Every once in a great while, I will get a call to model immediately for a class due to a model no-show, a mix-up in booking, or a teacher or coordinator just forgetting to schedule a model. Such an instance happened last night on my way home from my regular job. I'd already had a busy weekend modeling after a Saturday afternoon drop-in session at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and a Sunday drop-in session at Oil and Cotton in Dallas. Modeling for a third day in a row was not on my radar, especially after putting in a full Monday at my day job.
The call came at about 6:20. A mix-up had occurred, and the session organizer needed a model for the 6:00 to 9:00 long pose session at the aforementioned Fort Worth Community Arts Center. I never turn down modeling when I don't have anything else scheduled, so I took the gig, altered my route, and made it to the Arts Center at around 6:35. The only problem was that I didn't have my modeling bag with me. No robe, no towel to sit on, no slippers, no timer, nothing.
My son and I had gone to the Texas Rangers' playoff game with the Baltimore Orioles about three weeks earlier, and upon entering the Ballpark, we had each been given small rally towels to wave. I still had those two rally towels in the car, so I grabbed them and scurried into the Arts Center. I figured I could sit on them rather than the black felt material that they use to drape the model stand. That stuff might be good for theater, but it's not good for bare skin. Besides that, who knew how long it had been since that black felt stuff had been washed, and I was fairly certain that no other nude model had sat down on my Texas Rangers rally towels.
I was moving so quickly as I entered the drawing studio that I didn't think about much else. I went to the back corner of the room, stripped down to nothing, grabbed my rally towels, and sauntered over to the model platform. Once I got into the pose, I held it for about thirty minutes. It can sometimes be a trick to go from moving as quickly as possible to being motionless in a pose. As the hand I was leaning on started to go numb, I thought about the upcoming break and the fact that I didn't have a robe to put on. My clothes were across the room, and they were my business casual office clothes, not the shorts and t-shirt I could throw on easily. My options would be a) stay nude during the breaks, or b) run across the room, put my clothes on for two or three minutes, then take them off and run back across the room to get back into the pose, or c) run across the room on the first break, get dressed for a couple of minutes, then get undressed next to the model stand in front of everybody, which would mean getting dressed and undressed in front of them for each of the remaining breaks. I decided to go with option a.
The break came, and I got up and walked around the platform, shaking the stiffness out of my hands and letting the blood recirculate to my butt and legs (it was a seated pose). Some of the artists talked to me anyway while I was stretching, as if they understood that I was robeless because I had been called in on zero notice. It felt just a bit strange at first, but I quickly got used to it. It's one thing to be nude in a pose, but it's another to be nude, in motion, and viewed as a person rather than a subject. It got to be just a little bit exhilarating.
Once I got back into the pose, I thought about the tradition of models wearing robes on breaks and about attitudes toward nudity in general. I have almost always been comfortable nude in a variety of situations, especially in art classes, but I wear the robe in consideration of the artists and art students. Even during that session, when I didn't have the robe, I kept my distance just because I didn't want to offend any of the attendees. What would an artist think if I had just walked up and stood right beside her, looking at her work, and striking up a conversation while I was nude? I'm sure answers to that question would vary considerably depending on the person involved. So it's always better to play it safe and only be nude when necessary, no matter how personally liberating I find nudity to be.
I agreed to stay until 9:30 since the scheduled 6:00-9:00 session got started so late. They were paying me three hours anyway, so I figured I might as well put three hours in (especially since each artist had paid for a three hour session). By the time we got done, there were only two artists left drawing (or painting), and I realized I had spent the entire three hours completely exposed, without ever donning any kind of covering. I was somewhat sad to have to get dressed, especially in my office clothes. But I did...
I will occasionally look for t-shirts to wear when I go model. Jen bought me one a few years ago that says, "I'm naked under this t-shirt." I got another one last year that says "I'd rather be naked." I found this shirt this morning, and I absolutely love the quote, attributed to Michelangelo, on it: "What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?" I don't buy many of the shirts that I see when shopping, but I may have to get this one...