In the name of art

If you think about it long enough, or hard enough, anything can be sexual.

About five minutes until art class was to begin, I hovered over my drawing horse, looking at a blank slate and a new piece of charcoal. A friend walked in and set up next to me. We said hi and asked about each other’s Thanksgiving breaks, but the conversation died quickly, most likely because I zoned out.

We were all in a circle around a table with a blanket laying over it. Just looking at each other as Bob Dylan played over a small boom box, occasionally skipping as if this CD could possibly be as old as Dylan himself. Not a whole lot is being said, just kind of waiting. I wasn’t even sure if everyone is in class, but I was just waiting on one person, just like everyone else. Waiting on an unfamiliar face, and form.

Today was our first day drawing a nude model.

Now that class is over, I can see how different it actually was in comparison to how it seemed it would be. Before, the tension between the 15 to 20 or so of us was smothering. Listening to the few conversations that were going on, everyone had questions that were to be answered in minutes.

“I hope it’s not someone I see on campus everyday,” a student said, quickly followed by a laugh that disappeared almost certainly because she wasn’t sure if that was appropriate or not.

“At least it’s not going to be a boy,” another freshman sorority girl said. “That would be gross.”

In my own mind questions are bouncing around. Where does our 50-year-old teacher find these models? Does he have try outs? Could he get into trouble for that? Will she be attractive? How much does she get paid? What is the point of this?

Our professor walked into the room and lifted his hands as a conductor does to the choir. We all arose and in walked the model. I almost felt like we should then bow, or sing a hymn. I just picked up my charcoal instead of doing either.

I felt like she and I made eye contact almost immediately. It was strange. It was as if we were both thinking the same thing. I knew I would see her completely nude in a matter of minutes, and the reason still seemed arbitrary.

She turned to our professor and asked him if she should disrobe, and he just motioned for her to step onto the table. The robe fell, and with it, all of the sexual tension and awkward comments.

20071126art_r_bjl002.jpg
This is one of my quick, one minute sketches. This was the last one. Each time we stop and go to a new pose, she would turn a different way. This way, you don’t get stuck drawing one position the whole time.

We immediately started sketching. Quickly at first, only for a minute. After about five sketches I had a page full of this woman’s body, produced by me, a stranger. I had five rough compositions complete, and I no longer had that strange feeling. I didn’t feel like we were making contact. She didn’t care about anything, and all of the sudden, I understood why we were doing this.

20071126art_r_bjl011.jpg
This time we were instructed to emphasize the light and dark between her tan skin and the dark blue blanket. I still focused on the body language. She seemed troubled in this pose, possibly because she was tired of holding herself for ten minutes at a time for an hour and a half,but that’s what I wanted to get across.

Bob Dylan’s scratchy voice was still coming across the cheap speakers. “You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand,” he said. “You see somebody naked and you say ‘Who is that man?’ You try so hard, but you don’t understand.”

I didn’t understand it at first. Now, I think I’m getting it.

I’ve always had a problem with reading body language. It’s hard to see the shape and attitude of a body if you haven’t thought about it, really dug into it before. But seeing the human body without any thing blocking your thinking, really helped me to be able to show how she seemed to be feeling.

Given, these aren’t great drawings. We were timed on each one. Some five minutes, most ten. Each time he would tell us to emphasize something else, but always remembering the body language. It started becoming easier to read the body language and I could put more effort into his assignments.

20071126art_r_bjl014.jpg
This drawing is one of my better ones. I feel like you can actually get a feel for how she felt. Still, not a good drawing, but for ten minutes of focusing on contrast of the blanket and body language, I like it.

After each sketch period, we would walk around the room and look at what everyone else was drawing. I always felt good about my drawings, but still inspired by others.

I was surprised at how easy it was to walk around the room and not feel awkward with there being a completely naked woman in the middle. Sometimes she would look around too, just curious to see how we perceived her.

20071126art_r_bjl006.jpg
This is my favorite. Our assignment was to focus on something else beside of the model. We were to keep her from being a sex object, and make her a human being. I think this drawing is directly related to my ability to take pictures. Most people were seeing the model as a whole, but I think it’s important to focus in on parts of her.

I really would have liked to talked to her, just to ask her how it felt. She seemed so comfortable with all eyes on her. Sometimes she would stare at others, and the ones drawing couldn’t take the heat. They would shift their eyes to their papers, or look at the blanket.

My personal lesson was how much your mind plays a role in things. Before I saw her, she was just an object. Everything was sexual. I couldn’t picture her as a person, because I had nothing to connect with. But once she was there, and we were all burning up our charcoal onto our newsprint, it seemed bigger than that. Bigger than just the sex. Not an object.

Now, I understand.

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2 Responses to “In the name of art”

  1. Brad, just reading this makes me feel awkward.

  2. I like these pictures, they really are beautiful. Seems like it would be a very awkward situation at first, but it’s art.

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