The first life drawing class I ever took went as you would expect it to. A bunch of immature people, giggling and trying to look but not stare at the naked woman sitting in the middle of the room. Do we draw the pubic hair? Do we draw her nipples? What is polite and not polite? Oh no, she’s moving! Do we look or not look?
By the end of that 3 hours, we were old hats with nudity, and over the next two years we would see more naked people than I can even remember, for at least 3 hours every week (often 6 or 9 hours in a week). Women, men, big, small, tall, short, pregnant, old, young. We had one woman who posed for a ceramics class and afterwards we were all criticised for her being out of proportion in our models. But the truth was that she just really did have giant breasts.
There are many ways studying art changed me as a person. I grew a lot during my time. It changed my perspective on the world, it changed my ability to engage with others, obviously it increased my ability to create artwork, but there were two ways I didn’t expect.
In studying art, I came to accept nudity is the natural state of being. Not as something sexual. We became able to hold a perfectly normal conversation with one person in the nude and the other not. I hear a lot of things about people against nudity, especially when they feel it is not necessary, like the recent Biggest Loser campaign with the trainers in the nude. People say “Why do they have to be naked?” while I say “Why not?” It just seems normal to me.
Coming to associate this nudity as normal, to associate it with art, taught me to accept, see, and appreciate the beauty in every body shape and form. We saw bodies in every size and kind. We saw giant breasts, small breasts, floppy breasts, bouncy breasts. We saw fat bellies, flat bellies, bellies with loose skin and stretch marks. We saw tattoos, pubic hair, no public hair, freckles, moles, marks, we saw it all.
I assure you, most bodies do not look like the magazines. It’s almost impossible to hold an unnatural or flattering pose for a really long time, and even the youngest and most beautiful of bodies can still lie on their backs and fill their armpits.
The most important thing life drawing taught me was that we are all perfect. We are all of us naked, we are all of us human, and we are all of us beautiful. Every freckle and every roll. Every flaw, like a piece of fine wood, makes us unique, special, and perfect. Just as we are.
Studying art I must have seen over 100 naked bodies. Every one unique. Every one changed me. And I am forever grateful.
How do you feel about nudity? Do you care about nudity? Do you let your children see you naked? Your friends? Your family? Or do you think nudity should be reserved solely for the bedroom?
Image in this post is my own drawing.