I’ve spent many years doing life drawing, and learnt quite early on that there are rules of etiquette about how the model is treated and behaves. It may be considered very risque in some circles to do life drawing (I know, I’ve had some very strange responses to it!) Â but if everyone abides by the rules, then it is polite and respectfulÂ from either side of the easel.Â
Normal scenario is ………….TheÂ model (male or female but adult of course) arrives at the venue (a village hall or art college classroom) fully clothed in their normal daytime attire, and retires to another room (the toilets, a cubby hole,Â or wherever is discreet) toÂ takeÂ allÂ their clothes off, and return in a robe – of garish or conservative colour depending on the personality of the wearer, to await the decision of the room (or tutor), but rarely the model,Â for theÂ nature of the pose. If the model is well experienced they will know how long they can hold the pose for without gettingÂ cramp, pinsÂ and needles, cold, orÂ fall over, and they settle themselves down mentally for it. It is only at that point, that they will take their robe off, discreetly, in a corner of the room, walk over to the prop – hopefully a chair, but sometimes only a broom handle, where they will take up the pose, whilst everyone else in the room (alsoÂ known as “the artists” regardless of their ability or experience) will take up pencil, chalk, charcoal or pastel, and start drawing. The model will be totally naked, no jewellery, no lingerie, ideally no tattoos (some times they’re asked to cover tattoos with a plaster) or body piercingsÂ on show. JustÂ plain and unclothed. The body infront of them, whilst obviously a breathing human being with opinions and likes and dislikes, is basically an object, in the same way as a vase, or a bottle, or a flower. It is to be drawn, and not sexualised. The model shouldn’t feel sexy (although they might do, they won’t show it, particularly if they are a man) and the artists shouldn’t feel sexy (even if they might to start with, they should be concentrating on drawing, and not on a naked body, even if its of the opposite sex and physically attractive to them).Â There will be no giggling, at all, from anyone, but most especially an artist – because the model will think you’re laughing at them, even if the reason is actually because you feel embarrassed, or you find the situation amusing. There will be no mirth. No dirty jokes, no tittering. Usually there isÂ no music, unless it’s background classical musci played low so that it doesn’t intrude on the artistic process. If the pose is to be changed, the person in charge (the tutor) will politely ask the model to move the arm, or leg, or hand, or foot, or whole body, to another position. They will not touch the model (although I have heard of one young slim female model who had had enough of the older male tutor continually man-handling her into new positions that in desperation after the umpteenth time, she screamed out at him at the top of her voice “Will you get your FUCKING hands OFFFfffff me!!!!!!”). At theÂ end of the session, when there isÂ a break, the model will go and put their robe on covering up everything that everyone else has already seen, and have tea and biscuits and chat with the artists, or may go and look at the work they have done if they prefer (and are feeling brave!)Â until they are called back to a new pose (or the existing one if that is the decision) until the end of the period, when they will get up, put their robe on, then go out of the room to get dressed into their normal clothes, and leave. Some models never look at the pictures that have been done of them, some do. Some never talk to the artists, some do. Some artists never thank the model, although they ought to. The artists and models never touch. Sometimes they never speak to each other.
That is the normal way of doing a life class.
Erotic art is a bit different.
As you’d expect.
Whereas the rules are still, technically, the same, they are looser, as there is more interaction between the two groups. The artist will be more in tune with their model as well, and will probably have worked with them a few times and have a good rapport with them. The artist will be aware of what poses the model is happy with (boobs and bums are ok, full open fanny shots aren’t, for instance) , and which they are not, and should respect that ruling and not push the model to do anything they’re not happy with. They may touch a little more – a hand on the arm, or thigh, or shoulder, by the artist is acceptable, but it is still respectful. It will probably be more of a one to one basis, rather than in a general life-drawing group style. The model will trust the artist, and they should have a good working arrangement. Even though the artist won’t feel sexy (because they’re concentrating on the art work) and the model may not feel very sexy usually (because its difficult to hold a pose, and keep still, Â and feel sexy as well), the finished painting or drawing should look sexy for the viewer. The model may wear lingerie, or jewellery, sexy shoes or boots, full fetish gear, masks, stockings, or any combination that is deemed suitable for the pose. Tattoos and body piercings are acceptable. Loud rock or dance or sexyÂ music can be played to get everyone in the mood. It’s just far more relaxed, and fun, risque jokes are fine, and a bit of naughty banter is ok if it helps.
I am aware of all of this, because I’ve done it enough times and know what it’s like.
But I sometimes forget that others are not aware of that process. Particularly men, who have never posed before, who are keen on having an erotic picture done of themselves. Which is why I had the conversation I had this week.
TheÂ middle-aged guy rang me, we had a good long chat getting on well, we talked about erotic art and he asked me if I could do a pictureÂ of him,Â in the nude? Yes I can. With him aroused? Yes I can. Whereas this is far more than life drawing, it doesn’t bother me to do poses like that. I am after all an erotic artist, so expect to get questions of that nature every so often. And whereas the guy might find it erotic to pose for pictures of that subject, I am not turned on drawing pictures like that. Which might come as something ofÂ a surprise to them. But I am working. I am thinking of the pose, the lighting, the lines, the contrasts, the colours, the form in exactly the same way as I would be if I was painting a flower, a vase, a bottle, a tree. It is an image. To be captured on paper. And whereas the image may look erotic when it is complete, it would look like shit if I was turned on whilst I was doing it, because I wouldn’t be concentrating on the art. As an artist I am fully aware of that. But a lot of guys think that because I am a woman, and they are naked, with an erection,Â I must be turned on. Er, no, I’m not, it doesn’t work like that.Â Different parts of the brain totally.Â The chap I spoke to this week didn’t know any of this…… Because he’d never posed before.
I could tell from what he said, that he was a sensitive sort, aware of other peoples feelings, andÂ respectful,Â and we got on well on the phone. So when he said to me “Will it be a naturist environment?” the reply was a resounding “No, it won’t!”. If he want’s to be nude, that’s fine, but don’t expect me to be. I’m working and will be inÂ clothes that I feel happy in that aid the drawing process. And then he asked me if I would encourage him to get an erection? No buddy, you’re on your own with that one. I don’t mind drawing it, but I won’t be creating it for you. He asked me if I would verbally encourage it then? That would be a no, as well.Â He did at least have the decency to say that he could tell that I wasn’t that sort of person,Â soÂ I was glad that he understood that. But I supposeÂ its the age old thing, of someone being turned on, expecting the other personÂ is as well.Â And as a woman artist, who does erotic art, its finding that balance between being pleasant and friendly, but explaining that I am not a sex worker. I am an artist who happens to do erotic art. But don’t expect me to be turned on whilst I’d doing it, cos I won’t.
But the main thing is,Â andÂ this is the point that men don’t usually considerÂ once this erection is up and in place, it won’t be drawn in five minutes flat. This is why I suggest that some poses are best done from photos.Â Â Because it’s at that point that I say to theÂ guyÂ “If you can hold that pose forÂ four hours, I’ll draw you!” whichÂ reallyÂ amuses me, andÂ usually with a rueful smile gets the response of “I wish!”.