Figure Drawing and the Importance of Nudity

Nudity comes naturally to me. Even in my adolescence, when I was still years away from becoming sexually active, I preferred to sleep naked…. And honestly, it has less to do with self-sexualization than it does with personal liberation. The unclothed cannot ignore the imperfections of their bodies, nor can any onlookers ignore the brutal honesty of a human comfortable in their raw skin. Nudity teaches me to appreciate the vessel I was born to—body hair, stretch marks, and imperfect proportions all. The very act of nudity is one of radical self-acceptance; a sort of declaration that my insecurities cannot be weaponized against me. Unapologetic expression always paves the way for others to show up authentically, too–  like a domino effect of self-love. Nudity is important, and I recently had the opportunity to put this philosophy into action when I was offered to stand in as a model for a figure drawing class.

            I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. I mean… I knew, in theory, that nude art modeling is totally up my alley, but volunteering my body to be the focal point of a group for 2 hours was actually a little intimidating. Sure, I’ve spent plenty of time among half-naked hippies at music festivals, polyamorous nudists at hot springs and beaches, and I have never been shy about my body with sexual partners, but those scenarios always have… well, a bit more going on. In those scenarios, my nakedness is an act of participation, but at this art class, my body would be the main event!

            However, my anxiety quickly dissipated once the artists started sketching, and it was immediately obvious that my presence there was entirely objective. Sure, I was being scrutinized (and scrutiny is synonymous with criticism, in my mind) but these artists were examining me for exactness rather than for imperfections. In fact, my perceived “flaws” only seemed to add fuel to their fire, as my unique body presented new challenges. Stolen glances at the artist’s work proved that they were studying me keenly, and I was floored by the quality of work produced in such tight intervals. Insecurities were quickly replaced by a deep honor that I could serve as a catalyst for this display of talent.

            We started off with a few 2-minute standing poses (it was a struggle to keep myself from nervously shaking, at first), followed by a 5-minute seated posture on the floor, and then a series of long, 20-30 minute long poses where I was propped up on a massage table with some pillows (paint me like one of your French girls!). As a yogi, I expected to excel at stillness. As a daydreamer, long periods of staring into space also come naturally to me. The cherry on top of the whole experience was that the facilitator encouraged me to make a playlist for the duration of the class, so I got to enjoy my carefully curated selection of tunes—a skill I take pride and pleasure in.

            Anyone who has ever struggled with body image issues should take the chance to model for a figure drawing class, even though it probably sounds like a nightmare for those who struggle with physical insecurities! I know, logically, that I have a strong, healthy body, but even my new-age, feminist rhetoric isn’t always enough to quell my doubts about my appearance. However, seeing my form rendered by artists proved that my perception of myself is largely inaccurate. Indeed, these artists made me look quite beautiful (without being overly complimentary). It was a welcome slap in the face to see the way I’m perceived at first sight, because my biggest insecurities weren’t emphasized in any of the artist’s work. If anything, I realized that those little “imperfections” are really just what make me look unique. So there we have it, I had a lovely experience and left the art class feeling encouraged, and the moral of the story is… you are much lovelier than you think.

Portrait of ME by Erin Winters. Follow @hellomoonbow on IG for more amazing human art.