Does your school offer life-drawing?

By this I mean do you, as a visual arts student, have the opportunity to spend time drawing and/or painting a naked human being who is posing so that you can make these artworks while he/she stands (or sits etc) in front of you?

This opportunity seems not to be offered in many schools.

Would you like to have this opportunity?

In a recent IB workshop that I facilitated, a teacher asked the question “is nudity a problem?”

He was posing this question to an international group of about 20 art teachers.

He received different answers from almost all teachers.

Of course, one obvious answer to the question is – “it depends on the context”.

Nudity and cultural expectations

In a conservative and/or traditional cultural context or country, nudity (images of the naked human form) will upset some (or many) people.

A painting, drawing or photograph of a naked human has the power to provoke all sorts of reactions, so – unless you are out to shock – paintings, drawings etc of the nude in a conservative context are not simply “a problem”, but a no-go area.

They are not allowed.

Nudity and the IB

Is nudity a problem?

No, nudity (as in the life-drawing context) is certainly not a problem to the visual arts assessment team.









The unclothed human form has been integral to Western art for centuries, so it would make no sense for the IB to tell students (or teachers) that they cannot work on life drawing etc and/or indeed submit the results to the IB for assessment.

Examiners frequently see images of the human form both clothed and unclothed as part of the work uploaded for assessment.

So it’s certainly not a problem for the IBDP assessment, although no visual arts artwork submitted to the IB caninclude excessive or gratuitous violence or reference to explicit sexual activity.”

(The Guide says “Engaging with sensitive topics: as part of the collective consideration of the school, visual arts students must be supported in maintaining an ethical perspective during their course. Schools must be vigilant in ensuring that work undertaken by the student does not damage the environment, include excessive or gratuitous violence or reference to explicit sexual activity.”)

Working from the human form is both challenging and rewarding, and can be great in terms of skill development.

Nudity (Life Drawing) in school

Is nudity a problem?

Of course, schools have their own culture and also exist within cultures. So in schools, answers to the “is nudity a problem?” question will depend on the school and the context.

In my school, we run two annual all-day life drawing classes for all year 1 and year 2 visual arts students.

Students miss all other classes on those days and spend the time in the art room, working at easels while observing and working from the model.

…So my Diploma Programme visual arts students get around 30 hours to create art based on studying the human form: life-drawing. The results of the sessions invariably form part of the Process Portfolio and/or the Exhibition upload.

I have previously posted blogs about this.


THE SHOCK OF THE NUDE (in school) (2015 update)

If you as an art student would like to have the opportunity to draw, paint etc from the model, ask your art teacher!


The photographs shown here come from recent life-drawing workshops held in the school art room.