Section: Arts

Figure drawing models reveal the naked truth about the gig

Figure drawing models reveal the naked truth about the gig

Devon Musgrave-Johnson

Students trickled into Horvitz Hall on Monday night for the art department’s open figure drawing sessions with their usual materials of pencil and paper. When the session began, a model emerged from a closet in a fuzzy, purple robe and stepped onto a platform in the center of the room before undressing.

At each figure drawing session, different students become the subject of inspiration for the class: The models, all of whom are Kenyon students, pose naked for both the open drawing sessions and art classes.

To some, the idea of nude modeling in front of one’s peers may appear daunting. Such nerves, according to Emma Dunlop ’18, a model for the program, eventually dissipate.

“It gets a whole lot less nerve-racking as it goes,” she said.

As the model changed positions throughout the session, people took varying artistic approaches: Some drew with colors, forming abstract pictures, and others created realistic pieces that focused on one part of the subject.

Dunlop has worked with the figure drawing program since her first year. She was originally a student in the figure drawing class, offered seperately from the weekly program.

Following her experience in the course, Dunlop emailed Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin to secure a job as a model. She first posed for the Drawing I class, then continued to sit for the session offered on Monday nights.

“Modeling is more about yourself,” Dunlop said. “There is a connection to the artist, which I think is really beautiful, but for me it’s more about letting myself be and letting my body be.” 

Dunlop said modeling is more relaxed than many assume. “It’s a lot less weird than you think,” she said. “You make art out of the person, and then it’s fine.”

Recounting her first experience modeling for Drawing I, Dunlop described posing for people she knew outside of the course. “I actually knew a lot of people in there, which was a little weird, but, also, I don’t know, very normal,” she said. “It didn’t change anything; it was just really cool.”

Dunlop is not the only model to run into familiar faces: Tess Neau ’19 found she knew many of the students during her time working as a model for the art program.

“That kind of felt reassuring, actually,” she said. “Everyone’s so normal about it. They’re like, ‘Ok, yeah. A naked person.’”

Dunlop said her mood improves after sitting for a session or class and that she has learned how to accept herself for who she is. “[Modeling] lets you acknowledge, ‘yes this is the reality of my body, and this is how it looks’, but it still manages to be beautiful, even if it’s not pretty.” She said, “It manifests into some art form, so I come out with a lot more respect for my body.”

Emily Kraus ’17, who enrolled in Drawing I her sophomore year and began modeling this semester, considers the experience a time to reflect. “When you’re in one pose, it gives you a lot of time to think,” she said. “It’s quiet in there, it’s very meditative. It’s a really healthy experience.”

But Dunlop and Kraus also commented on the struggles that come with posing. “You don’t really realize how hard it is to keep a position when your arms are not supported by anything,” Dunlop said. “It’s a lot harder than people think.”


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at