What Happens When You’re Naked in a Room Full of Artists?
Got nude, got drawn, thanks to artist Mike Perry—of 'Broad City' fame—and his Get Nude Get Drawn event.
Inside Mike Perry’s Studio. Photos by the author
Nude drawings of the author by Julia Rothman
As as product of a relatively sex positive generation, the daughter of a pair of unofficial California nudists and a mostly confident woman too lazy to dwell on body hang ups, being nude has never been a problem for me. I actually own a shirt that says “My favorite color is no pants,” which I rarely wear because if I have the choice, I prefer being naked. But somehow, standing inside Mike Perry’s vibrant Brooklyn studio with nothing (and I mean nothing) between me and a group of eight exceptional artists who are about to draw me completely nude, my overzealous confidence is suddenly, erm, stripped.
Get Nude Get Drawn on view 7-11 PM Thursday, January 28th at Tictail
I was one of the last “models” to pose for the 5th instalment of Perry’s nude drawing marathon, Get Nude, Get Drawn. This was nearly the 12th hour that the group, including Chrissy Angliker, Jon Burgerman, Josh Cochran, Mario Hugo, Julia Rothman, Edward Ubiera, and Joo Hee Yoon had been working in the small studio, examining naked body after naked body of people who had signed up to have their portraits drawn and then sold in the one-night show at Tictail Market. I felt a rare case of nerves there in the back room, waiting for my entrance. It wasn’t that I was naked, it was that these were artists—people that make a living turning inspiration into something beautiful and profound. What if I wasn’t interesting? What if I didn’t inspire? I sucked it up and dropped robe, stepping out under the warm clamp lights, surrounded by funky props and potentially shielding plants, all eyes on me.
My first pose was something trite and expected, featuring a rose from the prop pile. I regretted it as soon as the two-minute timer started. Trying to keep still, I looked around at the artists furiously working. Some were sketching, some painting, others cutting construction paper in a flurry of colorful scraps. My arm started to ache and I made eye contact with one of the artists in the back, he looked down quickly and I felt ashamed for making him feel like a voyeur. Suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t the only one on display here. Yes, I was nude, but I was leisurely posing, grooving along with Erykah Badu like any Sunday in my room. It was the artists who were working, making something out of nothing in two- and five-minute sets while I watched them like a circus act. Standing there, trying not to move or show an overly revealing angle to the painter on my left, I realized the artists weren’t looking, they were absorbing.
“You have no time to process the drawings you’re making.” Mike Perry, the artist of Broad City intro fame and the man behind the Get Nude Get Drawn project, cracks a much deserved beer in his studio. The artists gather around their piles of drawings and destroyed workstations, celebrating the marathon of naked portraits they just completed together. We are all clothed now, my garments like a heavy shroud of modesty, talking as if they all didn’t just stare at me naked for 30 minutes. “You don’t even notice the bodies,” he says. “Things are moving so fast and you need to just react quickly.”
Nude collages of the author by Edward Ubiera
“There's a stamina that you need to have to keep drawing and progressing,” explains Edward Ubiera, the artist who I had observed moments earlier cut a silhouette of my figure out of pink construction paper. “It’s cool to see my drawings from the beginning of the day to the end. They are totally different.”
Nude sketching is nothing new to most artists, but few in the room had done it since it was a required activity in art school, and never for such a long period of time. “Being in the studio is for the most part a solitary act,” Perry tells me. “It’s hard to find opportunities to collaborate and even though we aren’t making the same drawing, we are experiencing it together. The camaraderie that happens is really epic.”
Nude drawing of the author by Josh Cochran
While posing, that sense of camaraderie between the artists was palpable, like watching a squadron in battle, moving around each other, passing supplies, creating an image. Josh Cochran, who has been part of the nude drawing series since the first session in 2012, is used to the process but consistently surprised by the outcome. “You start with what you know and what’s easy,” he says, “then you loosen up, accidents happen, and more interesting drawings come out.”
Flipping through the stack of sketches at the end of my session, the variety in styles is exceptional considering each artists was essentially drawing the same pose. My body reaches amazonian proportions in some sketches, while in others I am reduced down to nothing but wisps of hair and flesh. Swiss artist Chrissy Angliker, who painted quickly using her fingers and blobs of thick, tactile paints, found inspiration in the curves of a female body. “I wouldn’t take your proportions too seriously in any of the pictures,” she explains, many of her images indulging in the shadows and realism of each figure. “It’s really just about reducing it down, getting to the personality of the body.”
Two of the models who I spoke with after their respective sessions expressed the warmth and comfort they felt in the room. “It’s a little nerve-wracking but they make you feel comfortable,” Emily Young, a graphic designer who heard about the project from Instagram, told me. “You get right into it, and those feelings go away pretty quickly. I want to do it again!”
As a gift, each model received a sketch from each artist. “I’m going to give one to my best friend,” said model Molly Margaret Johnson, a theater director. “She got some nude pictures taken of herself and only gave them to me, so I want to give her mine.”
The other sketches, 350 in total of all the models from the day, will be on display and for sale at the opening of Tictail Market, a new brick-and-mortar shop for the online retailer of independent goods. It’s a cash and carry opening where you take the nudes right off the wall for $20 a pop, and out into the world. I wonder where my portraits might go, or if I’ll even be able to recognize myself out of the context of the studio.
“The people that sign up for this, they want to take a risk,” says Perry, who hopes to continue the project and get more types of people to participate in the modeling experience. Nudes in hand, and swaddled in far too much clothing, I leave the studio elated, realizing that the most gratifying part of standing stripped in a room full of artists was not the mementos I was taking away, possible gifts for friends or reminders of my youth when things start to sag, but instead, the experience of creating art together. “We need you,” Perry says of his models, “and for whatever reason, you need us. It’s a trade.”
See all the nudes at the Get Nude Get Drawn exhibition, Thursday January 28th, 7 - 11 PM, at Tictail Market, 90 Orchard St, New York, NY.