Chelsea’s and Toppers aren’t the only places in Athens where students can make the big bucks by taking it all off.
Along with driving University buses and working for Parking Services during football games, nude modeling tops the list of the best-paying student jobs on campus. According to Charles Westfall, the modeling coordinator for the Lamar Dodd School of Art, live models — the preferred term for nude models — make $10 per hour.
For Elliott Dixon, a University student triple majoring in German, political science and theater, the money was a major reason he decided to become a live model.
“It pays well, it’s really flexible and it fits into my packed schedule,” Dixon said.
In addition to collecting a generous hourly wage, models are also participating in a time-honored artistic tradition.
Margaret Morrison, a senior lecturer at Lamar Dodd, referenced a rich history of live modeling that has spanned across the ages. The practice was pioneered by the ancient Greeks and Romans before becoming a lost art form during the Middle Ages. The medieval train of thought was that the depiction of the nude body was tantamount to pre-Christian paganism.
Then, during the Renaissance, live modeling was re-discovered by artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo who sought to emulate classical style and realistically render the human form.
While the advent of modernism caused nudes to fall out of favor, the practices of sculpting, painting and drawing the nude human form are undergoing a contemporary revival.
“Students are embracing the return to art as a discipline,” Morrison said.
In addition to tradition, Morrison also cited practical merits for requiring her students to draw nudes.
“It’s a really great way to fine tune
your skills and sighting ability,” she said.
Morrison noted the human body provides students with an excellent opportunity to isolate and illustrate hard edges, such as joints, and soft edges, such as muscle and flesh. Her students also work with cadavers in order to grasp the subtleties of musculature and bone structure.
Morrison said depicting a human body calls for more scrutiny in regard to symmetry and proportionality than drawing a tree.
The focus on anatomical structure transforms a potentially- awkward situation into a nuanced learning experience — Morrison compares the experience to working on a car.
“You’re so busy thinking about structure and form that it’s kind of like understanding what’s under the hood,” she said.
For Westfall, the model’s ability to shift student mind sets from embarrassment to inspiration is a key criterion in the selection process.
“The really good models are the ones who understand and appreciate the fact that it’s the students who might not be comfortable and, through their professionalism, body language [and] demeanor, are able to help the class feel at ease” he said.
Indeed, Westfall never meets models in person before he books them. Instead he allows their punctuality and phone demeanor to speak volumes about reliability and personality.
Aaron James McCoy, a University engineering student and live model, is a testament to that maxim. He has been modeling at Lamar Dodd for about three years and takes his work very seriously.
“If you’re really a model, you should be willing to go the distance,” McCoy said. “I pride myself on taking one break in a three hour class” he said.
Despite the unimportance of physical appearance to the selection process, Morrison pointed out that most of the live models she’s brought into her classes are athletes or models.
She attributes this tendency to the fact that fit, toned people are often more comfortable with posing nude.
However, Morrison enjoys rendering a variety of subjects.
“Sometimes it’s a real pleasure to draw someone with a nice-sized gut who doesn’t fit the ideal body type,” she said.
While aspiring live models need not worry about their weight or height, the job entails more than just standing naked in a classroom.
“Holding a pose is tough and so is coming up with one that’s elegant and meaningful,” Morrison said.
McCoy agreed, noting he frequently needed a hot bath to relax his muscles after posing.
“It’s really all in the spine — the more contorted the spine, the more difficult the pose,” McCoy said.
And there’s the added risk of passing out — Morrison has had to catch fainting models who have inadvertently locked their knees. To remedy this, she typically allows models in her classes to take short breaks every half an hour.
Similarly, Dixon recalled falling asleep while laying down in an extended pose.
“She [the professor] said ‘Get comfortable’ and apparently I just took that too literally,” Dixon said.