By: Julie Pike, Free Press Staff
From Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam to the Venus de Milo sculpture, for centuries many famous works of art have featured women and men in the nude.
Today, artists still incorporate nude figures in their work, including right here at USM, where students get the opportunity to draw, paint and sculpt images of the human body while observing a nude model in their classrooms. Those models are often fellow USM students.
Hannah Allen, a senior social work major, described her experience as a nude mode and what it entails. She said that, during her sessions,t she stands on a platform in the classroom, with pillows, blankets and a small heater to make her more comfortable. She starts out striking quick poses, lasting 10 seconds each, and gradually works her way up to holding a pose for 25 to 45 minutes at a time. A typical session lasts nearly two hours.
Having a nude model for students to observe allows them to practice drawing figures from a real life example. The models benefit from it as well, as many students use modeling as a Work Study position. The job, however, is not that easy.
“It’s tough to be a model,” said Art Professor Lin Lisberger. “It’s hard to stand still and understand where your body has to go in order to not put pressure on any part of your body.”
Bryan Waring, a junior and music composition major, has been a nude model for two years. To Waring, modeling is more than just a way to make extra money. It has helped him become more comfortable with himself.
“I was coming from a very dark time,” Waring said. “I was dealing with eating disorders, was close to anorexia and had body issues.”
Through his experience modeling nude, Waring said that he is now able to feel more confident in his body and is more accepting of who he is. In the past, after each class, Waring would walk around and look at the drawings that students had done of him.
“There were areas about my body that I didn’t like and always focused on,” Waring said. “Yet the drawings that other students had done of me never did focus on my flaws. It was eye opening to me.”
As a model, Waring stated that he had to show himself off and not stayed covered up, which he said has helped him become more comfortable with his body. He encourages anyone who struggles with accepting their own body to try it out.
“A lot of people come to me and share the same background of feeling insecure with their bodies,” Waring said. “I always recommend nude modeling to them.”
Other students who have have experience modeling shared a similar outlook, as it has become more than just a job for them as well.
“I think it’s a great experience,” Allen said, “especially in the ways that it helps with confidence. I respect my body more than before. To think of myself as a piece of artwork feels really amazing.”
“I’ve become more confident. This builds confidence,” said Taylor Ziska, a freshman engineering student and art model. “You realize that not every angle [you’re drawn at] is flattering. Initially, that’s not a good thing to realize, but I learned that everyone sees me differently, so what does it matter?”
During each class the model will pose depending on what the professor wants their students to draw, but models are also given some space to use their own imagination.
“The professors do direct you in some ways, but it’s mostly whatever feels right to you,” Allen said. “The most important thing is that the model is comfortable.”
Aside from providing a comfortable atmosphere, the teachers from the Art department always make sure their students are acting professionally during the session. Models have rarely run into problems with the other students.
“When I use nude models,” Lisberger said, “I tell students in advance that I expect them to be professional. I’ve been teaching for 36 years and I’ve never had a problem with my students during a class.”
“I’ve never felt uncomfortable,” Ziska said, “except when I’m in certain poses.”
Shay Leavitt, a senior majoring in studio arts, said that in her experience as a nude model the students in her classes were always well behaved and mostly concentrated on their work.
With all of the experience Waring has had modeling for classes, he’s also never run into a problem with students in the class.
“All the teachers, staff and students in the Art Department have been amazing to work with,” he said. “The art that they produce, whether it’s me or someone else modeling, are fantastic.”
Amy Hagberg, a faculty member from the Art Department, is the one in charge of hiring and scheduling models. She is a big advocate of providing students with the opportunities to draw a figure based on a real life model.
“It’s incredibly important to be able to draw the human figure,” Hagberg said. “It is an incredibly complex thing to draw. It teaches students to see and observe as an artist, and it is an important part of an art education.”
Several models have experienced what it’s like to be both a model and a student in a figure drawing class. As an art student, Leavitt stated that drawing a nude model allowed her to get practice with a real-life figure. For aspiring artists, getting to draw from a real life person helps them understand the many lines, curves, shadows and colors of the human body.
“It is essential to be able to draw nude models,” Lisberger said. “They give you an awareness of the complex structure of the human body. It also teaches strong observational skills.”
Since many of the models are students, there’s the chance that they’ll see people they know in the class. After a year of experience as a nude model, Allen said that she has figured out how to make herself feel more at ease in those situations. During a class, she’ll often have conversations with students and the teacher.
“There is always that initial thought that everyone is going to be judging me,” she said. “The best thing to do is to keep in mind that the other students often feel just as awkward about it. For me that’s comforting.
For some, the idea of posing nude in front of a classroom of students can be nerve-racking. Leavitt stated that it was easy to get past that. She found herself enjoying her time modeling nude. For both Allen and Waring, their experience modeling changed how they viewed their own bodies and increased their confidence.
“It’s like showing another part of yourself,” Allen said. “The naked is body is usually seen as just sexual. Art modeling and that process is an informative matter. It’s refreshing to be able to do that.”
Ziska said that she would recommend modeling to others. Prospective models, however, need to know what they’re getting into
“You need to be okay with being a muse,” she said. “You need to be okay with artists using you as their tool of creation.”
Nude models receive many rewards from their job, from the physical reward of extra spending money to the intangible benefit of helping themselves love their bodies. The Art Department is currently looking for more models to hire. Those who are interested can contact Amy Hagberg at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.