Thursday, April 26, 2012


Yesterday, I was asked to pose "semi-nude" for a group of artists this Friday. I reluctantly said yes, mainly because it was the first time this group had requested a booking of me in years (I had thought that the group had disbanded), and I didn't want to turn down this first request. But I absolutely hate the idea of posing "semi-nude." The organizer suggested that I model in swim trunks or something similar. I did find a pair of gray gym shorts which I will take to the session with me.

99% of the modeling I do is nude; the rest is the occasional fully-clothed portrait. I haven't done a "semi-nude" session in 8 years, and after the last one I did, I swore I'd never do another one. That session in 2004 was for an intermediate drawing class, the students of which were deemed "not ready" for a nude model. But the instructor wanted them to be able to see as much of the form as possible, so she asked me for minimal coverage. I got a posing pouch, which was just a male g-string, and modeled in that. I absolutely hated the state of mind that put me in. I felt impure, as if part of my body was deemed inappropriate even after all the nude modeling I had done. And of course, covering that one part of the body just drew more attention to it, to the point that I felt that the atmosphere was much more sexual than in a regular nude life drawing class. I felt degraded somehow.

That's not me in that picture, by the way. I would never post a picture of myself in such a thing. Nude yes, posing pouch no.

I threw the pouch/g-string away after that class, and since then I've shyed away from anything that didn't say "figure drawing" or "life drawing" in the course title unless I knew that nude models were the norm (like the Drawing II classes at the University of North Texas, for instance). It is the purity of the nude that has kept me modeling all these years. I'm helping artists and art students create art which represents and depicts God's greatest creation, made in His image and likeness, in its purest state. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm doing a job that the majority of the population either wouldn't or couldn't do.

Experience has taught me that nude is my overwhelming first preference, clothed second, and semi-nude a very distant last. But of course, once I accept a job, I'll do whatever the group has asked of me. I did air my feelings to the session organizer, so we'll see what happens Friday night. If I don't change the organizer's mind, I hope modeling in my gym shorts won't leave me in the awful state of mind that working in that posing pouch did those 8 years ago.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nudity in Entertainment

My wife and I recently switched to a new satellite television provider, and with the switch came a lot of channels that we didn't have before.  Modeling for a night class in Dallas and then driving back home to Fort Worth became a weekly part of my schedule this semester.  My wife is usually asleep when I get home on these late nights, and I will lie in bed and channel surf as I wind down from modeling and driving through construction traffic (it seems as if the entire Dallas-Fort Worth freeway system is a construction zone lately).  The show I always found myself stopping and watching was a bloody, gory series on Starz called Spartacus: Vengeance.  It was like nothing I had ever seen on TV before, and I would imagine that a few episodes, if submitted to the MPAA, would get NC-17 ratings.  And yet, the series, set in ancient Roman times, was strangely compelling, so compelling in fact, that, once the current season ended in a spectacularly violent and gory episode, I found myself going to Bestbuy and purchasing a Blu-ray disc set of the first season (called Spartacus: Blood and Sand).

I started watching these in the early evenings on my non-modeling nights (with the kids in the other room), and my wife also got sucked in by the violent and sexual conflicts between the characters.  I think we watched all thirteen episodes over the course of just six days.  The first difference I noticed between this first season (which aired in 2010) and the one I had just finished watching on the Starz channel is that the lead role of Spartacus was played by a different actor.  That first season's Spartacus was Andy Whitfield who, tragically, contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma and died last September.  My wife and I found that difficult to believe watching him in that first season, as healthy as he looked.  And he had a very expressive face, playing the range of emotions very, very well.

In addition to the gory violence, Spartacus: Blood and Sand also pushed the envelope in the amount of nudity and sex on display.  Part of it, I'm sure, is the result of trying to portray an accurate picture of life in the decadent late Roman Republic (the show is set around 73 B.C., before the Empire).  One of the refreshing things about the nudity in the show is that the producers didn't discriminate.  Males were just as naked as the females, as the show featured full frontal nudity of both genders.

It was the ninth episode of that first season that stands out.  The nudity was much more prominent than in any other episode, and a new character, a slave girl named Mira, was introduced.  Mira was completely nude throughout most of the show, and it took me awhile to recognize her from the second season.  She was, apparently, to become a recurring character from that point forward.  As I watched that episode, I felt admiration for the actress playing Mira.  There are regular nude scenes, and then there are scenes like those found in that episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand where Mira, because she is a slave, was forced to stand naked and completely exposed, and the camera didn't shy away from any of it.

So, I went to one of my favorite sites,, and learned a bit more about this actress. Her name is Katrina Law, and I was fortunate enough to find her website and a blog entry she wrote about those nude scenes. I find her thoughts very interesting. I've been modeling nude for art classes for almost three decades, but I still remember how I felt before my first figure drawing session. I identify with her when she says: " I distinctly remember finally getting a full script and, after reading it and realizing what I had gotten myself into, I just sat in my trailer for a few minutes and willed myself to breathe normally; not to panic."

The only thing I would question her on is this statement:  "I remember the director telling me that they were going to shot from straight on and I thought, 'But what about the best angles? Straight on is a terrible angle and quite possibly the least flattering out of all the angles!'"   I've looked at a lot of drawings of myself, and it's the straight on angles that I prefer the most. It's those profiles, where one can see that my abdomen extends out farther than my chest (too many beers, I guess), that I don't really care for.

Anyway, her entire blog post is interesting, and I recommend it to anyone who is contemplating doing any kind of job that requires nudity, be it modeling, acting, or whatever.  I also recommend Spartacus: Blood and Sand to those who can handle the graphic scenes, but just make sure the kids are asleep before you start it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Modeling With My Infant Son in 2003

I was looking through files on my computer and came across something I wrote in April of 2003.  I thought I would share it here since it is one of my most memorable modeling sessions.  It's hard to believe that Elijah is 9 years old now...

I modeled for a two hour figure drawing class last night with my son, Elijah. Although I was somewhat nervous about it at the beginning, the class went reasonably well.

Elijah turned five weeks old last Friday. My wife told me before he was born that I would need to cut back on my modeling so she wouldn’t be left alone in the house with our two kids. So I got the brilliant idea to take Elijah along. I figured that it would be a good bonding experience, and it would give the students something different to draw. Elijah is still at the age where all he does is sleep and eat. In my master plan, Elijah would sleep in the carrier while I did the gesture poses. Then I’d hold him for a couple of long poses while he slept. Let’s just say that things did not go according to plan.

I knew that I might be in trouble right after I walked into the building. I really had to relieve myself, so I set his carrier on the floor of the men’s room behind me. Leaving the diaper bag and my modeling bag slung over my shoulder, I stood at the urinal and did my business. Elijah started getting fussy. As we walked out of the men’s room, he started screaming. I had the cell phone with me, and I thought about calling my wife to come get him right then. But with the use of a pacifier, I was able to get him quieted down.

This particular school does not supply the models with changing rooms, so I usually change right there in the drawing studio. In an out-of-the-way corner of the room I take off my shirt, then put on my robe, and finally remove everything else. I had set Elijah's carrier down on the desk by the instructor and had gone to a far corner to change. Apparently, Elijah didn’t like being away from me, and he started crying again. I changed quickly while the gracious instructor tried to entertain him. As soon as I got changed, I picked Elijah up out of his carrier, and he was happy again.

I gave him a bottle that he had started earlier. I had told my wife to feed him right before I picked him up, so that he would hopefully sleep during class. Unfortunately, Elijah hadn’t felt like eating the entire bottle then. He ate fine now, finishing the bottle just before class was scheduled to start. I burped him as the students were setting up their easels. Unfortunately, he was wide awake after the burp. I tried setting him in his carrier so that I could do the gestures, but he objected.

So, I removed his outfit (I did leave his diaper on; I’m not a complete moron) and we did five one-minute gestures and two five-minute poses together. I held him in a burping position while twisting my body; I took a knee and sat Elijah on the other knee; I held his head in my hand with his body lying on my arm and supported by my torso; etc. The instructor was very complimentary about the poses.

From there, we went to a thirty minute seated pose. Elijah was just fine as long as I was holding him, and he was still wide awake. I sat in a chair and held him like I normally do. I figured that the skin to skin contact would really be a bonding experience. And I guess getting sweaty and sticking together could be called bonding. As the time went on, Elijah kept looking at me as if to say, “What the hell are we doing Dad?” About fifteen minutes into the pose, my back really started to hurt. Elijah must weigh ten pounds by now, although he was feeling heavier by the minute.

We made it through that pose, and the instructor called for a very welcome break. Elijah had made good use of that diaper, and I could smell it. So I changed him on the model platform, and we walked around a little bit. Several of the female students offered to help out with him, and everyone commented on how cute Elijah was.

The last pose was going to be a one hour reclining pose, but the teacher wanted me to shift every fifteen minutes. He wanted the students to incorporate the passing of time into their drawings by showing my movement somehow. So I lay down on my back, and I put Elijah on my chest. He usually sleeps there when I’m in my recliner at home, so I figured he’d go to sleep quickly. But he struggled, and he even started looking around for something only his mother had. I grabbed the pacifier, and this calmed him for a few minutes. Gradually, he went to sleep. The rest of the pose went great, although Elijah did wake up once and turn his head the other way. Since the pose was supposed to move every fifteen minutes, this worked out well.

The instructor and students were very complimentary and very pleased with their drawings. One student even commented that she had never seen a baby be that good for two hours. I put Elijah in his carrier while I got dressed, and of course, he started getting fussy again. Once I got everything together, I made a hasty exit. I return to that class again tomorrow night, but I will be by myself then. My back just couldn’t handle doing that with him again…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Looking and Seeing

A couple of months ago, I posted about artist Ron Cheek and the Texas Academy of Figurative Art.  I had the pleasure of modeling there a couple of weeks ago for an evening anatomy series he has been teaching.  The class started with Ron lecturing on different muscles and bones.  On the platform was a skeleton, and on either side of that were full color charts depicting the muscular system.  After about twenty minutes of lecture, he called for me to step onto the podium.  I took my place next to the skeleton and tossed my robe aside.  Ron told me to stand straight and "look anatomical."  So I stood with my palms turned outward, like the diagram below.  He then continued his lecture and used a laser pointer to highlight my anatomical features.

It was strange (but, for me, not unwelcome) to be standing nude in front of a group of people who were simply looking and not drawing.  It has become the custom in most classes that I do to not take off my robe until all (or almost all) the students are ready to draw, as if to be nude when people were not drawing would somehow be improper.  I've never really seen the need for such a custom since nudity is such a natural state, especially for me after doing this job all these years.  But customs are a hard thing to break, especially if one loves what one does and wants to keep doing it.

Once Ron finished discussing the anatomy that can be seen from a frontal view, he asked me to turn around and face away from the students so they could see my back.  As I did so, I turned the skeleton as well.  Once all the anatomy lectures were done, the rest of the class time consisted of me in two fairly long standing poses, one front view and one back view, with the students drawing me.  What I saw of their drawings during and after class seemed to be a few steps above the typical college figure drawing classes in terms of capturing the form with the correct proportions.  I got to thinking about that after class was over.  Why were their drawings so much more accurate that what I usually see elsewhere?  I thought about those anatomy lectures, with the students simply looking at me.  Seeing me.  So many people in other classes spend so much more time looking at their paper than at me that I wonder how much of me they really see.  And if they don't really see me, how can they draw what they see?  Are they drawing not what they see but simply what they expect to see?

Quite a few of the teachers I have worked with will talk about anatomy with a skeleton before going into the drawing time, but won't do it with a live model.  I've even offered to get up next to the skeleton a time or two but have been turned down.  It is the job of an art model, especially a model for college classes, to be seen and studied as an aid to teaching students to draw accurate representations of the human body.  I wouldn't be doing this job if I weren't fine with that.

So, I applaud Ron Cheek's teaching methods, and I look forward to working with him more in the future.