Baring it all – the naked truth about modeling
BRECKENRIDGE – Jennifer Riffle sits topless on a raised stage with about 10 artists surrounding her. Her modeling partner, Joel Stockdill, leans his spiky blonde hair against her arm. She rests her hand on his bare shoulder.
It was Stockdill’s first time as a nude model – though he kept his boxer briefs on – at Wednesday night’s figure drawing class at 4/5 Gallery and Studio.
“Good to see you naked,” a male artist joked as he set up his chair and sketchpad next to Stockdill.
After several poses, Stockdill took a break.
“It’s fairly simple,” Stockdill said. “You just don’t move.”
‘This is who I am’
Riffle started working as a nude model in college when she found out she could make $15 per hour.
Though she didn’t grow up comfortable with nudity, she gained an ease with it after she graduated high school and went to a nude hot springs.
“It’s actually kind of liberating (to model), like, ‘This is who I am,'” Riffle said.
Most nude models have an appreciation for the human form and want to help artists translate it into a drawing, sculpture or photograph.
“What’s interesting about modeling for me is being a piece of art work or being an interpretation,” Riffle said.
Artist Alberto Razo increased Riffle’s appreciation of her own body by creating a piece where he captured her lines and shape in a way she had never seen.
“A human body is one of the most interesting objects in nature,” said Cecelia Eidemiller, a Breckenridge artist who dates Razo. “There’s a great amount to deal with because you have anatomy, line, shadow and gesture to capture, whereas a vase or some still life doesn’t demand the same level of concentration and challenge.”
And if it’s awkward …
Any awkwardness between model and artist diminishes because there is a great purpose to the encounter, and that’s to create beautiful and expressive art.
But some modeling experiences turn out better than others.
“You have to be at an elevated level of comfort with yourself and the people you’re with,” said photographer Josh Hirshberg. “From an artist’s standpoint, almost equally important is knowing what the artist wants – being able to work with the artists. I get way more into it when I feel a connection with the model.”
Riffle has experienced a couple of awkward moments, for example, when her body responds to a cold room or when an artist is behind her where she can’t see where his or her eyes are looking.
Though she never has felt threatened by anyone’s gaze while she modeled, she knows of a local model who stopped working for that reason.
“(If anyone looked at me inappropriately) I would look (him or her) in the eye and say, ‘I’m feeling uncomfortable with the way you’re looking at me, and if you can’t change your perspective I’m going to leave or ask you to leave,'” Riffle said.
Striking the pose
Another challenge in modeling is holding a pose for up to an hour.
“Physically, you’re just relaxing into a pose,” said a Breckenridge model who wanted to remain anonymous because people have judged her for modeling in the nude. “You’re holding muscles a certain way. You have to be very still and conscious about relaxing into your shell. Being in a meditative state is one way to do that.”
Sometimes artists give suggestions to models, like Wednesday night when artist Cordell Crosby instructed Stockdill to: “Sink into every part of your body. Sink into your hip, sag your shoulder in the opposite direction. That way it will send a dynamic to people in all directions.”
“People model more for the experience of the artist,” Riffle said. “It’s not for self liberation.”
A beautiful vision
Ideally, Riffle would like to see our society develop a healthier perspective on nudity.
“It’s all about self-image and confidence, and when you’re around 8, you start seeing magazines at the supermarket – Cosmopolitan, Shape, Star – and so you start getting this vision of needing Janet Jackson abs, but (real bodies) aren’t like that at all,” she said. “(We can) foster confidence by having a non-judgmental, comfortable atmosphere around bodies in general. It’s about giving kids a positive perspective of their bodies and their family’s bodies.”
In the meantime, Riffle and other artists celebrate the human body with their artistic interpretations, translating human form into personal renderings at weekly figure drawing classes in Breckenridge.
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