The First Time I Drew a Naked Guy

Photo by Hannah DeHart, Amato Photography LLC

I knew it was coming. I was a sophomore at The University of Texas, taking my very first drawing class.

The first half of the semester was spent drawing a very random assortment of items my quirky professor would bring to class—things he would pick up at weekend garage sales.

There was one time he came to barefoot with a whole bag full of baby dolls for us to draw. It was just all so weird. But hey, it was UT Austin, the city that prides itself of being weird! So, nothing too surprising.

The syllabus for the class included several weeks of life drawing. This is a very PG and fancy way of saying “drawing naked people.” Believe it or not, life drawing is an extremely common practice for artists. You learn a lot more about the human form when you’re able to see the whole shebang.

Consider it the artists’ version of a medical doctor in training working on a cadaver.

Despite knowing this was what “real” artists did, and it was ultimately going to help me improve in my figure drawing, I was absolutely terrified by this “training session.”

The women, I thought okay fine, this really isn’t anything new for me (ha!), but to draw a naked man?! It was just too much! Everyone in my class knew how I felt about this upcoming exercise. 

I was, perhaps, too verbal about how uncomfortable this “naked man scenario” made me.

The Time Had Arrived

The life drawing day came. I will never forget my barefoot,
hippie professor greeting me that morning with the biggest smile ever. He couldn’t wait to see me squirm!

And, as luck would have it, my very first stab at life drawing was—you guessed it—a dude!

They all come in wearing robes (usually), but the strange, overly confident ones just strip down in front of you like it’s no big deal.

Thankfully, my first guy was slightly more civilized. He was middle aged, wearing a robe and standing on a little platform in the middle of the

Side note: people always assume that the life drawing models are these incredible human specimens.

Can I be blunt? This couldn’t be further from the truth in my classroom experience. They are people down on their luck, looking to make a few extra bucks. They are not phased in the least by stripping down in
front of a room full of young college students. Does this sound like someone that is spending all their time cooking healthy meals and hitting it up at the gym? Now you’re getting it.

I’m standing behind my easel, charcoal in hand, bracing myself for what is about to be the longest four-hour studio session in my life.

The Plan

He poses … and I make a plan. I will crop my image! That’s it! I will just draw his head to his waist and call it a day. Ha! In your face, Professor!

To my dismay, I royally messed up the proportions of my drawing. Instead of stopping at his waist, I had to end the drawing around mid-thigh. Drawing is essentially an exercise in studying, seeing very carefully, observing every minute detail and noting that on your paper. It is an intense look at the subject at hand. This is not something I wanted to do with EVERYTHING on this guy, if you know what I mean.

I had properly rendered his head, neck, shoulders, torso, and legs—but was totally missing one area. I will never forget my friend Lizzy walking over to my easel and saying, “Amy, just draw it.”

That was all the motivation I needed to overcome my fears and finish the drawing. I ended up later enrolling in a whole semester of life drawing. I had overcome my fears and truly felt it was helping me improve as an artist.

Sometimes, we just need that blunt voice saying the obvious to push us forward. What are you facing today? What’s eating your lunch? What has your stomach in knots? What are you avoiding? 

Take a deep breath, and just draw it! 😊

An actual drawing I made in life drawing! This was clearly not my first attempt at life drawing. 🙂

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2023 Amy VanHoy