It’s quite odd being both the centre of attention and invisible, at the same time.
You sit there, on a stool for 20 minutes, not moving at all, while 8 pairs of eyes look at you, all the time. Taking in every part of you, their brain processing what they see, and transmitting it to their hands. Reproducing every inch of your body onto the blank page before them.
You are, literally, in the centre of their space.
And yet you’re only an object, albeit one that can move. It’s all about them – the 7 people holding the charcoal in their hands, and how well they do their drawing. About getting the technique, the angles and the shading right. About seeing the negative spaces, about using the other hand – or even both hands – to draw with.
It was a fun evening – a little chilly, but fun.
I was asked about a month ago if I would pose for this art class, and would I prepare a couple of poses – a few short ones and 2 or 3 longer ones (20 minutes or so). Some of the yoga poses would work quite nicely, the teacher said. It would be 2 hour session with a short break in the middle. I should bring a gown if I have one – I might want to wear it during the break.
So I googled yoga poses and life drawing class pictures, and printed out a few to give me some ideas. I even practiced a short routine in my hotel room the night before, just so I would look professional.
The day dawned, and I wasn’t really nervous – not at all like the first time at the hen party a few months ago. I think the big difference is that I didn’t know anyone here at the art class. I did wonder a little about what type of person would be taking the class, and what I would do if I did know someone. But I figured I would just carry on as normal, it’s not like it should be weird or anything.
So I arrived at the class before any other students; the teacher and I chatted through some ideas (my routine flew out the window) and I got a good idea of how the 2 hours would progress.
As I sat waiting for the students to arrive, I glanced at the studio – a room with several easels on the edges in a large circle around a central area with paper on the floor (for shadows) and a stool. That would be my domain.
I dashed out for a quick wee (don’t want to interrupt later…) and came back to see the first students there – a middle-aged woman and a Muslim man. Interesting… for some reason I did not expect the latter…
They were joined by another middle aged woman, 3 young women and a second young Muslim guy. Very interesting how one’s pre-conceived ideas are shattered.
I noticed pretty quickly, that while everyone said “hi” while glancing at me, there were no introductions or chats with me. Almost like an unspoken rule that they don’t engage with the model, and it probably did help to keep a distance and make it all less uncomfortable.
I had a bit of wine while they all set up, and then the teacher asked to start. I whipped of my t-shirt, dropped my trousers – left them lying in a corner – and walked into the middle of the room thinking about how this felt. Realizing how it wasn’t scary or weird or anything. I felt relaxed, comfortable. Actually enjoying it in a way.
I was concerned more about making sure that I give them interesting poses and not delaying the class than about the fact that I was completely and utterly exposed to these 5 women and 2 men.
As I stood there during the first of the short poses, not moving at all, I listened to the class – the usual banter between students. The usual questions to the teacher, her having to repeat or explain the odd instruction. And the words “the model” or “him” or “his leg” being the only references to me.
I tried to sneak a glance at a couple of the pages, but with the angle of the easels, and my not wanting to move my head it was difficult. I did, though, get to see a few later on.
The first few poses went by quite quickly, mostly standing ones. Then she wanted the class to do a motion drawing – so she had me walk in a circle around the middle area – very, very slowly. The class would draw me as often as they could – and ostensibly end up with a series of me from different angles. I was asked to walk a little slower at one point, but most of them seem to have enjoyed that one.
Then I went into my first longer pose – and I chose to do something similar to Rodin’s thinker, but with my head in my hand. The class seemed to like that pose – lots of angles and negative and positive space. I of course only realized too late that I now had a direct view onto my little friend who I was hoping would not embarrass me in this cold weather. But despite various mental techniques, I eventually realized that weather I was huge, or tiny, it would make little difference to the class – and an erection would be the only truly embarrassing occurrence. But that was not about to happen.
Just as my thigh was getting uncomfortable, we took a break. I went over to put on some clothes for the few minutes – realizing as I did, that it was more for them and the cold than for me. I would have quite comfortable to sit there in the nick – it was fascinating how that absolutely didn’t faze me at all.
After a little more wine, and no conversations on my part, we went into 2 more long poses – one of me lying on my side perched on a bended arm (which ended up more uncomfortable than I expected) and the second one where I lay with my back flat on the ground, my feet flat and my knees up. It was a challenging pose for the class ‘cos I was so flat, but they went with it, and some did quite well.
It was a long 2 hours – especially as I’m not really used to sitting so still for so long. I kept wondering what I’m thinking about.
It was mostly about mot moving, about listening and learning about drawing a bit. A little about how I’m feeling at that moment, and quite a bit about what I could see on the walls.
I didn’t think at all about work (wow!) but I did try and practice my words for Lady Windermere’s Fan – pity I couldn’t have my script in front of me. But that did work nicely too.
Afterwards they all packed up while I got dressed. I had a short chat with the teacher (she also seemed to like the poses I gave the class – something interesting) and I got paid.
I hope I’ll get the chance to do it again – was really fun!