For the love of art: Posing nude as a source of empowermentJan 26, 2021
GUEST POST* by @aaronartmodel
Happy new year, everyone! Globally speaking, I hope 2021 brings some of the joy that was conspicuously absent from 2020. This was a rough year for many of us, but with challenge comes opportunity. What I mean by that is, if it weren’t for the pandemic, I would have never discovered my newest passion: life modeling.
Due to the ever-changing world of COVID, folks around the globe have taken to video conferencing as a temporary substitute for in-person gatherings. While the @mendrawingmen group is based in New York City, I was fortunate enough to model for the group virtually from my home in suburban Baltimore in December.
When I told my friends that I was modeling nude for artists, they admired my confidence and comfort with my own body. But I wasn’t always so confident, that’s for sure. Being comfortable in my own skin was not something that transpired overnight; I had to make a conscious effort to become more comfortable with my body.
It all boils down to body image.
The American culture embraces privacy, particularly in locker rooms and such. There aren’t many opportunities for men to both show their bodies and see other men’s bodies. You can imagine that in such a puritanical culture where even same gender nudity is discouraged, many folks have developed hang-ups with their bodies. It’s no surprise that body image remains a lively topic of discussion in psychology.
As an American, I, too, felt awkward about nudity because I was insecure with my body. A former social worker, through my studies and practical experience I understood that the way to overcome one’s fears is to gradually expose one’s self to new experiences where you confront those fears head on. I began by testing the waters, if you will, at a Korean bathhouse outside of Baltimore a few years ago.
A Korean bathhouse is very similar to a Russian banya, in that it’s customary to be nude in the sauna areas, which are segregated by gender. The atmosphere is perfect for men who want to experience same-gender nudity, particularly if you’re trying to become more at ease with your body. I treated myself to a body scrub and then hung out with the other male patrons completely nude. It was a liberating experience, which essentially helped me overcome my insecurities.
Not your typical model.
With this newfound sense of confidence bestowed upon me, I decided to try my hand at life modeling. Please permit me to speak openly for a moment: In the world of life modeling, there’s no shortage of men who are good looking, athletic, and well endowed. While that’s all well and good, I have always wondered if artists [who enjoy drawing the human figure] would like to draw a subject that doesn’t fit the usual mold.
Enter body positivity. Body positivity is a movement that calls for acceptance and even normalization of bodies that don’t align with the mainstream definition of conventional attractiveness. Curves, rolls and love handles, if you have them, are all things you should embrace. In terms of our physical bodies, we should be celebrating our similarities and differences, and not shaming or ostracizing folks who lack a chiseled physique. After all, wouldn’t it be a mundane world if we all looked the same?
You’re probably wondering what body positivity has to do with life modeling. The answer is: quite a bit. Shungaboy, the founder of @mendrawingmen, also embraces the body positivity movement by featuring models of all different builds and “looks.” I fully appreciate Shungaboy’s approach, and I was excited to pose nude for this awesome group.
Hold the pose.
Folks ask me what goes through my mind as I pose nude for artists. The answer is: not much. I don’t mean to sound vapid, but you have to understand that when I’m holding a pose, I’m concentrating solely on maintaining my stance and posture, and nothing else. After all, a model who can’t sit or stand still probably won’t make a very good subject. I appreciate the artists’ time and I want the experience to be positive and memorable, which is why I put a lot of thought into my poses and even details such as the setup of my lighting.
Speaking of my setup, you should know that a lot of energy and effort goes into posing live via Zoom or similar web conferencing services. For my session with the @mendrawingmen group, I cleared out a corner of a windowless room. The neutral backdrop is perfect for posing nude, as you, the model, are the focus of attention, rather than, say, your décor. I purchased a few spotlights from Amazon, which served as the only light source in the room. With this lighting setup, I was able to cast shadows, all of which serve to heighten the drawing experience for artists.
A memorable experience.
Overall, modeling for the @mendrawingmen group was a great experience. I enjoyed contributing to the artistic process by sharing my body with artists of all skill levels. It was truly an empowering event for me, and I would definitely like to continue on with modeling nude in the future. Also cool is being immortalized, in a sense, through works of art. I loved seeing the artists’ sketches and their depictions of my body. I am happy that I could serve as a source of creative inspiration for the many talented artists out there.
Please note that my session with @mendrawingmen was recorded and can be purchased if you’re interested in drawing me. I’m also open to posing live on camera for individuals and other groups. If you’re interested in something like that, please feel free to follow me on Instagram (@aaronartmodel) or send me a message. I’d love to work with you.
Happy modeling! Happy drawing!
*If you want to submit a guest post, please contact Shungaboy.