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.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, this is pure inspiration and it made even me feel special. Simply, by knowing you.