Undressing the highest-paying student job: nude modeling - Artist Sydney Daniels made these drawings of Dylan Kenyon herself. Kenyon is proud to show them off to her friends and family. Photo credit: Kathryn Casello Full view

Undressing the highest-paying student job: nude modeling

In the Fine Arts Building, in room 101, adjunct professor David Pettibone teaches Life Drawing and Composition, where twice a week, a model stands up on a platform surrounded by budding artists, completely naked. For $14.86 an hour, models stand on the stage and pose for anywhere from a minute to 20 minutes to give the artists an in-depth experience with figure drawing. Some may think it’s taboo or uncomfortable, but for nude model Dylan Kenyon, a cultural anthropology major who works about once a week and occasionally on weekends, it’s a sweet gig.

Kenyon said that she felt less nervous once the professor explained that the students have been studying models for weeks and that the environment is very mature. The artists should know not to be inappropriate or make anyone uncomfortable because models are there to aid the learning process.

“I’m glad I’m doing it because it’s a great experience, I can look back at it and know I was a nude model in college,” said Kenyon. “It’s a cool job, you just have to try to get over the fear of it. I had to sit in the office for about ten minutes before I went out for the first time just trying to gather my thoughts and not freak out, but once I got up there it was totally fine. This guy model told me a story about how another male model once got a boner on the stage and it was the most embarrassing thing, but he said some comment like ‘my girlfriend gets back into town tonight’ to break the ice and not have it be so awkward, and everyone laughed and that was the end of it.”

All around the room, posters of the human body with detailed diagrams of muscular and skeletal structures hang on the walls. During one class period, Kenyon did one pose at a time in between five-minute breaks. In between poses, the models can wear a robe and mingle with the artists.

“Using the figure itself is a great way to learn all the elements of design, composition, line, and weight. If I could get all types of shapes and sizes and colors of people in here that would be ideal. A good model is someone who is able to hold their pose and also give us some sort of energy in their pose, like a twist of the rib cage in relation to the pelvis which gives the students a rhythm to work from. First we did gesture and now we’re doing specifically anatomy, so we’ve covered the skeletal system and now we’re doing the superficial muscular system, so all the muscles that you see on the model.”

While the students sketch the model, Pettibone had Johnny Cash and the Beatles playing quietly from speakers in the room creating a comfortable and respectful vibe. Occasionally, the artists held up their pencils to estimate the proportions of the model or take a moment to check out the angles. The professor casually roamed the room to check on the drawings or give advice.

“Models are great, models are really appreciated,” Bryce Fredrick, a print-making major who also does some nude modeling herself, said. “I know how it is, in terms of getting naked in front a bunch of people you don’t know. My other model friend Iris really said that she gets meditative because it’s all about directing attention and being okay with eyes on you.”

Fredrick has been doing life drawing for over six years and appreciates nude modeling as crucial to the learning process for artists.

“The best way that you can connect with people is to draw people. It’s much easier than looking at a flower and being like ‘what is this flower feeling?’ We’re so tuned in to body language and facial cues and even tiny, subtle gestures that having live models is really essential,” said Fredrick. “Every single time you learn something different, and something new and awesome. It’s not just skinny girls like in fashion, it’s every single shape that you can imagine, every age you can imagine, and you learn something from absolutely everyone so it really helps deepen your appreciation for people in general.”

Even as an artist Fredrick has had to grapple with some of the awkwardness about nudity, but through supportive friends and confidence in her own work she was able to feel more comfortable.

“I just put up two pieces in Middle Way Cafe and it’s a nude portrait of myself and my boyfriend, and I’m getting a lot of people who tell me they’ve seen my pieces and could recognize that it was me. It is sort of weird, but a friend of mine commented on an Instagram post and said something really nice: ‘if anyone complains about it they need to look in the mirror at their own humanness.’ Like, everyone is naked at some point, it’s about vulnerability and recognizing beauty.”

Kenyon said she feels more comfortable in her own skin and about nudity in general as a result of being a nude model, even though being naked is often considered a taboo topic in society.

“Some people are really against this whole thing, like my grandma freaked when she found out. She was like ‘I cannot believe you’re letting people see that, that’s sacred.’ I think this generation takes it differently, which I’m glad about because I do really think it’s helps people learn. I think the human body is beautiful in every shape and size and I’m glad that they have to learn that. They paint everything and they think everything is beautiful and they make it beautiful in their art. I feel comfortable getting naked, so everyone else should too.”

Fine arts and modeling plays a big role in self-exploration and understanding the world, and nude modeling is one way to see a whole new side of art and humanity. Student-run life modeling sessions hosted by the Art Student Association will start around mid-March on Saturday evenings in the Arts Building room 101. The first session is free and all are welcome.

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Artist Sydney Daniels made these drawings of Dylan Kenyon herself. Kenyon is proud to show them off to her friends and family. Photo credit: Kathryn Casello

Written by Kathryn Casello

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