idea of using her very flesh and blood to make art was thrilling.

It has turned out well for her:

LeBron has been painted and sketched and sculpted naked hundreds of times. She gets calls for 12-16 hours of modeling a week, making $18-22 an hour.

Not a terrific income… but the income isn’t why people like it.

Originally posted March 4, 2006