Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Life Drawing at Rose Crystal Studio

One morning every week, for a small fee depending on the class size, there is a two hour life drawing session at a sun-filled studio on the north end of the island. I'd known about this for quite a few months but I'd never been able to go due to work. A friend of mine goes regularly, both as an artist and as a model in turn. She recently told me they needed more people to sit as models. As I am currently unemployed, I thought this might be a fun challenge and a little extra money. I impulsively said yes. A little while later she emailed me with my sitting date, thankfully still a few weeks away. This gave me time to attend the class first....although I had done extracurricular life drawing years ago at Emily Carr, I was definitely out of practice and needed to immerse myself in the scenario again before I could think of modelling with any ease. The first day I went, there were several women there around my age or older, and one older gentleman. Mostly all familiar faces from the community, some I knew better than others. Although I was obviously aware of this on some level, it suddenly hit home what I had actually agreed to do...this wasn't Vancouver or New York, where I could anonymously wander in and out and be known only as "the model"...this was Our Little Island where everyone knows everyone. Oh dear. But as I looked about the brightly lit room at the friendly faces and began to chit chat, the class seemed very warm and open, and an atmosphere of comfort surrounded me. My friend was also there, I thought as a sketcher, until she walked to the centre of the room without announcement and casually disrobed, even as the students were still adjusting their seats. With a confident and professional air, she  succinctly transformed herself from person to figurine. She was extremely relaxed, kept a serene expression on her face the entire time, remained very still in all the poses, and chose movements and positions that were enjoyable to sketch. Although I was a little rusty, I managed to wing off a few acceptable drawings, even though I only had my faithful Strathmore pad and regular HB pencils.

Ten Minute Pose

But as I was sketching, I was also imagining myself trying to strike the same poses....my friend is very large chested and sensuous to draw...I'm thin, with long  limbs, and small chested, but soft and lumpy in the tummy and thighs where I once enjoyed owning firm and sinewy muscles. It was quickly clear that this room was inhabited by people who were respectful and true to their craft, and there was no sense of judgment, negative criticism or ogling whatsoever. Still, to stand singularly rigid and alone under bright lights in all your pale varicosed cellulite nakedness closely encircled by seriously intent observers certainly requires you to be comfortable in your own skin! Vanity, insecurity and ego stay outside...and that leaves room only for the pure beauty in everyone. After the class was over, and it seemed to fly by...it always does when you're drawing....I felt re-initiated, exalted, inspired  and a little intimidated all at once.

Twenty Five Minute Pose
The next week I went again to draw. This time I brought pencils and a fine tip black ink pen. This time the model was yet another friend of mine (surprise), a woman who models only but doesn't draw at all herself. Again, I was struck by the extreme ease with which she was able to relax into her role. Knowing her as I do, I noticed that her personality infused her poses...calm, steady and graceful with a pinch of whimsy. Her body was marvelous to draw...well proportioned and full and rosy.

Fifteen Minute Pose

I found myself wishing I had pastels this time, but managed to play with both pencil and pen in the longer 25 minute poses. Looking at my work, I realized "I'm hooked. I must keep this up. Each class, each sitting, each pose, is a chance to discover something new". I love the intensity of being "In the NOW"....of drawing from breathing life, of knowing you only have so many minutes to observe and create!! My friend the model gave me a ride after class and gave me some reassuring tips on my own upcoming modelling day.
One more week and I was to be the model myself....and then, the day came...this morning!

Wouldn't you know it, I slept in, and woke up with minutes to spare! I hopped in the shower, shaved, dried off, pulled my long hair into a single ponytail, left off my usual makeup, shoved a toasted bagel down, grabbed some bedding for props and was ready to go. I had planned to get up early and look at videos of various poses beforehand to warm myself up...ack! No rehearsal! After all the rushing, I was the second person to arrive at the studio! Within five minutes of starting time on this dismal cold grey day I thought, wouldn't you figure, my turn to pose and everyone has stayed at home. But then they came, all the same faces from before and even a couple of new ones! I reminded everyone this was my first time life modelling, and was met with only encouragement, enthusiasm and gentle advice. I began with the usual quick one minute poses, timing them in my head by counting one one thousand two etc. With each pose I gained my own rhythm and creativity. It really helped to hear classmates say "good pose" or murmur "great" once I set myself still. The one minute poses can be more dynamic, the best for holding your arms above your head and putting weight on one leg for instance. After a few poses I was keen to try "the archer" next but we then switched to five minute poses so that was out for today! I learned in the longer poses not to lean on any one limb, to balance my weight and to go into a meditative "waking sleep", breathing slowly and focusing at an object anywhere in the room. I also became acutely aware of how every angle and gesture of my body would affect each artist's vantage point. Once settled into the longest pose of half an hour, I found my mind wandering over various thoughts from politics to when to do laundry. My stomach didn't growl, my nose didn't run, I didn't have a coughing fit or a leg cramp or a bad bout of the shakes....all needless fears anyway. I thought the class would go by much more slowly as a model. But it absolutely flew! Afterwards, everyone was keen to show me their work, and that was the real treat....seeing what they perceived, and how they conveyed it through their own eyes, unique styles, and selected mediums. The sketches above are my own...I wish I had a drawing of me to post here today too, but I don't, so instead you can check out this lovely video. Look closely...maybe you are in it! As for me, I can now say I am more comfortable in my own skin, and on my own canvas as well.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thrift & Plenty

Our motto usually is, we never got so rich until we got so poor. Sometimes making ends meet feels like trying to tie dental floss around an elephant! Yet, even during the hardest of financial times we've met the challenge of cutting back to bare bones and still being met with abundance. I'm pretty sure I will never willingly buy anything in a bonafide retail outlet again (OK, that may be stretching it....paints and canvases are hard to find used, but still, I like to stick to the small business owners). I own no credit cards, and I have no debt. When I can, I donate what I'm no longer using or attached to. Economic challenge as well as a frugal desire to reuse and recycle has kept me loyal to two places for almost everything I'll ever need above rent, food, hydro and internet. Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (known to locals as The Depot),  and The Haven Society Thrift Shop in Nanaimo, are, as far as I'm concerned, capable of providing me with everything I need to clothe myself and decorate my home in the most eccentric, stylish and creative way!
Oh, and of course, when it is in season, the Gabriola Farmer's Market offers the best in locally handcrafted wearables by artisans whose passion and talent has formed them.
Oh, and then there are clothing swaps, the most fun of all, when a bunch of women from the community get together for a party...swapping all our oldies for other oldies and everyone going away happily re-clad (and maybe a tad tipsy or floaty)!
Although I still love to take the odd peek at a magazine to see what design forces are at work in the big wide world out there, I'm content to look but not have any of the glossy new items and fabulous firsthand objects to build my own surroundings with. Shopping thrift is far more satisfying than walking into a store where you see twenty of the same shirt and have to hope they have your size. Shopping thrift is a way to truly discover what your own personal taste and style IS. Among all the haphazard clutter of singular and distinct offerings of colours and texture, you'll inexplicably be allured by what draws your unique instincts and very own interest. (Talk about self discovery, really allowing your own heart and mind to select things!) There is no accounting for anyone else's taste, so no matter what, in a thrift shop, everyone is bound to come across something that pleases them alone. Sometimes, I'll ruminate for a very long time over whether or not I really NEED that item that costs $1, because I only have $4 to spend.

Well, if you saw our home, you'd never know we were lacking for anything of comfort. Once you get to the point when the only security you have is the fact you woke up alive this morning and the opportunity for work that the day may hold, you realize that many of us try all our lives to build an illusion of permanence and structure. Once you lose all that, you realize you never really needed it... you can survive just fine as long as you can at least pull it together for real necessities. Then everything above and beyond is so thoroughly bonus, it's a creative thrill! A jug of wine, a loaf of bread ~ and thou.

A snippet of our woodsy livingroom:

Here I am wearing topaz earrings handmade by the luscious Lisa of Heavy Feather from Mudge Island, a shirt I got from a clothing swap party, a kerchief from GIRO and a necklace my sis hand-me-downed me! Grateful to those who first created these items, and to the people who have owned them before me....we are all part of an intricate and synchronized dance!

Gypsy Thrift!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

There Will Always Be Beautiful Things

Nearly every single day we seem to break a plate or cup or some piece of pottery in this house...ba da bing.

(yesterday I simply opened the fridge door and my favourite vivid cadmium red salad plate crashed to the floor,  the onion that was on it rolling peevishly into the corner as if to say "it was because of me")

(too often a  foot faux "paw" occurs when we fall into bed with our midnight snacks or wine glasses sitting haphazardly on the foot board.....toss....kick....crash, ah, decadence!)

(then there is the too predictable but somehow always unpreventable happy dog swinging tail triple flip....whoops...I should not have said the word "W.A.L.K."....my mottled handcrafted vase from  Italy placed on too low a table....ka ~ ding!!)

As we pile the broken pieces in their ever-growing resting place on the porch railing, our refrain has become, sing it with me,  "There Will Always Be Beautiful Things"... but the colours and shapes are too magical to throw out... so, I'm going to start a crockery garden! One has to be careful as pets can cut themselves on the sharp edges....so I'll need to find a safe and secluded but within-view corner to make my artful garden, and keep the sharp edges under earth. A spring project! Maybe a mosaic may be another way to go. 

Yesterday I went out to add another broken cup to the pile and noticed that someone dear to me had arranged the broken plates into a smiley face. That cheered me up. It's true, there will always be beautiful things, but loving and funny people are not so easy to replace!

"Smile, though your plate is breaking..."

Thursday, 2 February 2012

All Is As It Should Be

All is as it should be. I know this now. Today, we spontaneously decided to go for a drive, and find a spot to sit and look out at the view and talk about our lives and goals, you know, what is important to us these days. After a few moments of indecision, we wound up parked at Berry Point just before Four PM, as the unusual blue sky of the day was shifting to a delicate, almost imperceptibly mauve shade.We let our dog Seeker out of the car so he could have a good run on the rocks. A sea lion swam past and nodded to us upon each surface. I felt graced. We shared a few puffs, lungs expanding, happy and clear. The sea chopped and churned, in colourful segments of various blues, whites and blacks. I said to K "I wish a whale would come". I had seen in this week's Island Tides that a pod of Orcas was spotted swimming south from Mayne Island on January 18th. I imagined them making their way past us. Could they be near? Oh come to us, I thought, come say hello. Convinced I would see them, I spotted what looked like a fin far off in the vacillating horizon, yes, it was moving quickly, it was straight and swift! K shook his head and said, no, a seagull. He was right. It turned and a flash of white confirmed its shape.Oh well. K reminded me that in all his years here he had only spotted Orcas once, from the deck of the ferry last year coming from Nanaimo...he'd been talking to his best friend's wife and then suddenly, beyond her profile he saw the fins...stupendous, magnificent, larger than he felt tall, he said. I thought, that must be truly something. I'd only seen Orcas in captivity, confined, defeated and performing, fins wilted sideways, and again from very far away on the ferry to Tsswwassen, and they had been so minute and distant, they looked like playful dolphins. 

I stared out to sea one last time as we turned to climb away......then. Then. I saw a slice, a knife-like vertical slice against the horizontal waves...a flicker of a shadow of something against the wavey grain. No, just a trick of the eye. Or, wait. Dark. Fast. High. Holy F! Then down. 

It disappeared. Did I? Did I really? No. A mirage again. A mirage, but....Waves, huge circles of foamy circles....parting, parting wider, and then the shiny black unmistakable dome! Up, Up, UP, ARCH!!! Right AT me! RIGHT toward the shore, like a torpedo, a huge black submarine rising! ORCA!
Coming straight for me! FAST! Leaping! It came to the very edge of what seemed the shore, as close as I could imagine the water was even deep enough to enter, I thought it might drive up onto the rocks! Then it banked, blew and spewed, tilted at me, as if to say...

I came, I am here. Hello.

Then it swam alongside us. Seeker spotted it and jumped, I called him to stay by me, I suddenly pictured him leaping the few feet into the water, so close was the whale.  There were four, no five, more Orcas, a good forty metres behind their leader, dancing in a merry fleet...they rose and followed their serene leader of the parade....and gently carried on into the distance.

They passed out of sight round the last rock. We stood stunned. I only realized then that I had been jumping up and down waving my arms and laughing like a little girl the entire time. There was a lady in an SUV on the road who saw it all, as well as two older women on a walk. Everyone touched by that brief fleeting visit.

I cannot describe our emotions shortly after this sighting. K wept with joy.  We had all day to get things done, to worry and fret and work and clean and try to make things go as they should. What ever made us choose that very moment of our crazy day to go for a drive and then stand on that particular spot on the beach and wish a whale would appear?

I know, they are frequently seen at Berry Point, as any local will tell you.But we've been many many many times. Today I called them. I really know I did. There is meaning in this moment and I wish all humans to have these amazing moments in their lives. It happens when you open yourself to all the possibilities and keep your eyes open.When you are on the right path, nature will affirm it. 

Perception is reality. I am where I am meant to be. We drove down to the shortcut between Chelwood and Daniel Way, and parked in the woods, with our binoculars. A woodpecker knocked in a tree above us. A deer quietly strode across the field unaware we watched it. In the sky, a jet plane bulleted like a slow dart leaving its white trail. Man's great invention, genius, people on their way.

Me Enjoying a Sunset at Berry Point  ~ Photo Credit Susan Banjavich