The Life Artist — a short story for English reading and speaking

The Life Model blog header pic-min

Gloria goes to the artist’s studio under the advice of her friend Sophie.

She wants to do something a little different.

But she did not expect this.

 

This is a short story to check your reading comprehension and ability.

It comes with:

  • reading comprehension questions
  • essential vocabulary table
  • discussion questions
  • a role play
  • a writing exercise

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Enjoy!

 


 

Introduction


What is a life model?

Would you like to pose for an artist?

Would you pose naked?


The Life Model


Gloria lay reclined on the couch.

Completely naked.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said.

The artist looked up from mixing the paint on his board.

“I can tell,” he said with a smile. “It’s okay. Nothing to it.”

Gloria had been talked into going by her friend Sophie.

“It will be good for your confidence,” Sophie had told her. “It will help you step outside of your comfort zone.”

So she called the number Sophie had given her.

And now here she was. In a real artist’s studio. Just the two of them.

Gloria shifted her body to ensure she was in a more comfortable position. Soon, she imagined the artist would get to work. And she would not be allowed to fidget about.

“So what made you try modelling?” asked the artist.

“My friend told me to give it a try,” she said. “Said it would be good for me.”

The artist nodded.

“Good idea.”

Gloria realised she didn’t know his name. She was about to ask him, but stopped herself. She liked the idea that there was total anonymity between them.

He knew nothing about her. And she knew nothing about him.

“What kind of work do you usually do?” she asked him.

Then bit her lip. She knew nothing about art. She had one or two paintings on the wall in her house, but her husband had bought them online.

They were chosen not for their artistic value, but for the colours they had. The colours of the flowers on the painting in the living room matched the sofa and armchairs.

The artist took in a deep breath and gazed out of the window.

“I guess you could say I do real-life work,” he said. “It’s very realistic. True to life.”

“Oh,” said Gloria. “That sounds interesting.”

Inside, she winced at the stupidity of her statement.

A cool breeze blew over her, and she shivered slightly.

This is something that had not occurred to her. That she might feel cold.

She glanced down at her body. No goosebumps. Maybe okay.

“Right,” said the artist, looking up at her. “I think we might be ready.”

Gloria gave him a smile.

He approached her and tilted his head. Then he gazed at her for what felt like a long time.

No man had looked at her like that in so many years. Not even her husband.

Her husband would just barge into the bathroom as she got out of the shower and barely look at her. He didn’t take her in like the artist was doing right now.

Gloria tried to compose herself. She adopted what she thought was a confident expression on her face.

“Yes,” said the artist. “I think we are looking good.”

We? She was the one with all her clothes off. He was fully dressed.

“May I?” he said.

Gloria wasn’t sure what he meant and before she could stop herself, she just blurted out yes.

He leaned over, moved her arm, and slid her hand to cover one of her breasts. Then shifted her leg so that her knee was further up the couch.

He stood back, touched his lip, and then nodded. Then he moved her fingers a fraction.

Gloria tried not to breathe.

The artist turned his back and picked up a brush and his palette with all the paint on it. All of a sudden, she had a strong desire to cough. Or to wriggle her shoulders. An itch in her ear.

Staying still suddenly felt impossible.

“So let’s begin,” said the artist.

He came close to her and looked down at her body. His eyes drinking her in.

Then he dabbed at the paint with his brush before leaning over and daubing a great streak of colour on her arm. The brush slid from her elbow up to her shoulder.

Gloria froze.

Was this part of the procedure? Was this how they worked?

The artist dipped the brush in more paint and then painted two thick strokes of paint on Gloria’s ribs.

All the time, she held her breath. Unable to process what was happening.

The first touch of the brush against her skin felt cold, and she clenched her stomach muscles.

She was about to ask him. Say something. But something took a grip on her.

She liked it.

She liked the feel of the artist’s brush against her flesh.

Gloria looked up into the artist’s eyes. His look was intense, filled with concentration as he let the brush slide against her naked body.

Breathing in, she made eye contact with him.

“Everything okay?” he asked her.

“Yes, fine,” she said, giving him a smile.

Everything was indeed fine. In fact, everything was wonderful. She had never felt more alive in her life.

“I will paint all of you,” he said, without breaking concentration on what he was doing. “I will paint every part of you.”

The words sounded like magic to Gloria.

“That’s fine,” she said. She clenched her teeth at using the word fine again.

This was not fine. This was beyond anything she had felt before.

In her mind, she thought of the world outside of the studio. Her car parked outside in the small parking area on the quiet street.

The row of houses opposite with people going about their normal lives.

The shop on the corner that she had passed on the way in. People going in to buy cigarettes or a pint of milk.

And her, lying naked in this room, with a man she had never met before.

And him, daubing strokes of oil paint on her skin. Taking great care with every line that he lay on her flesh.

Her thoughts flashed to her friend Sophie and the words she had said on the phone that morning.

“You won’t regret it, Gloria,” she had said. “You will feel much better for doing it.”

She would have to thank her.

Gloria breathed in as the artist leaned over her to take another stroke.


Reading Comprehension Questions


Who are the two people in the story?

Where is Gloria?

What is she lying on?

Is this her first time to do this?

What is the artist doing at the beginning of the story?

Who had encouraged Gloria to visit the artist?

What two reasons did Sophie give Gloria for visiting the artist?

Does Gloria know the name of the artist?

Does she want to know his name?

Does Gloria have any paintings in her own home?

Does Gloria feel cold or hot?

Does her husband look at her body when they are at home?

Which parts of Gloria’s body does the artist move?

What does the artist do with his paint brush? What does he paint?

Describe Gloria’s feeling. Is she angry? Embarrassed? Surprised?


Essential Vocabulary

 

to recline

couch

naked

to mix

confidence

comfort zone

to shift

to ensure

to fidget

anonymity

to wince

stupidity

breeze

to shiver

occurred

to glance down

goosebumps

to approach sb

to tilt sb head

to barge in

barely

to compose oneself

to adopt an expression

to blurt out

breasts

knee

fraction

palette

to wriggle

itch

to drink sb in

dabbed

daubing

a streak

To freeze

procedure

to dip

strokes

ribs

to process

to clench

to take a grip on oneself

intense

concentration

thoughts flashed

to regret smth


Exercise


There may be a lot of new or unfamiliar vocabulary to you in the story. This is the perfect time to get to know these new and strange words and phrases.

Write down all the new words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look up the meaning of the new vocabulary in a dictionary or online and write down the meaning next to the word or phrase.

It should look something like this:


To Recline
to lean or lay back in a relaxed position.

Nakedwithout clothes.


Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.


She lay back and reclined in the armchair.

The man ran naked down the street.


If you do this correctly, it will help you learn many new words and phrases. This will build your English vocabulary and writing down all the words and phrases, making sentences of your own, will all help you to remember all of this new vocabulary.


Discussion Questions


In your own words, say what happens in this story.

What kind of person is Gloria?

What do you think her friend told her about the artist?

Why are these women doing this?

Do you think the artist is a real artist? Or is he trying to seduce women?

Is this Gloria’s first time to do this kind of thing? Try to describe how she feels lying naked in the artist’s studio.

Is this the artist’s first time? How would you describe his feeling?

Gloria’s friend also did this. Two women. Does the artist prefer to paint women in his studio? Why not men?

What does Gloria’s friend mean when she says: It will help you step outside of your comfort zone?

How can it help her?

Does she need to do this to help her?

Why doesn’t Gloria want to know the artist’s name? Why does she want anonymity?

Have you ever done this kind of work?

Would you like to try? Why/why not?

Do you know anyone that has done this?

Should we be ashamed of our bodies?

Is nudity acceptable?

Where is nudity acceptable?

Where is it unacceptable?

Do you think Gloria is bored with her home life?

Do you think she is happily married?

Why does she want to take her clothes off for an artist?

Is something missing in her life do you think?


Role Play


This is a role play activity.

There are two people in the role play.


Gloria
— the woman in the story.

Sophie — her friend.


The Situation


Gloria goes to meet her friend Sophie.

Sophie wants to know what happened at the artist’s studio. She wants to know all the details!

Sophie really enjoyed being a life model for the artist. And she thought her friend Gloria would enjoy the experience too.

But then Gloria tells Sophie about the artist painting her body.

Not making a painting of her on the canvas.

Actually painting her body.

Sophie is shocked. Because she did not have the same experience as this.

In your role play, act out the conversation between the two friends.

How does Sophie react?

How does Gloria react when she finds that Sophie did not have the same experience as her?

How will the conversation end?

In pairs, decide which characters you will be. And then work out your conversation.

When you are ready, show your classmates and your teacher!


Writing


This is a creative writing exercise.

You are writing an anonymous letter to a website called True Confessions.

True Confessions publishes stories from people of real events in their lives that are a little different to normal lives.

You are going to write a story about being a life model. But in the studio, the artist painted your body. The artist put actual paint onto your skin and covered you.


Write your story.

And when you have finished, read it out loud in front of your classmates. Ask for feedback.

Or you can submit it to your teacher and ask for a critique.


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