At 6 pm on Wednesday nights, students and local artists head to the basement of Olin for weekly life drawing sessions. The session is a whole three hours, but for the people who come to draw a nude model in different poses, the experience is an exciting way to practice figure drawing and an engaging (even relaxing) experience.
Can the same be said for the model whose job it is to hold a series of poses for up to 15 minutes for the full three hours, all the while doing it completely nude?
Julia Gatewood ’22 regularly participates as a model in these life drawing sessions. Gatewood discovered the class through attending it as an artist and decided that with a pretty high salary (around thirteen dollars an hour) and a high degree of personal body confidence, she wanted to model. To many, the idea of standing naked on a table for hours may seem a daunting, if not terrifying task, but Gatewood uses the time for personal reflection.
What do you usually do during modeling sessions to fill the time?
I’m in Buddhism class which got me into meditation. It’s actually the perfect place to do that. It’s easy to just kind of zone out and look at one point and focus on my breath. I’ll also sometimes listen to something. I got airpods for Christmas, I really hammered on airpods for Christmas because I can listen to music up there without the wire getting in the way. I’ll listen to a podcast, I really like Radiolab.
How do you decide on what pose to do?
All of the poses I make up. I’ve done it a few times now and I find myself doing the same ones. I’m like “alright I’ve got to think of new ones like let’s see maybe I’ll add a twist” but then it gets really hard to stand there. Even for five minutes, if it’s not a pretty natural pose it’s gonna be tough. Some part of your body will be tingling by the time you are done.
How do you feel comfortable on that setup for so long? What length of pose do you like the most?
I like the long poses because I don’t have to think of new poses because that kind of stresses me out, knowing that a new pose is coming. So being able to sit there and just focus on sitting still means I can meditate for longer and not think about it or listen to a podcast and not feel interrupted.
How does the experience of being a model make you feel in terms of body confidence?
Oh my god, it’s so empowering. I always knew that I was really comfortable in my body but knowing that I can get up there and do that, I feel so good about myself. Ultimately, I’m in control of my own head and anything that gets in the way of that I can just push away. That’s really empowering to me. It’s similar to doing a play, just being vulnerable in front of a lot of people is going to be scary but getting past that is worth it. I’ve never felt objectified. I feel more like a piece of art, like a subject
What’s your favorite part of the job?
One of my favorite parts is collecting the sketches when I’m done. I put them all over my wall when I get back. Another favorite part is just getting time to myself. Even though there are a bunch of people watching me, it still feels like I’m alone kind of because I just zone out and I meditate. It’s kind of like me-time. I get paid for it so I’m going to go but it’s a time where I don’t build in otherwise so it’s a recharge.