Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a life model? To disrobe in front of a room full of strangers and stand naked on a podium as they interpret your body through drawings, paintings and collages? Would it be liberating or mortifying? What if you got sweaty? What if the artists weren’t inspired by you, or worse laughed?
No doubt these questions rolled around the heads of the ten models we cast for Makings of a Man, but instead of running away, they fought off their inner critics and were brave enough to let our creatives capture what makes them, them. And we’re so thankful they did! Each of our models were selected for the various ways they represented the diversity of the male form, not only in the different ways they look, but also their background, interests and reasons for taking part, to build a truly rich portrait of them.
Below each model discusses their thoughts on what being a “man” means to them and how their experience of being drawn nude has changed how they feel about themselves.
Occupation: Visual artist, photographer and freelance model
Build: “Slim, toned, athletic
Interests: “Exercising, reading, listening to music, going to see exhibitions, going to the cinema, hanging out with friends”
For me being a man, is very much understanding the duality of ourselves. I think it’s good to explore the idea that there’s typically a masculine and feminine principle in all of us. Having that balance within me has made me more comfortable exploring different parts of myself. I’m very grateful to be a man I guess, and able to express myself in various ways, I don’t see myself tied down by society’s view of masculinity. I’m very much an individual when it comes to that.
I thought being a life drawing model was a really unique way of addressing these ideas. Often life drawing is only open to those already in that world so it was refreshing to see people from different backgrounds.
What I’ve learnt from modelling was to be comfortable in my own skin. I wouldn’t say I have self-image issues, but growing up I had a birthmark which takes up half of my leg and it was something I was conscious of. I guess I’m still conscious of it as I never really wear shorts so just being able to be in a space where I can be fully myself and there naked in front of people, has added a bit more to my confidence.
Occupation: Software engineer
Build: “Stocky. Somewhat overweight (but carried well I think!)
Interests: “Photography, writing, performance poetry”
To me Makings of a Man presented the diversity of people and suggested that everybody is worth representing in art, which is a great message. I was in a project last year called Manhood: The Bare Reality, where a female photographer took pictures of 100 genitals and presented the picture alongside each person’s life story. That was just a still image, with me and the photographer, so I thought if I can do that I can do this.
As I’d not done it before, all the worry was about the tension – can I actually stand up for 10 minutes? I don’t do that very often, unless I’m waiting at a bar. But I just put myself into a zone, found a spot on the wall to focus on and looked at it lovingly. I couldn’t wait to look at the drawings of me. I managed get a glimpse of one as it was turned round on the easel. The guy had just done a big face image, which was lovely. I’ve seen quite a few others and to my mind I can see myself in all the pictures people have made of me.
I think the selection of models and the fact there’s been a bit of conversation around each individual was great. Also because it wasn’t professional life models, I liked the way Makings of a Man has taken the trouble of listening to ten other voices. There was so much colour throughout the day, sometimes gender equality campaigns can become very intense, but there was so much joy to the day.
There’s a large part of your life where gender is irrelevant and then there are certain parts where you feel more connected to the fact you’re a man. I suppose a lot of those moments feel quite negative in this modern world. As a man, there’s the idea that you’re supposed to be strong for others, so you hide your own weaknesses, which ends up creating divides. So for me being strong enough to be weak I think is the story I’m walking at the moment.
This project has put a practical real world seal on what can sound like fine philosophy. It’s one thing to say that everybody carries their own beaut but beauty comes from confidence more than anything else. We tell ourselves those kind of tales but who knows? Is it just your mind playing tricks on you? I know it’s not my mind playing tricks on me now because I’ve been a life model for the day.
Occupation: Operations director of a lingerie design and manufacturing company
Build: “I like to work out without being super defined. I have a proper hairy chest, a full beard and a bald head”
Interests: “Father of two girls aged seven and nine, so it’s swimming lessons, National Trust Parks and bike rides. I like to brew beer in my garden shed and am a big music fan”
I saw the campaign online and liked the idea that it was about getting a bunch of different guys together of different shape and sizes and celebrating that. I work in the lingerie industry and everyday we ask female models to take their clothes off for fittings and shoots so I thought I should put my hand up and know how it feels.
I guess I don’t see the difference between the sexes so much. I work in a fairly female-heavy industry, I grew up with my mum and sister, single-parent family. I’ve got two girls so I live in a house full of girls. I don’t think there should be any difference in roles for male and female. I think the term “real man” is bullshit. What is a real man? It can be anything. It’s a stereotypical idea. My advice is to not try to live up to it.
Prior to this, I didn’t have any experience of life drawing classes at all so I didn’t have any expectations, modelling was easier than I thought it would be. The most challenging thing was trying to block out everything around you and focusing on being still.
My takeaway from the event is that you should always challenge yourself and try new things. Life is about not turning down any experiences that are going to enrich it and get a story out of. Hopefully I’ve inspired people to draw something they’re interested in.
Build: “Athletic, muscular.”
Interests: “I love cutting hair to the extent I’d class that as a hobby. I’m also a fitness enthusiast.”
I’m a competitive natural body builder so I compete a lot and I thought would be very similar to life modelling. But it was very different. Oddly enough, when you’re on stage posing in competitions you’re being judged by the judges, spectators, everyone, they’re looking at your physique and you’re getting marked. Whereas being a life model, it felt so different. You’re not being judged – you’re being drawn and painted from different perspectives, which I think is beautiful. Different people view you in a different way, they emphasise different things, the artists were more concerned with the pose, the different angles, the flow, the lines.
If someone had asked me to just be a life model in a regular setting, it wouldn’t necessarily appeal to me. But because I knew the concept behind this project and what Harry’s and It’s Nice That stands for, I thought it was great. I share the same views, I wanted to feel like I could contribute.
I think the traditional image of a man is the strong, takes charge, wear the trousers character. The definition of a man can feel very black and white, but to me, it’s very grey. For example I feel like a man can show emotions, they can cry and should never be ashamed of that – and these sorts of things make a man because he is not scared of another one’s opinion. For me being a man is about making decisions, be accountable and feel comfortable in yourself.
Being a life model in this project has reinforced the idea that men are different. You cannot classify a guy as man because he’s butch, or tall or hairy. The poses I’ve seen have been delicate, classical and shows the range of all men and it’s been cool to see what the artists have focused on and how they see me. I’d 100% do it again.
Occupation: Stage manager at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and Buddahfield
Interests: “Writing and performing poetry to share my belief that creativity is a great way to release the pressure of depression and anxiety”
I decided to take part as I want to promote the idea of body positivity. I’m average – average height, average weight, average hair, average everything. I know people who aren’t that confident and they should be naked just as much as I feel comfortable being naked. It’s the only body you’ve got, so what are you gonna do. No one should ever feel ashamed – I think everybody’s body is perfect.
When I was 20, I was a life model for about a year, so I felt okay going into this project and modelling. My first pose was quite open because that’s how I want people to be, I think it’s important to open up conversations about body positivity and masculinity. . I hope through this project, there’ll be a lot of men who realise they don’t have to be a particular way, that they can be a little bit more open. They don’t have to ignore bad behaviour by other men. Being respectful of everyone is what being a man is to me.
I was a man’s man for a long time. I was hedonistic and I wasn’t deliberately being like that but I’m ashamed about a lot of the things I’ve done as a man. During the time I’ve been monogamous, I’ve changed because love has been enough for me.