Posing in 3-D by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By My First Paycheck

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

The Brandeis Theatre Department hired a new scenic painter in 1973. In addition to painting all the backdrops, he also taught a life drawing course and advertised for models. I had done a little modeling during my time at Brandeis, but nothing note-worthy. This was a real class, taught by a master, so I signed up for one Friday morning a month. The pay was good: $4/hour for a two hour class, cash. It was for graduate-level students, all of whom I knew, which presented its own set of challenges, as I took my responsibilities seriously and didn’t want to be teased or pursued.

The classroom didn’t have a raised platform with easels in front of me, but rather, the students were scattered all around me. I began the class with a series of one minute poses, progressed to 5 minutes, then 10, and ended with one 30 minute pose. Each represented a unique challenge, as I had to make the pose interesting for everyone all around me, had to be something I could hold for the requisite length of time (so nothing too far off-balance) and nothing that would cause a limb to fall asleep. I thought of symmetry, twists in my spine, standing vs sitting. Only once did I take a pose that could be construed as “cheesecake” and lived to regret that one.

There were little breaks in between poses when I would cover up with a robe and look at the students’ work. Most had never drawn from life before and were embarrassed to have me look at what they’d drawn. (THEY were embarrassed?!) Bob walked around during the class, giving pointers; I grew weary of hearing how my bottom was larger than my top (yes, I am pear-shaped). I am also 5′ tall and at the time weighed 89 pounds…tiny! Someone drew me as almost a stick figure, he just couldn’t figure out my dimensions.

I got high praise from Bob and liked the cash. Even after I graduated, married and got a real (though boring) job, still in Waltham, MA, I came back once a month to model and collect my cash. It paid for a lovely dress and pair of shoes worn to a close friend’s wedding later that year. My colleagues at work were quite amused, but I didn’t care (I also made up the time at the real job, so nothing was lost).

Eventually, I moved away to take a new job;  my modeling days were over. When I moved back to the Boston area, my job was too demanding, but I stayed close to my alma mater and would run into Bob Moody at various arts activities on campus. He always introduced me as “his best nude model ever”, even when we’d see each other at openings at the campus art museum, on which I’m a Board member.

After 40 years, Bob retired in 2014. I was the only non-design major in attendance at his retirement party. Bob always said that I never changed and that I was still his best model ever! Some of his first students thought they might even have a sketch or two of me in their portfolios. It was a full-day event, with a show of his own work: he is an amazing artist, followed by a lovely dinner. I was glad to be part of his celebration, having been a small part of his Brandeis story. He gave me my first spending money, and a little sense of self-worth.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: nude model, Brandeis, life drawing, 1973, retirement party
Characterizations: right on!


  1. John Zussman says:

    It’s impressive that you regarded Bob, and he you, as more than just employee and employer. From your stories, you have had several significant mentors.

    How did you feel when you slipped off that robe for the first time? Anxious or empowered?

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    John, I remember breaking out in a flop sweat taking off that robe. I didn’t feel empowered, just anxious.

  3. Susan says:

    Not your usual entry-level job story! Amazing, thanks for sharing.

  4. Nice story. Good to hear that you felt so respected and maintained a long-term relationship with your employer. I took a few life-drawing classes and was always very grateful to the models who were willing to be vulnerable enough to let a bunch of undergrads look at, and draw them. I remember feeling only a great sense of awe at their bodies’ beauty — and gratitude. Thanks for modelling and thanks for sharing!

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Betsy. It is inherently interesting, as it is far from our usual “first job” (clerical/manual/restaurant) stories. And also because probably many of us have never considered the real thought and hard work that is involved in modeling, at least to do it well — as you clearly did. You described all sorts of things that never entered my mind. Like many, I always considered “mannequin” a great synonym for “model ,” when it really isn’t.

    That Bob so appreciated your work is probably the ultimate praise. Will be looking forward to seeing you in the next issue of AARP.

  6. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story. I’m surprised to see that I didn’t comment on it (nor you on mine) back in 2016. The early days of Retrospect. . . .

    I’m very impressed at your ability, not only to be comfortable with nude modeling, but to be able to figure out poses that would be artistically interesting from every angle. Nice to get such high praise from Bob, that you were his best model ever!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It was always funny to run into Bob later in life. There was even a time when I was pushing Jeffrey in a stroller, coming from a meeting in the Alumni Office, parked behind the theater, and we had one of those, “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on” moments! But truly wonderful to continue to get praise from him over 40 years!

      I, too, was surprised that I hadn’t commented on any stories from this prompt. I still haven’t had time to read all of them. Heading off the Vineyard tomorrow for some Brandeis business and Rosh Hashana…real life beckons. I won’t be back in Newton full-time until the end of Sept, though.

  7. Wow Betsy, glad I caught this Missed story, I didn’t know that chapter in your varied career!

    I’ve never been a nude model but in my youth have gone topless on a beach, skinny-dipped with Danny and friends, and more recently in France with my immersion French class swam nude in a lovely lake with a bunch of native strangers, but hey it was France so no one batted an eye!

Leave a Reply