get naked or leave: part I

Figure 3.7: Flawless Elegance, mixed media visual journal pages mounted on wood (page 1) 2009
Figure 3.7: Flawless Elegance (pg. 1) • Mixed media on wood • Carly Swenson • 2009

During my second year in college, I decided I would work part-time as a life drawing model; because $14 an hour, was pretty good pay for sitting about naked. Of course, the concept of being nude in front of my friends and classmates was a little daunting.  However, after the first class, my anxiety subsided.  The atmosphere was relaxed and  I felt surprisingly comfortable.  

Luckily, I had several friends in the class who maintained their sense of humor, and our laughter broke any lingering tension.  Life modeling doesn’t have a sexual connotation.  Modeling for life drawing was merely utilizing my human form for a study in aesthetics–and once I learned how to prevent limbs from accidentally falling asleep, it was decent work.


Commerce without Morality I, 2010
Commerce without Morality I • 24in x 24in • Mixed media on canvas • Carly Swenson • 2010
photo/copyright: Michael Helms 2008
Portrait by Michael Helms (photo/copyright: Michael Helms 2008)

I found nude modeling also had a wonderful and positive impact on my confidence.  Unlike the unattainable perfection women are constantly subjected to, life modeling is about appreciating the beauty of the human body in essentially any form.  Finding beauty in what make a person unique or flawed. I felt content with my body as a whole.  Instead of being awkward, my height provided gracefully long limbs that created interesting lines and negative space.  The fact that my legs were often covered in bruises due to my excessively clumsy nature was irrelevant.  While my smaller breasts and slight hips are a far cry from the standard voluptuous hourglass female form, I still felt elegant and feminine.  I continued to model for another three semesters, until I left to study abroad in Europe.  It was an unlikely brazen part-time job choice for a woman generally afraid of life, but I never regretted it, even for a moment. And, I never told my grandmother about it–she is better off not knowing.

6 Replies to “get naked or leave: part I”

  1. I modeled nude for a photographer friend of mine. I always say, if it’s ok with them, it’s ok with me. These photos look great, especially the one of you on the leather chair. I miss life drawing, and nudity is a huge hang-up in this part of the world.


    1. Exactly! That is what I felt–my body is just s normal human woman’s body–nudity simply isn’t a big deal as long as it isn’t made into a big deal. If that makes sense? I miss life drawing as well.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: