So when you maintain a career in the arts, you often cobble together a series of odd jobs, sometimes very odd. I have always sought to maintain a career which at least in some way enhances my chosen profession, even if said jobs are just inspiration for my writing career. Many years ago I began modeling for my best friend who is a visual artist; at first just as a figure in her landscapes and later as an actual subject. And no, I did not take my clothes off…not back then. But times change and here’s the thing. The more I modeled, the more I found I not only had a passion but a calling for it. And it played perfectly to my need for recognition, my desire to make a permanent mark upon the world and my crazy body image issues. No, I never had a skewed image of myself as overweight t least not in my youth. Instead, I always thought I was WAY smaller than I was. As a child of the 80’s who knew what was under all those layers. I gained 10 lbs, took off two layers and no one could believe how much weight I had lost. When I actually started putting on weight, I was in denial for like three years. “Wow, these clothes have really shrunk in the wash,” and “Wow, that is not good camera angle. Who took this picture? They suck.” I must admit I think this is a far more enjoyable form of body dysmorphia! But eventually I lost the weight again and gained the confidence to…duh, duh, duh…take my clothes off!
My first experience with undraped modeling which is the polite, artsy way of saying nude so it doesn’t feel so much like stripping, was a trip. I was asked if I did undraped modeling and like the good acing student that I was said “of course I can do that,” because we are always taught take the job-you’ll figure it out at some point.
The room was bright and slightly chilled but they had heaters all set up for me, like a little Caribbean oasis in the middle of the room. I had worn a beautiful peach toned full length flowing handkerchief skirt and matching top. Yes, I dressed up. It’s like dressing up for the gynecologist or putting on makeup to see the dentist; you just feel a little more confident in your most vulnerable state. But, they actually loved my little ensem so much they asked if I’d be willing to keep it on, at least the skirt. Hell’s yeah! Can you believe it? I’m easing into nude!
Everyone asks me “Is it hard? Is it liberating? What do your parents think?”
Is it hard? F*ck yes, but not for the reasons they think. It is hard because it is work. Sometimes I am in some weird position holding a pose for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, trying to look relaxed and inspiring, reassuring the new students who very often are drawing the human form for the first time, while trying to keep my extremities from loosing all feeling. And like everything in my life that I do, I want to get it right. I want to be the best, otherwise, why bother?
Is it liberating? You know what it is? It’s clinical. I am nothing but shapes on a canvas, highlight and shade, values and colors. I am a person on my breaks and eventually, I am something ethereal and beautiful…or sometimes I am an octopus or a mantis or a demon. I have no say on what I shall ultimately become. So in this way, it is liberating. I may become anything limited only by the imagination of the artist before me.
What do my parents think? Well, if my mother was still alive, I’m sure she would think it was cool. She was unflappable. Once, attempting to get a rise out of her, I said I was going to do porn. “Well,” she said, “You better be the star! Don’t you be some d*mned fluffer.” Um, I didn’t even know what a fluffer was. It is hard to rebel with that kind of support! As for my father, he says, “This is my daughter Laurel. She is a very gifted artist. She writes too.” What more does he have to say?
I will say that art modeling does offer some pretty amusing anecdotes…and a few hygienic challenges not experienced in other professions. At least I hope not or there are some serious OSHA violations occurring. For instance, you know how when you eat spinach you worry about what is in your teeth? Well, um, I’ll just say, you don’t want scotts, the softest tissue. ‘Nuff said!
And as for dating, art modeling is not the best ice breaker. I suppose I could go with model…but I’m 5’4”. What am I modeling, Osh Kosh B’Gosh? So, I skirt the issue, no pun intended and just say, “I m a gifted artist. I write too. And I make my Dad proud.”
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