Kent Van Dusseldorp gets that he's not what many would expect when they hear the description: NUDE MODEL.
As art students open their back packs and get out supplies, Van Dusseldorp sits center stage wearing a robe and flip flops. When it comes to art, diversity is what's most important, he says. When he first started, he says he was just looking for something new.
"I turned 50 and I was trying to challenge myself to not just become an old man," Van Dusseldorp said. "So I wanted to do something to put myself out of my comfort zone."
For years now, Van Dusseldorp has been posing nude for art groups and classes from every big college in the greater Kansas City area. But before he became a pro, the slender man says he was hesitant to even consider giving the art modeling gig a try. He didn't see himself in the same category as the attractive, fit 20-year-olds he saw in the movies. He soon found out, that's not always what artists are looking for.
"People who have what we would consider to have the perfect face and shape are actually harder to draw because their features aren't as exaggerated or different," Van Dusseldorp said. "I mean, one thing about my head and my face is that my nose is slightly bigger and I've got a bald head... So things like perfection in bodies sometimes to me are harder to draw."
He would know. Van Dusseldorp's other reason for becoming a nude model was so he could become involved in art. So, he also draws it gives him a better idea of what works and what doesn't. What he's doing is probably working because he gets steady jobs. But starting out, the idea of taking off his clothes for a living? It took some getting used to.
"Posing in front of artists nude was a challenge for me," Van Dusseldorp said. "It wasn't something I was comfortable with."
More than halfway through the class, he looks anything but uncomfortable. Van Dusseldorp sits crossed legged, back slightly hunched over but relaxed. Robe-less, barefoot, and wire rimmed glasses set to the side of his small wooden stage. A single light to his side makes the knobs of his spine appear to protrude sharply from pale skin.
As the art students sketch and paint, they seem to have very different interpretations. A young student wearing purple shoes and an orange shirt is painting Van Dusselorp's sad pose with a bright green watercolors. While not far from her, another student named Toby paints a gruesome sight. At the next break, she says she's happy with all the red.
"He looks kind of bloody, drippy and gnarly," Toby says with a laugh.
Another sophomore named Angel flips through the pages of her art book, showing off some of Van Dusseldorp's earlier poses. She seems to rely more on emphasizing Van Dusseldorp 's striking pose and less on catching the eye with colors.
The next time Van Dusseldorp has the robe on, he says a lot of artists prefer a model who has a unique look. Art models don't need to fit into a stereotype of perfection.
"I've been around artists and other models and I know that variety and diversity of body, size, shape, color, everything, is what is more important," Van Dusseldorp said. "It's not that you're looking for a gorgeous body although that's great. Diversity of bodies and shapes and styles is really what's more important to the artist."
This job isn't as easy as you'd think: baring yourself to a room full of strangers and being perfectly still for various lengths of time. But Van Dusseldorp says he plans to keep doing it for a while.
"At this point, I'll probably do it until I'm physically not able," Van Dusseldorp said. "I don't say 'oh, I'll quit doing it.' If I've had a really long day or long week and I've done a lot of it. I'll say 'oh this is really hard work.' But there are breaks between semesters and then I'll miss it... I have no plans to quit it."
Van Dusseldorp says he has stacks upon stacks of drawings of himself already and those are just the ones given to him by artists. They keep asking for him, so my guess is, he won't have to stop anytime soon.