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News / Harmless Fun

Five comments frequently made by people when they find out you're a life model

Life drawing
Image by Jennifer Nuttall

For those not in the know, life modelling is modelling nude for artists. It's something I do as a bit of a sideline, needless to say as a freelance writer the extra cash is handy. Also I just like to get out of the house. People both in and outside of classes tend to have plenty to ask or say to you – usually when they've plucked up enough courage and you're back in your clothes.

So here are the five most frequent comments I get as a life model.

1: 'What do you think about?'
All sorts of stuff, but mostly crap. It's a question I'm often asked when people find out that I'm a writer too. I think they like to imagine I'm creating the next Booker prize winner in my noggin. Or a Pulitzer prize winning piece of journalism. It's usually lists. Both of the shopping variety and the 'to do.' Or wondering if I remembered to feed the cat this morning.

2: 'You must be brave/have a high opinion of yourself?'
No, not particularly. With age comes confidence I guess but it's more of the 'I really don't care' variety. Don't worry, I've not given up on life just gone way past that teen angst fretting about having a spot, bloated belly, or a big arse. And let's face it, I'm the only one who doesn't have to look at it. It's just me without my clothes and what could go wrong with that? And if it does, well worse things happen at sea. Like giant squid attacks.

3: 'Do you ever get the feeling anyone's come along just to perv?'
Let's face it that would be a level of commitment most pervs just don't have. Investing in paper, pencils and the humiliation of someone finding out that you've been one handedly drawing a stick woman for the last 45 minutes? Nah, not likely to happen. If however your bag is a woman with charcoal covered feet wandering around with a cup of tea in hand, settling into a pose un-airbrushed and pulling faces every now and again because pins and needles have set in – knock yourself out.

4: 'Is that you? I didn't recognise you with your clothes on…'
Often said to me in the queue in Tesco and uttered in that typically British, Carry On way, slightly apologetically with the added implication that 'I bet you hear that a lot.' Yes. Yes I do. But they have a point. Some people have a habit of looking very different without their clothes. In fact there have been a couple of classes, which I have attended as a 'drawer' rather than the 'drawee', and pencilled a fella who I thought looked far better out of his clothes than in. The not recognising thing also works the other way around - neighbours of mine have accidentally found themselves at a class I'm modelling for and taken a while to work out that it's me.

5: 'Ere Marissa, I might 'ave a job for you' (read with a south London accent)
Ok, fair enough, only two people have ever said that to me and only one in quite those tones. The upshot of predominately writing about and interviewing comedians and divulging a little too much personal info while chatting. It first happened when I interviewed the Canadian live wire Phil Nichol. Not adverse to taking his clothes off himself the recording of his DVD at a theatre in the West End of London required many hippy nudes to dance around throwing flowers at the audience.

The second time and a longer running relationship evolved when I was chatting to Arthur Smith (the owner of the above accent). On hearing of my sideline he roped me in as the punchline to one of his gags where I stroll rather casually across the back of the stage minus clothes. It's my one and only gag and it never ceases to amaze me how much amusement it provokes. So far I have streaked in London, various locations in the north of England, through Switzerland, in Edinburgh at the Fringe at 3am and on Radio 4 (a nude on the radio works better than you'd think). He also loaned me out to Ardal O'Hanlon at Greenwich Comedy Festival once.

Thanks to Jennifer Nutall for the use of her drawing of Marissa.