My first time

photos_0105_studio02Every art model remembers the first time they posed nude for an art class. It’s hard to forget stepping onto that podium and unceremoniously dropping your robe to the floor, standing completely exposed in front of a group of strangers as their eyes scrutinize every detail of your naked body. The physical awareness, emotion, and vitality of that moment are still with me today, though I will never recapture the essence of those first few poses on the stand. So what is it like the first time an art model poses? I’ll answer with my story below, but I’m interested in hearing from the other models out there as well – what was your first time like?

As I related in my previous post on why I started modeling, my inspiration was a trip to Italy and the lasting impression made by the many superb sculptures I saw, particularly Michelangelo’s David. After returning from Italy in January (9 years ago), I contemplated the prospects of art modeling over the next few months, and in April finally decided to take the plunge and call around to find a life drawing class willing to take me. After several days and a few dozen phone calls, I finally found two community groups willing to have add me to their roster. At the time I lived in a moderate size Southern city, and only two life drawing groups existed. They had a grand total of one male model that posed for both groups; the prospect of a new male art model was appealing to them.

So after a “trial run” at one of the groups where I posed in a costume (I dusted off my old high school soccer uniform for the first time in 8 years), they penciled me in for a nude session 6 weeks later. The other group – held at a local Jewish community center – had already scheduled me for a session in July, but called back the very night of my first costumed gig and told me they had a cancellation – I would be modeling in just 6 days for the first time ever! I hung up the phone with excitement and trepidation – a series of intermittent “butterflies” started that wouldn’t go away until after that first session was over.

Sketch4As excited as I was to start my art modeling career, I had three major concerns: what poses to do, body hair, and getting an erection while posing. Body image wasn’t particularly worrisome for me: naive though I was, I still understood that my reasonably fit body wouldn’t be the best they’d seen, nor would it be the worst. The posing concern was resolved easily enough with practice. Every night leading up to the session I would undress, stand in front of my full-length mirror, and practice posing. Like most figure drawing classes, this session consisted of a series of short poses (gestures), then a few 5-minute poses, then 10-minute poses, and finally four different 20-minute poses to end the evening. So I tried to think of interesting, dynamic, elegant poses that were feasible for each amount of time. I consulted art history books, reviewed famous paintings and sculptures, and added my own twist to some yoga poses. After completely rehearsing my repertoire, I was ready to pose.


I purchased this book so I could come up with interesting poses.

The body hair fear was foolish on several levels. First of all, models have body hair of varying degrees. Artists want to see a “real” human body, not a hairless mannequin. Second, I have a fairly low amount of body hair as it is – just a tuft of chest hair, very sparse fuzz on my back and buttocks, and an average amount of pubic and leg hair. Yet for some reason I considered this too much, and actually shaved all of my body hair except for my armpit and head hair. Silly and unnecessary I know, but I was a neophyte and thought this would be more appealing to the artists. I still trim my pubic hair, but the rest I now grow naturally.

Finally, the erection issue. I think every male art model at least considered this occurrence before taking the stand for the first time. After thousands of poses and a few dozen erections over the past decade, I now realize a boner on the modeling stand is rare, short-lived, and taken in stride by the artists. But to a relatively sexually inexperienced man in his early 20s who got aroused easily, this was a concern. I decided that when I felt the slightest stirring down below I would just bite my lip and think of something really sad – that seemed like the best way to physically and mentally quench an unwanted spontaneous hard-on.

The day of my session arrived (a Monday), and I was nervous throughout. I glanced at the clock anxiously during the day, apprehensively anticipating the arrival of 7:00 pm. Butterflies zoomed through my stomach and my heart raced every time I thought of dropping my robe. I arrived as the JCC 15 minutes early, and found the small studio tucked in a corner above the gymnasium. The monitor, a figurative sculptor named Arthur, made me feel at ease and directed me to the nearest restroom so I could change into my robe. I read enough about modeling online to know to bring a robe and sandals to wear between poses, so I was prepared from a “dress code” standpoint (ironic as it is).

Most community life drawing groups consist of middle age men and women.By the time I had changed and made my way back to the studio, the other artists (10 total) had arrived, all setting up their paper and selecting their pencil and/or charcoal stick for that evening. Six women and 4 men were there – all the men were middle age or older, several of the women were in their early 30’s – about what I expected, and would come to learn is typical of community drawing groups. I stood in front of the model standing, pacing unconsciously, trying to act calm on the exterior while by heart raced at an ungodly rate. My time had come.

“Ok, let’s get started,” Arther boomed. “Five 2-minute poses, then two 5-minute poses, please.”

Realizing this was my cue but not entirely confident about what I should do next, I stepped to the side of the modeling stand. Looking down at the floor in the cold, weighty silence of the room, I untied my robe and with a light toss, dropped it to the side of the stand. I was naked. My heart pounded out of my chest. The emotional vulnerability of that moment is indescribable – I was completely exposed in front of these 10 people, and there was nowhere to hide. Very few people had seen me naked to that point, but there I was in front of a group of strangers, their eyes pouring over the contours of my figure. My stomach flipped again and again, and the physical awareness of my nudity was profound: it’s as if every cell in my body were alive and sensing every change in temperature or micro-current of air, and I was consciously aware of all of it simultaneously. Yet the thrill and exhilaration was the highest high: I felt immortal and yet utterly vulnerable. The rush of adrenaline and sympathetic stimulation was among the most intense of my life. It had begun.

The inspiration for my first ever pose: Bernini's David. I gingerly stepped up onto the stand (a make-shift platform that consisted of a table propped on boxes), and assumed the first 2-minute pose, a nicely twisted gesture with my hands on my left hip, derived from a Bernini sculpture; I still use it frequently today. And with that pose I was into the flow of things. Looking back on that first session, my performance as a model was pretty mediocre. Yes, I stood still and held some decent poses, but I was too still: my poses were stiff and rigid and tense. I hadn’t yet yearned to settle into a pose in a way that is interesting yet relaxing. I had also yet to learn how to expose myself completely beyond the physical nudity. Being naked is only the surface exposure – good models expose themselves through and through, including their fears, emotions, and spirituality. I was nude, but I wasn’t fully exposed. The artists were all very complimentary (though Arthur sensed the tension and said I needed to appear more comfortable up there), and I was assured of repeat bookings. Their renderings of me were insightful and gratifying – there I was, a completed drawing on canvas! I had inspired this small work of art, but it was an art work nonetheless!

And what of my 3 major fears going into the session? Well, the poses were good, but I hadn’t yet mastered the ability to make them simultaneously interesting and relaxed. Still, for a first session they were more than adequate. The body hair issue was indeed a non-issue. No erection occurred that evening, as might be expected. Anytime I became aware of my penis in any way I clinched my teeth and tried to prevent it – a practice that undoubtedly led to my apparent tension on the stand.

1IMGP1727Thus with a single invigorating session under my belt and none of my fears in any way an issue, I was hooked. I always think back on that first session with fondness – as nervous as I was, nothing can compare with the rush of that first time dropping the robe and assuming a pose. Of all the many sessions I’ve had since, that was without question my most memorable.

So what about you, fellow models? How was your first experience? I would love to hear how your first time was similar and/or different from mine…comment away!


Filed under Art class, Art model, Art modeling, Figure drawing, Life drawing, Nude, Nudity

15 responses to “My first time

  1. Ron

    I am a relatively new male figure model. First time was Spring 2009 for a beginner drawing class that only two people and the instructor attended. I had and continue to have two of your concerns – making interesting poses and erections.

    The first time was great. The instructor was fine and like I said, only two students – one male and one female. It was only a two hour course so went by quick. Some one minute’s, a few 5’s, and one 15. I really was not nervous at all having been to nude beaches quite a bit. Of course there, everyone else is nude too.

    I got through the poses, the instructor gave me a few pointers after class. The female student, however, in her 30s, was very attractive, and I was concerned there would be movement in a place where I didn’t want there to be. I was able to hold it back though.

    Since then, I’ve posed maybe a dozen times. I’ve erected once. It was during a small group session with about 10 female artists. I was in a one-hour reclining pose and since the stand was very comfortable, I tried to do the full 60 minutes without a break. About 30 minutes in, I felt it start and I couldn’t stop it. I was too comfortable and it twitched for a good 10 minutes before going back. I was obviously very embarrassed but I felt it best to not break the pose, so I continued. No one said a word about and I didn’t look at their work to see if any captured it.

    I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I hope people are adult enough to handle it. Since then, I’ve also spoken to models who have been asked to pose that way too, so I don’t feel too badly about it. But still, I don’t want that to happen when it isn’t wanted by the artists.

    I would like to hear some artists’ takes on this.

  2. edo deweert

    it’s interesting that you wonder whether there were people who were “offended” by your erection.
    it’s also interesting that we male models spend so much time being preoccuped by this matter.
    if it’s all about “art” as everyone so vehemently insist on claiming, boners have no place in that environment.
    if you wish to model with a boner, there are venues where that s appreciated and where models are in fact requested to strike masturbatory poses.
    on the other hand, i have never heard of such venues, where artists request female models to do the same.

  3. edo deweert

    just a couple more thoughts on the subject:
    once you have sported the boner, what will you do for an encore?
    i have always been of the opinion that that was the last veil to drop, so to speak.
    second -and this goes to the heart of my basic observation that it is all about sex – i am no horse, but certainly not a mouse either and having given them a teasing 20 or so percent tumescence, i like to think some of them might be fantasizing, there, or later.
    hey, that’s the man in me, right.
    and, as well, i have been aware of some female students over the years expressing concern that “this” might occur with a male model in their midst.
    instructors have always introduced me as “professional” and they were not exclusively referring to the quality, or variety of my poses.
    in addition, as an older male, i would not cherish the thought that i would be suspected of “getting my jollies from exposing my erection to some nubile young maidens”; and whereas in the past older males were “safe” models, nowadays, if an older male would want to do that, there is that little blue pill, right?

    • Edo – I appreciate your comments, but I didn’t intend for this post to be all about getting an erection on the modeling stand. I’m sure I’ll devote an entire post to that sometime in the future. At that point I discuss my thoughts on the matter in more detail…

      • Ron

        Coldsilvermoon – apologies. I think my first comment kind of started this. I didn’t mean to highjack your posting.

        Take care.

  4. Ron and Edo – no need to apologize! I appreciate your comments and am glad you felt comfortable posting them. This blog should foster good, frank discussion, so your comments are always welcome on any topic.

    My response to Edo was a way of deferring my personal commentary on the “erection issue” until a later time when I can devote an entire post to the topic. Any comments on any topic are always welcome – my personal comments on that topic will be reserved for a late time.

    Thanks again for reading and for posting your thoughts!

  5. tom v

    hello i started life modeling was nervous in the beginng, i practice infront of mirror to, it was10 artists and i was in the middle. was very confortable poseing nude. one of my long poseing was laying down i started to get hard for 10 minutes but it went away and everyone loved the way i posed, a did a summer class and it was great

  6. Here’s my description of my first time, as I posted on my blog a few months ago:

    I grew up in a very clothes-compulsive house. Nudity was simply not present except in the bath or shower. I don’t think I’ve seen either of my younger brothers nude since they were toddlers. So, when I was 18 and a freshman in college, I rebelled from that clothes-compulsiveness by taking it all off for art classes. The idea that I could be a nude model for a whole classroom full of people was born in the dormitory cafeteria. I lived in an all-male dorm, but it was next to a female dorm, and we all shared the same dining hall. I was sitting across from a young lady one day in the fall of 1984, eating lunch. This girl was a little odd, but she was also cute. I remember being very interested in her. I don’t even remember her name now, all these years later, but I do remember that she was a big fan of Grace Jones. During our lunchtime conversation, she mentioned that she drew “naked people” in her art class. I knew that such classes existed from watching an episode of Three’s Company not too many months earlier. In the episode, Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) tries to impress a new girl in the neighborhood by agreeing to pose for an art class she is teaching. When he arrives at the class, she tells him to get undressed. He is surprised, not even suspecting that the art class drew nude models, but he goes through with it anyway. The punchline is that his landlord, Mr. Furley (played by the late Don Knotts), walks into the class with his drawing pad under his arm just after Jack has disrobed. The look on his face was the funniest shot of the episode. But Three’s Company took place in California. I didn’t think classes in Fayetteville, Arkansas would use nude models. I was immediately intrigued. I told the girl at my table that I wanted to model.

    Later, as I thought about it, I decided that I had to go through with it if only to impress upon this girl that I would do what I said I would. I ventured over to the art building and saw a sheet on a bulletin board advertising for models. They were paying five dollars per hour, which, at the time, was better than any other job I could get. I went to the Tuesday evening open figure drawing session and made an attempt to draw the female model there. My drawings were terrible, but I wasn’t too interested in drawing. I wanted to witness a session and see how the model acted, was treated, etc. It took me awhile to gather the courage to sign up as a model myself, but I finally did.

    Wanting more information, I went to the college bookstore and found the textbook for the figure drawing class. It contained a few black and white photographs from inside drawing classes. One of the things that I couldn’t help but notice was that the female models were nude but the male models in the classes wore a jock strap. That wouldn’t do. I couldn’t see myself modeling like that, with my genitals covered and my bare butt hanging out. That would be far more embarrassing than being fully nude, I thought. Besides, if the females get to be completely nude, why not the males? I went back to the open drawing session, but there was another female model there. I asked one of the ladies drawing if they ever had male models, and she said yes. I then asked if the males had to wear anything, and she said no. That calmed my nerves a bit. Unfortunately, my second attempt at drawing was even worse than the first.

    I got a call a few Tuesdays later from the coordinator of that open session. His model had cancelled for that night, and he needed someone to cover. I accepted somewhat reluctantly. Once I hung up the phone, I realized that the class started in less than an hour. I took a long walk around campus before entering the studio. There were only two women who had shown up to draw that night, including the one I had asked about the jock strap thing. It was election night, and I’m sure a lot of people stayed home to watch the returns. (Reagan stomped Mondale that night, by the way.)

    I didn’t even have a robe, but the female models I had observed hadn’t had robes either. I started taking off my clothes beside the modeling platform. When I got down to my underwear, took a deep breath, and slipped them off. There I was. The two ladies did not run screaming that there was a naked man in the room. I took my poses and got more comfortable as the evening went on.

    I eventually modeled for the regular figure drawing class during the spring semester. Alas, the young lady who had introduced me to this new profession never saw me model (she had only taken the class in the fall). The figure drawing class was small, only five students, and I got very comfortable posing for them. Toward the end of that spring semester, the instructor asked me to model for her introductory drawing class. I agreed, and I was somewhat shocked when I showed up for it. The room was packed with at least 20 people. I definitely had butterflies just because of the number of students and the knowledge that they had never drawn from a nude model before. I went ahead, gulped real hard, took everything off and hopped on the model stand. My experience in that class was wonderful, as if my platform were an island outside of everything else going in my life and I was sharing it with these special artists in the room. By the time class was over, I didn’t want to have to get dressed and go back out into the rest of the world. I was hooked on this strange, wonderful profession.



  8. alan

    HI, I’ve enjoyed reading these stories, I think you would all enjoy my story “My art model initiation” by ACE2010 in he Experience Project website, its a bit long and very explicit to reproduce here.

  9. I actually really want to save this specific post, “My first time | Figuratively Speaking” on my internet site.
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  10. Jon

    Well, as I know you can relate, I truly love to pose nude. It is a bit of a rush to be the only nude person in the room, and totally comfortable w/ it. My story goes like this: Years ago, I was over at my girl friend’s apt. She was in the other room, and so I innocently pulled a large sketch pad off a shelf, and began to thumb through it. I knew she was an artist, yet when I saw page after page of nudes (both male & female) I had to ask her where she got them. She then began to educate me re: life drawing. I had no idea that such a thing was so common an exercise for artists. At the time time I remember thinking, “That might be fun. I wonder what it would be like.” Anyway, a few years went by, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it, when low and behold there was a big article in the newspaper about a successful Life Drawing Studio in town. I read it, and thought to myself, “I want to try that.” So, after researching a bit, I showed up about half an hour before an open drawing session one day, and asked the owner/instructor, if I could model sometime. After ascertaining my inexperience, he invited me to come watch him model a few weeks later, to see how figure modeling is done. I showed up on the appointed day, and was surprised (yet not shocked) to watch him casually undress in front of the class, dropping his clothes on the floor next to the dais. He did about 15 one minute gestures, followed by 4-5 five minute poses, then one 30-40 minute pose. At the break, he came over and asked whether I thought I could do something along those lines, and if so, could I model a few weeks later. I said I could & would, and left. A few days later, I went to the library to research life drawing “gestures and poses.” I also made up some. Then I “rehearsed” in front of a mirror every evening. The day of my first gig, I showed up half an hour early–I was really worried about the possibility of being so embarrassed/turned on by stripping naked for a bunch of people, that I figured if I got there and had a major erection before going “on,” I could merely step into the restroom, and “stroke” it away! As it turned out, when I arrived, I was feeling a little bit of “enlargement” down under, yet not so much that I was convinced it would be a problem. I did, however, have gigantic butterflies in my stomach. Nevertheless, in spite of those butterflies, when the time came to begin the session, I calmly (on the exterior, anyway) strolled over to the dais, and w/o hesitation, removed every stitch of clothing, climbed up, and began my memorized order of gestures. During that very first one minute gesture–which, by the way, seemed to last an eternity–I remember thinking to myself, “You are absolutely stark, buck naked in front of a bunch of strangers!!” The butterflies continued, yet greatly subsided after only 4-5 gestures. Then the rest of it was simply exhilarating!! When I’d watched the owner, a few weeks earlier, I was behind him, and saw little of his face. So, inexperienced as I was, I included facial expressions with most of my gestures & poses. At the break, a fifties-ish woman came over to tell me how wonderful it was to see so much expression in my face–that it really helped her to catch the essence of each pose. It was only later that I learned how uncommon it is for models to use facial expression while posing. Nonetheless, I continue to do so regularly, and continue to receive positive remarks about such. Since then I’ve posed for many other studios and college classes. In fact, I just posed this evening for a beginning class of would-be animators at the local Art Institute. The instructor–for whom I’ve often modeled, remarked at the close of my modeling, how lucky they were to have such a great, experienced, and accomplished model this evening, and that they have no idea what it takes to do figure modeling. To which one young (ignorant) buck blurted out, “yea, if you’re lazy, and just want to sit around for a few hours to collect a paycheck.” As I was leaving, she was attempting to get through to him how wrong he was. Anyway, I still love to model. To this day, the butterflies still come just before a modeling session. Yet they’re different–they are anticipatory, of the thrill I’m about to engage in once more. It never gets old–difficult at times, but never old or unrewarding.

  11. Simon

    Hi I’ve enjoyed the commentaries here, and found them to be quite informative…. I’ve not yet modelled nude, however, at the age of 58 I have put my name out there, as the human figure has always been a fascination for me, and yes, I do fancy a challenge. I guess it goes back a long time to when I was a child- our household was pretty liberal, and nudity was never a great issue. Later as a husband and father nudity while not being commonplace was not a big deal…. I did a life drawing class a few years back, and since then I guess I have been intrigued with the idea of standing myself….. So, there I am, I have contacted a couple of classes locally here in Switzerland looking for models, and now I am wondering what I need to think about before taking the plunge- assuming they ever call that is! I am not in it for kicks at least not of the sexual kind. At my age I’m not too worried about getting an unwanted erection, but I do imagine the experience to be liberating- if it goes well. I’ve thought about poses, I think that being naked in front of people won’t completely phase me (but who knows??!!) but I’d be glad for any useful tips for a “first timer” to make the experience as rewarding and enriching as I hope it will be…..
    So thanks in advance for any advise that any of you might be able to share

  12. David

    I have also enjoyed all the comments on this blog and have been meaning to add my own for some time. Firstly to Simon. As you probably know, age is no limit to modelling, neither is physique. Artists just want to draw an interesting human form. So go for it…I started modelling two years ago aged 53. Like many I’d wanted to model for many years and also like many been inspired by the works of the great masters. Knowing such work started as a simple sketch of a nude male model. I had modelled previously, having done some art nude photographic work in my 20’s. I did some more of this 3 years ago, always interesting to note how my body has aged. I worked with 2 other male models doing some heroic poses and almost abstract ones, all in monochrome, loved doing as with the photographer we were creating art. With is thought I found (thought meetup) an artists group that was willing to take on new models. Once signed-up naturally I had a few concerns. Would I be any good? Could I really hold a pose for that long? Might I get cramp? And, of course the classic one…what if I get an erection? To this the organiser said they were quite rare. His all male group were happy to draw one should it happen or might ignore it as they tend to be passing. With this I approached my first session with confidence having planned 12 poses that I thought I could hold for at least 10 mins. The session was held in a room above a London pub. So having grabbed myself a drink I found the artists. One said “Are you the model?” My career had started…Once in the room, I quickly undressed to my trunks then slipped them off and stepped forward to the dais. The sensation I got then and always still get is that of elation. I am using my naked body with all its beauty and imperfections to represent all men. I would seen to be a natural. falling into poses with ease, wishing I’d done this years ago. After an hour or so we had a break. I chose to stay nude, chatting with the artists looking at their work. To see oneself as simple pencil outlines for the first time is wonderful. By the second pose after the break I was fully relaxed in a standing pose ..this led to slight stirrings probably caused by draughts. One thing male models soon note is just how much their testicles move up and down responding to temperature changes…odd sensation.. By now I realised I wanted to pose for other groups where erections might not be welcome so I tried to stop it…I found flexing all my muscles, biting the side of my tongue and thinking of something sad worked and I still sometimes have to do this today. Since my first session I have worked for a solo artist. This was fun, we chatted as I posed. Perhaps the most rewarding work I’ve done is to pose with a second nude male model in a series of wrestling poses. Very hard work as it involved actual wrestling but the reward of seeing the art created is priceless..

  13. Glenn Tomczak

    I posed nude for the first time last May for a suburban Chicago art class and found it exhilarating. I was very nervous beforehand but once I climbed upon the platform and dropped my robe…I calmed down and focused on my poses. I plan on posing next Sunday January 3 for my second nude experience. ..and can’t wait!
    Glenn Tomczak

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