Perils of…drawing people naked

Drawing people naked, or ‘Nude’, for the true artists out there. Now this will be a challenge. Firstly, I had to mentally prepare myself for this one; was I mature enough to sit still for two hours and actually draw a person, *bits* included?

I expected it to be something like this, but it wasn’t quite. Upon walking into a room with around 50 other students, I was surprised to see how popular this was. Setting: the beautiful Boyd Orr and it’s blinding A & E-style lighting and questionnable clinical décor, made for the perfect Jack and Rose drawing sesh in all its erotic glory. Life model, Sonia Bernac walks in, gets her gear off, and we’re set to go.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found the thought of standing in front of a live audience of complete strangers, stripping naked, and posing for hours on end a thing of nightmares, so why on Earth would you want to do it?

So I interviewed life model veteran, Sonia Bernac for more information (obviously not when she was still naked, that’d be weird):

Hi Sonia, so why do you life model?

As an artist myself, I know what I like to draw. What angles, use of negative space, and poses I find most interesting. Becoming a life model myself has helped me to communicate across to other models what I would like from them. It’s a good way of cooperating with the artist too, and I have a better understanding of that now.

Have you done this before?

Oh yes, I’ve been a life model for a while.

Oh so how did you get into this, and was it what you expected?

Well actually my drama teacher had asked me to pose for him, and so I did! Well of course I was nervous at first, and was afraid of being humiliated, but I found the intimacy interesting. I actually prefer smaller groups to the larger ones; you can have a conversation, it’s more personal and quite relaxing actually. And it wasn’t really what I expected in that I felt comfortable quite quickly, and forgot I was naked.

What do you think about while you’re up there?

I just try to think about holding my pose, and focus on relieving the achiness from standing in a static position for so long! I just try to make interesting poses for the artist and think about what I would find interesting to draw. I just daydream and try to relax mostly.

Do you have any advice for someone considering life modelling/nude art, and would you recommend it?

Just to relax, be confident in yourself. I would definitely recommend it, its great for your self-esteem and artistic expression.

And you certainly cannot deny that when Sonia walked into the room, she walked with such grace and confidence, it made me think. It made me think that though a terrifying experience at first, it must be a liberating one, and I’d give anything to have that confidence and control.

I then started to question why I was the one who was nervous and slightly dubious in the first place. The constant objectification and sexualisation of nudity, the female body in particular, has made it merely a thing of either comedic value, or uncomfortable glorification. But strip it back to when you are in a room full of people, and you begin to see Sonia as a work of art; you can appreciate the fact it is a human body in front of you, but you begin to relax, and draw as you would a piece of fruit.

In life art, there is no ‘type’, no perfect ‘ideal’ as you would get in Grazia magazine, but instead a natural, normal person, that can teach you a lot about feeling self conscious. At least, about your naked body.

Going back to the drawing board (literally), after around 6 years since studying GCSE Art, was interesting. I found myself giving up 30mins into the two hour session, put-off and deflated by all the amazing drawings other people had done around me. Poor Sonia resembled an ambiguous shape, not unlike Shamu the whale in my entirely unflattering depiction of her, and in another, a sufferer of microcephaly. She ceased to have hands and feet, for fear of making my drawing any worse. I got the hang of it in the end however, and actually quite enjoyed myself. I now like to think

of myself as a Cubist, namely because my work looks in no way like Sonia. Nevertheless it was certainly an interesting experience unlike anything I’ve done before. Who knows – I might even life model myself after speaking to Sonia.

life drawing pics

For anyone interested in re-energising their long-lost inner Picasso, join the Guava Society, who host new and exciting art workshops every wed in Boyd Orr:

[Serena Ruberto – @shrpixie]

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