For this nude sketching community, model safety comes first

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Sunday Nudes was established as a reaction to the abuse that happens in nude sketching groups, aiming to create a safe space for artists and models by encouraging collaboration. Photo from SUNDAY NUDES/INSTAGRAM

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — A figure model stood naked in front of a hundred artists. During this session, people started taking photos of the crotch of the model while also zooming in on it. One of the sponsors of this event found this inappropriate and reported the incident to the organizer of the nude sketching session. However, nothing was done.

“When I heard of the zooming in of the crotch, I was really so pissed off kasi parang anong gagawin natin? Kasi ‘yung model nila noon was a referral from me,” says Dear Prudence*, founder of Sunday Nudes, a nude sketching community based in Quezon City.

Dear Prudence says that this is not an isolated case. A lot of abuse can also arise particularly from the power dynamics in place between a group of high profile artists and beginner figure models who would be willing to pose nude in front of renowned masters of the arts.

SN-5907.jpg Dear Prudence* (pictured right) founded Sunday Nudes because she felt like sketch groups where models experience inappropriate and abusive treatment smirched the good name of figure modeling. The group was a place where she could create a standard for what a safe nude sketching session should be. Photo by KENNETH ABALLA

“The older artists parang may sense of entitlement sila kasi they're established na so they forget that they're dealing with a human person,” she shares. “[Some would] use their clout or their popularity to actually woo women. ‘Yung old style parang sticky, dirty old men.”

Dear Prudence felt that these sorts of sketch groups smirch the good name of figure modeling, and she figured that the best thing that they can do is to start her own sketch group and create a standard for what a safe nude sketching session should be. Sunday Nudes is a reaction to a specific abusive sketch group, but Dear Prudence refuses to disclose which one.

For its founders, Sunday Nudes is also a way to professionalize the figure modelling industry. When she first started, she received a lot of criticism from people who reduced nude posing to being a lewd hobby. “A friend of mine told me na, ‘Sorry, no offense, hindi ba mga whores lang ang gumagawa niyan? And [to think] this is from an artist,” she shares.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 1.40.50 PM.png For its founders, Sunday Nudes is also a way to professionalize the figure modelling industry. Photo from SUNDAY NUDES/INSTAGRAM

These issues and concerns are a departure from the value of life drawing in the history of the arts. Tracing back to the Stone Age, people have drawn human figures as a way to communicate and express themselves, and during Greek civilization, artists acutely studied the human form, its anatomy and its senses. This, however, was diminished during the advent of Christianity when life drawing was considered sinful.

But at the start of the renaissance period or the rebirth of classical art, people saw the resurgence of life drawing especially in the 1700s, when the Royal Academy of Arts in London, one of the preeminent art schools in the world, included life drawing in their curriculum. Art historian Frances Borzello also said in her book, “The Artist’s Model,” that “entry into life drawing class was therefore the pinnacle of training, mastery of life drawing the proof of professional skill.”

SN-5917.jpg “It's not ‘yung muse-artist dynamic,” says co-organizer DQ (pictured right). At Sunday Nudes, the founders want to highlight that artists and models are equals and collaborators. Photo by KENNETH ABALLA

Indeed, artists who join the Sunday Nudes sessions are those who want to practice their sketching skills. DQ, Dear Prudence’s co-organizer, says that most attendees are fresh art school graduates who have not experienced life drawing or experienced artists who just want to practice their sketching. They’ve also welcomed professionals, from chemists to statisticians, who simply want to uncover the artist within them.

“There would be a lot of people who'd be like, ‘hindi talaga ako artist or hobby ko lang ‘to,’” he says. “What we say is that it doesn't matter if you’re an artist or not, there is a space for you to practice and you’d be surprised by [their work].”

A philosophy that the founders also want to highlight is that in nude sketching, figure models and artists are collaborators; one is not on a higher ground than the other. This is seen in their guidelines where there are rules for artists and precautions for models. “It's not ‘yung muse-artist dynamic,” says DQ. “It also actually lessens the abuse kasi if you feel that you are collaborators na-establish mo na na pareho tayo, [may] mutual respect,” adds Dear Prudence.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 1.41.26 PM.png “Sexy nudity has its space. There’s too much of it already. We see it around. We connect nudity with sex and that’s not entirely the function of being nude,” says Dear Prudence. “Gusto namin mag-create ng space where you can be nude and not be sexualized.” Photo from SUNDAY NUDES/INSTAGRAM

Because of this safe and inclusive culture they’ve built around Sunday Nudes, they’ve also included figure models who are working with their relationship with their bodies. For their past sessions, they have had a new mom who was figuring out her new body, an artist who’s had a mastectomy, and a boyish model who wanted to express her feminine side, among others.

DQ also says that having a diverse set of nude models also desexualizes the concept of the nude body. “Kasi when people ask me ... ‘How do you feel when you see nudes, a naked person?’ Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with it. At some point, when you’ve seen it so many times. Na de-desensitize na,” he says.

“Sexy nudity has its space. There’s too much of it already. We see it around. We connect nudity with sex and that’s not entirely the function of being nude,” Dear Prudence adds. “Gusto namin mag-create ng space where you can be nude and not be sexualized.”

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*Name changed at subject’s request.