A cold breeze, then, goose bumps.
I wait for the beep beep beep of the timer to go off before asking Donna Moore, the Museum School Director, if she has her space heater.
“It feels a bit cooler in here now,” I say, sticking my arm into my sheer, brown oversized top.
I browse Reddit while the artists chat, examining each other’s work. Within a few minutes, the timer goes off again, and I start to unbutton my blouse.
It’s a (specific day placeholder so I don’t get stalked) night at Cameron Art Museum.
I started modeling in 2014, before I went to Iceland. When I returned to Wilmington a few months ago, I got back on the modeling schedule, in addition to getting on the schedule of a few other places in Raleigh and Durham.
“Why would you do that?” my typically even-tempered Dad demanded, after the first time I posed.
My mom had mentioned it to him, and after envisioning every dire, Single White Female scenario in his head, he got me on the phone. His concerns were understandable; the pictures could pop up on the internet, etc.. But after promising to “be careful”, I continued.
I’ve gotten to know a few of the artists now.
Jud, who occasionally runs the evening class, greeted me at my last session, with a stack of drawings.
“I finished photographing them,” he said, leafing through a few pencil portraits of me from a previous class.
“I love this one,” I gasped at a drawing with a few miniature Melissas in different poses. As promised, I’m allowed take as many or as few as I want.
I’ve collected a few Melissa portraits now; Jud’s sketches, an oil pastel from when I still had bangs (and hair), a watercolor by my artist friend Elizabeth, and an unfinished acrylic that looks like it could be the cover of an Ernest Hemingway novel.
But let’s pretend I don’t take myself so seriously for a second, (^^ all of that is so disgustingly hipster, but no shame), and talk about why I like taking my clothes off in front of strangers.
It comes down to two, very simple things:
- I get to see myself through the creative, kalediscope-like perspective of other people. That tends to be either very complimentary, very humbling, or an awkward in between.
- I’m forced to be still, for long periods of time, without anything to distract me. For nearly three hours, it’s just me, and my mind. I spend the time sorting through all of my quiet, vulnerable thoughts that get droned out during the week.
I’ve never minded being naked (avid streaker here), but I have been shy. Throughout my adult life, I feel as if I’ve been checking off a bucket list of “I’m not shy and I’ll prove it” to-dos, and modeling completely nude was definitely at the top of that list.
But when I lay there, sprawled over some foam inserts and pillows, as well as a sheet, I’m not even really thinking about being naked. Instead, I’m just overwhelmed by the complete silence. There’s nothing but me, and my unfiltered thoughts.
It’s the only part of my life that’s quiet. I just sit there, eyes glazed over a bit, just being seen. And being drawn.
Drifty Notes: To get involved with figure drawing, contact your local museum, university or art school and just ask. Most of them either have programs, or know of programs in the area.