Learning to look at, and translate, a three dimensional body into a two dimensional drawing is a process that shares some similarities with photography. However, photography is not usually permitted in life drawing classes, primarily for the models’ privacy. To take a photograph in a life class of without the model’s consent, would be intrusive and could change the act of looking, into something more similar to staring.
I feel uncomfortable when I am photographed, and of much less value; the photographs make my role as a live model feel redundant. Similarly, life models do not generally undress in view of artists. Undressing is an intimate act, which when performed in front of others can have sexual connotations. A life drawing class is an intimate environment, but not a sexual one, and so undressing is not usually part of the performance.
Life models will remove their clothing behind a screen, or in a separate room. A model will often wear a robe, the removal of which will signify the beginning of a session, when the model will settle into a pose.
When making this transition, from clothed to unclothed, this robe gives me the power to control when a pose begins. However, during this time, it is easy to feel more vulnerable than when I am posing. The robe is an easy garment to remove, without feeling as though I am stripping for an audience. It is part of my uniform, and so it signals to the artists that I am the model for their session.
However, I behave differently when I am dressed in this way, no longer the talkative women who arrived at the door, and not yet the nude model posing confidently for a room of strangers. I am a naked body wrapped in a thin patterned fabric as if caught by the postman knocking at the door, needing a signature for a delivery, before I’ve got dressed for the day.
When I remove my robe and strike a pose, I will become still and quiet. My personality is paused and my body becomes the focus of the artists’ attention. I prefer not to speak or be spoken to when I am modelling, as this allows me to focus on maintaining my pose. This silence gives me a kind of strength. I am not a passive statue; I have a physical presence.
When I have posed, I once again wear my robe, so that I might talk with the artists and view their outcomes. Now I am both model, and artist. I give supportive feedback and considered critiques, all while wearing this robe.
The poses I have performed have given my body a purpose, made me into an object of art. When I am reanimated, something has changed. Something subtle, a line has been crossed which is hard to explain. I have drifted between being a naked woman and a nude subject.