Friday, November 16, 2012

Project Fear Less: Be An Art Model

...i.e. "The One Where Nelly Really Strips," as apparently I got some hopes higher than they should have been with this post.  But, DISCLAIMER...there are no pictures here.  The actual artwork is still in the creation process, and I'm not sure if I want everyone who reads this to see me in the altogether.  So posting a picture might turn out to be yet another Scary Thing.  Bit of a cop-out, I know.  Deal with it.  Use your imaginations.

This one has been on my personal bucket list for a long while - years, even.  But it was always kind of nebulous - you know, just something that people say but never actually pursue.  And I have to admit, I barely had to pursue this one.  Fate kind of threw it at me.

I met an artist.  On...a dating site.  (Scary thing just to admit that, bee tee dubs).  When you guys stop laughing, I'll explain that it's also used by many as just a meet-people site.  But yeah.  Crazy good artist (as in went to grad school for it).  He (and his lovely girlfriend.  see?  not just dating) is relatively new to the area and trying to build his portfolio up, but there's sadly a dearth of people willing to do more than just talk about posing.

Honestly didn't even consider the option of not doing this one.  It was just so perfect.

After having to cancel the first scheduled meeting due to having the freaking plague, I met Figure Painter, his girlfriend and his buddy (in from New York, escaping Sandy and the aftermath) at a brewpub in Durham.  We got a few pints and a table and started chatting.  His lady and I hit it off stupendously - she's amazeballs and we're the same age and have had similar experiences.  FP himself is a little quieter, but just as interesting, once he actually starts talking.  The purpose of the evening was basically for me to determine that he wasn't just a sleazebag, which became evident pretty early on.  I love meeting cool people.

But more than just a hang-out sesh, this was supposed to be a little more of a business meeting.  We scheduled a time for me to come to his studio the following Sunday morning, and discussed briefly what I should bring and expect.  Note (especially you, Mama) that I was smart about it, when the day came - I told Babysis the address and that if I didn't check back in within the hour, to call the cops.  And I had my mace.  And my ninja skills.

I found the place and was welcomed in.  More of his artwork was up all around the studio - I'll see if I can't get pictures of it, because it really is very well done.  The studio itself was in one of those little old houses from the 20s that are so prevalent around old Durham, which means that it was the tiniest bit chilly - I just figured it would be more flattering, though, ifyaknowwhatimean.  He showed me around the place and we decided on a decent pose and then just stood there for a couple minutes making awkward small talk (did I mention he was shy?) until I finally piped up.

"Hey, how do you want me...dressed?  Or...not?"

He left it up to me, but I figured it was a hell of a lot scarier this way.  And really, this is the culmination of a goal I've had since before I can remember - to be comfortable and proud in my own skin.  And, as it turned out, nothing else.

So, he sat at his easel and turned away (he is seriously the most polite guy-looking-at-a-naked-girl that I've ever met) and I stopped thinking for a minute and at the end of it my clothes were on the chair and I was naked and striking the pose we'd decided on.  Just like that.  It was still a very surreal experience at this point, almost like a dream where it's totally normal for you to be naked, like why would you be any other way?  And the amazing thing: that mindset didn't go away.  It's still incredible, thinking about my upbringing and ongoing difficult relationship with my body and self-image, how comfortable I got, and how fast I got that way.  It felt like the most natural thing in the world...and, typing, that, I think how silly it is to have to say that explicitly, because of course it IS one of the most natural things in the world, by definition!

We work 10 minutes at a time (it will likely take 12-15 hours to complete this picture, so this is ongoing).  The pose we chose has me curling the toes of one foot under and resting them on the floor, or else I could probably do longer than that.  That's another thing - apparently I'm a natural at this, holding myself well, staying very still and returning to the exact same pose easily.  During the breaks I do a little yoga or just sit while we talk.  At first I'd grab my coat during the breaks, but now I don't bother, unless I'm cold.  It's very strange, when I stop to think about it, but an absolutely lovely feeling - for so long I've had all the hang-ups and neuroses and hateful thoughts directed at my body that are sadly so common to the average American woman.  But when I'm turned into a simple collection of light and shadow, form and negative space...I'm helping to create art, and so I AM art.  It doesn't matter if certain areas are a little more poofy or saggy than I'd like.  Every small area becomes a study in detail, and the whole becomes a masterpiece.

Now, if only I could harness that feeling when I have my clothes on!  Baby steps, baby steps...



  1. This was terrific. I aspire to your level of bravery!! Bravo!

    1. Thank you! It requires bravery up until the moment of disrobing. After that, all the nervousness that led up to that point just seems a little silly.

  2. Wow I am so in awe and impressed!! I can definitely see there being a different mindset behind it...seeing the body as art rather than something sexual or romantic. Definitely proud of you for going through with this!