Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What I learned in Life Drawing Class 101

First things first...grrr, in my inability to understand formatting, I've accidentally highlighted this whole darned post and cannot for the life of me figure how to remove it,  if the reading is hard, I apologize, so sorry!

With the beginning of a new year people often make plans for self improvement.  I and a couple of friends are no different.  We are sharing our stories as we take the journey towards getting in shape, eating better, weight loss and so on.  As with any plans of that nature the bumps in the road inevitably come and discouragement, depression and frustration often ensue.  We compare ourselves to unrealistic images or each other, all at different points in our journeys and always come up lacking.  We should take care of ourselves, but maybe we need to remind ourselves that health is much more important than the exterior package.  Then and only then will we be healthy from both a physical and mental standpoint. The more I think about our quest I wonder are we, who have lived through many different events, trials and chapters of life just being too darned hard on ourselves?  All this introspective thought and all the thinking time I have while on my elliptical most mornings has taken me back quite a piece, all the way to college to be exact and I'd like to share some reflections I've had to anyone who cares to listen.

I headed to art college at the ripe old age of 17, a country girl to the core afraid of my own shadow most of the time, afraid of sticking out like the obvious hick and yet ready to learn anything and everything about my true passion in life and that was art.  I will always remember my first life drawing class, I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into, I certainly didn't want to show my naivety so I didn't ask but was pretty sure that meant drawing nudes.

  We sat on individual benches in a circle with our large drawing boards propped in front and various drawing pencils scattered around ready to address our subject.  To date we'd drawn fruit or various still life arrangements and maybe a portrait or two.  In walked a guy pretty close in age to the students who very casually spoke a few words to the professor then nonchalantly removed all his clothing, placing himself on the stand in the room's center, smack dab,.... full front,.... in front of  Gulp.  Our professor suggested we walk around to find the view we wanted to sketch, circulate get comfortable, what I did was stay stuck like cement to my seat, mortified, my eyes firmly cast downward  hidden behind my drawing board.  I didn't want to look at anyone, I wanted to run out of that room and all the way home but I held my spot still as stone while others jostled, mostly to get the more prominent view I already had.  Finally settled in we started, I cast my eyes casually from side to side, my new friends were already feverishly scrawling away on their papers, obviously so much more worldly than I.   So, I joined in as best as I was able and other than the quiet request made by my professor half way through that very first class that I should maybe draw all the model's parts rather than leave a blank swath of white paper glaring at me from where his midsection should be, I did quite well.

Something happened that day and in the days to follow.  I fell in love.  Not with our handsome male model, because, well obviously he was, but with the human form.   The models came in all shapes and sizes, mostly female, but a handful of men as well.  Most were young, looking to make what was considered good money especially for a bunch of cash strapped students.  Some were as old as their late 20's.  One had even had a baby.  All were as different as we could expect.  There were thin waif like figures, there were very well endowed, incredibly voluptuous women, there were also obese models.  Each and everyone of them held a beauty unrivaled compared to any other one I'd seen.  From the curve of the hip whether linear and lean in structure or full, well muscled or gaunt, the set of the shoulders, sway of the spine, tilt of the head, all were beautiful whether swathed in little more than skin or many layers between.

They were and we are all amazingly, incredibly, awesomely different and yet all beautiful too.  Sure we have our own personal likes and attractions and that's just fine.   But there is not an image I've ever seen that is more profoundly wonderful than the human form.  Don't take it from me.  There is a wonderful site I found a few years back entitled which is by photographer, Matt Blum.  He takes nude photos of real women.  The rules are:  no models, no makeup, no glamour.  If you're comfortable with images of the naked human form, I encourage you to check it out and challenge you to not find some beauty in each and every image.  The music is pretty awesome too.

Celebrate who you are.  Right.  Now. Fall in love with You.  Respect.  You. 

Now, before you begin thinking I'm either completely off my rocker or have the confidence of a champion, don't kid yourselves, this is just as much a pep talk for myself as everyone else.  When you look at your faces and see wrinkles, think laugh lines, when you look at your torso and see stretch marks, think of the life your body nourished, when you look at your body and see scars, think of the battles you survived, when you look at your body and truly see yourselves, you will see beauty, you will feel acceptance and you should celebrate all that you are, all that you have been and will become and love all that you see.  

So, dear friends, I challenge look at yourselves not through the eyes of acceptable standards or society's opinion of true beauty, but look at yourselves through the eyes of an artist, or if that is just a bit too far of a stretch, then at least the eyes of a fledgling art student.  If I at 17 could see the beauty in everyone, then why can we not just be a little bit kinder to ourselves and each other?  Or better yet, look at yourselves through the eyes of God, the REAL artist.

Now, with all this talk of Life Drawing, I must admit, I miss it.  I got pretty good at recreating realistic images of the human form and it really did make me appreciate the fragility and beauty in all.  What do you think the chances are of starting a Life Drawing class in this sleepy little community?  What kind of scandal do you think might ensue?  Oh Well, enough dreaming for one day... now go, have a good one!  Cheers! Jen         


Feminist Farmer's Wife said...

For me, art takes shape in the form of words strung together. This piece of writing is as beautiful as the paintings that I've seen you make.
Thanks for this. I do like a challenge...

Issysue said...

I remember seeing advertisements for Life Drawing classes in the Abbott daily newsletter and wanting to do it but wondering what my friends would think. Looking back, I wish I had have taken more fine arts classes! Personal experiences are so much more valid than someone else's opinion... but I didn't figure out that tidbit of wisdom until much later.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! As a life model from a farm community, I really appreciate your thoughtful words. Your paintings reflect that keen sense of "life" too. Keep creating.

Natalia said...

Your post made me smile! Right now I am having such a hard time at drawing lessons but I still have hope :)