A few weeks ago, I came across an article on a friend’s Facebook wall, written by a massage therapy student, and I was amazed at how her article was similar to my philosophy on bodies and art modeling.
Not to mention, I’ve always been fascinated with massage and bodywork for as long as I can remember. And I love to just let myself melt on a massage table and let someone rub, stretch and knead all the knots and tension out of my body for an hour.
But I know there are people who are reluctant to get a massage, and in some cases, that’s due to hangups over their body image, which the author of this article tries to disabuse people of those notions. And I thought there was an incredible parallel to her views about the human body (through massage) and mine (art modeling).
I’ve talked in a previous post about what it’s like to model, at least in terms of what motivates you. And I’ve also talked about things like how your body can be presented nude—tattoos, trimming hair, basic vanity-type things.).
But I’ve never talked that much about what it’s like when you remove your robe for the first time (or what it’s like removing it for the hundredth time). Or what it’s like to have insecurities about your body. Am I too fat/thin? Am I too pale? Am I “attractive” enough to be a model.
These are all perfectly normal fears. In a future post (and I hate saying that, because I probably have about six posts that say “in a future post” and I’ve never followed up with that. I can be sporadic in that regard), I want to discuss this in more detail. But I’d like to take a stab at it, using the author’s wonderful article as a jumping off point. I’m going to skip the one or two that don’t have much (any) of a parallel, so don’t worry if it seems that I’m jumping around a bit. But there’s just so much about her massage musings that are equally applicable for art models.
Eight Things I Learned from 50 Naked People (safe for work): http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/09/eight-things-i-learned-from-50-naked-people-kate-bartolotta/
1. “Your body doesn’t lie”
While the author is talking about muscles, you’ll find that while on the podium, your body won’t lie to you. Sure, you’ll feel some mild discomfort in a lot of your poses, but you’ll eventually find that one pose where you get overly ambitious and think you’ll be able to play through the pain.
You won’t always be able to do that. It happens to every model. And from time to time, you’ll get into a pose that feels okay for the first minute, a bit uncomfortable at the two minute mark, and utterly painful at the five minute mark.
And you still have five more minutes to go :(
Sometimes you can soldier on, but chances are your sore parts are going to be bucking like a bronco. It’s best to know when you’ve reached the “point of no return” on a certain pose, and become familiar with your body and what it can do, might be able to do in the future, and won’t be able to do. Some people can’t do certain types of poses for longer than X minutes, some can’t do certain poses at all. You can’t fool your body.
3. “That thing you’re embarrassed about? That you don’t want anyone to see? That you tense up and hold your breath over? The part of you that you wish were different? It’s ok. Let go. Enjoy it. It’s part of what makes you so beautiful.”
Pretty much this. Now, I’m not going to lie to you—if you have real concerns about how a part of your body looks (or perhaps your entire body), you want to really reconsider if modeling is right for you. They’re going to be getting an unfettered look at all of you, warts and all, for the next three hours.
At the same time, artists need a wide array of figures to draw. And they’re incredibly thankful that you took the time out of your day to shed your clothes and inhibitions and let them draw you. I’ve had plenty of artists come up to me and say “thanks for coming tonight! Man, I don’t know if I could ever do that!” They’re incredibly appreciative of what you do, despite your stretch marks/birthmarks/bumps/bruises/lumps/cup size/penis size/hair color/etc.
Whatever your hangup may be (and it’s totally AOK to have one), don’t give it a second thought. You’re exposed, but you’re not under the microscope.
4. “Everyone has body hair in various places and amounts. There’s no one right amount. It’s all good. Same goes for moles…Smooth and hairless is a Fifth Avenue invention designed to create discontent (and sell grooming products).”
I mentioned body hair grooming in a previous post. I remove hair on certain parts of my body, and I suspect other models do to. For me, it’s simply out of vanity, and I had been doing it before I started modeling. If doing it makes you feel more comfortable, so be it. But don’t sweat it and think you need to be hairless. As the author said, it’s a marketing gimmick.
6. “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you. I promise.”
I’ve seen models (or drawings of them) in my town, and well, we come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen heavyset models, bonerail thin models, and all sizes in between. I’ll cop to being overweight, and while that’s something I need to work on for vanity (and health!) reasons, it’s never stopped me from getting work. In fact, people have told my my body is “fun to draw,” and I take joy from that. And I’m not a buff, chiseled model, not by any means.
While perhaps individual artists may go for a certain body type (for example, if someone bases his or her style on Renaissance art, yeah, they’ll probably go for curvy, fleshy women and solidly muscled men), collectively they need a wide variety of people to inspire them, to challenge them. So don’t let your weight worry you.
7. “Your skin, however, is fascinating. Every line, every freckle, every scar tells the amazing stories of your life. Please don’t Botox, bleach or sand it all away. They’re all beautiful.”
This is similar to numbers 3 and 4. Don’t worry about any splotches, scars, etc. If anything, it’s an additional resource for someone to draw :)
8. “Your body is a f*cking wonderland. You are amazing just as you are, right now.”
This is the main thing I want you to take away from this. And yeah, it may sound like something from a self-help book, it’s a very healthy attitude to have. Bodies are pretty freaking amazing! Seriously, go check out a figure drawing book, or a human anatomy book. I think you’ll find that in doing so, you’ll have much more of an appreciation for the human body. Yours and others.
Do you have a good work ethic? Are you responsible? Can you show up on time and do what the class needs you to do? Do you seek to challenge yourself, to come up with new poses, to keep your sessions lively?
Excellent! Don’t let that mole on your chest or your weight get you down!