Baring it all: Student describes experience as a nude art model


Ortonville senior Ben Stowers gets naked in class several times each semester.

What is normally a student's worst stress-induced nightmare is a legitimate job for Stowers, who is one of many students who work as a paid model for art courses at Central Michigan University. He began modeling this semester and has served as a naked muse for figure drawing courses taught by art professor Jesse Dominguez. 

Stowers said the job has sporadic hours and a tough transition, but there are also many rewarding aspects to what may seem like a straight-forward job. He was particularly surprised by the number of students interested in baring it all for art students. 

How does it feel sitting in front of a class naked?

Stowers: It’s nerve wracking to get started but it really becomes normal once you’ve sat there a couple of times. It’s kind of cool to think of yourself as the art that people are drawing and that they’re inspired by. I’ve taken a look at some of the drawings too and they’re really good. As far as the experience goes, I think the strangest thing is just the fact that you never know where to look because there’s a circle of people around you, staring at you naked and you can’t really decide if it’s more awkward to not make any eye contact or to just act like everything is normal. And it’s hot up there. Even if it’s cold in the room, it’s always hot.

Why did you decide to become a model for art courses?

I don’t know how to describe it exactly. I got into it because it was more for the experience; I thought it would be a good thing to try out. It would be a little nerve wracking, test me a bit. I had a friend who had done it freshman year. They did it for a personal development project for the honors program and she was talking about it and I thought it was something I would like to try out. It kind of was more of a joke that I was going to do it, and then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would make a good experience.

Have you had the chance to look at the artwork people create?

For the most part, unless you go up and ask someone, they just leave the class before you see it. So as far as me seeing the artwork, it was just because, after the second time, I was ballsy enough to just say to them, ‘OK, can I see what I look like naked?’ When I looked at the artwork, I thought it looked a lot more like me than I would’ve expected. It wasn’t like I was doubting their artistic abilities, but I was just surprised by how even the facial structure and everything looked like me.

Did you have any concerns beforehand?

I would say I didn’t worry about it at all until right before it. Then I realized, ‘OK, this is actually quite difficult,’ but then once you get up there, it’s fairly normal. When I'm up there I’m so bored. So bored. At first you’re thinking a lot of things and you’re kind of nervous, but then after that, your mind just sort of wanders. You just kind of listen to whatever people are talking about.

Was the experience different from what you expected in any way?

Holding a pose for that long is awkward. It’s kind of surprising, sometimes they let you choose the pose and if you’ve done it a few times, you think, ‘OK, I’m going to choose the most basic pose possible so it will be comfortable,’ but even if you just sit in a chair, by the end of it, you’re super tense and sore. I don’t know, it’s just not natural to stay in one position for that long. You never really realize how much you twitch and fidget until you can’t. They’re pretty good about letting you take a break or get a drink of water though. You pretty much get to control how it goes.