There I was in Spring Studios. Not nude. Not posing. Not on the stage. Rather, I was sitting among the artists, with paper and a charcoal set. That’s right. Last Friday afternoon I was not the model at Spring Studios (for a change) but instead, just another New Yorker who had come to draw.
Minerva Durham, the director of Spring Studios, is kind and supportive toward her models. Among her many generosities, Minerva gives all of us our own drawing card so we can come and draw whenever we want, free of charge. My card had been tucked away in my wallet for months, untouched and unpunched. I figured it was about time I put that baby to use. So I chose the Friday afternoon session for two reasons; it’s short poses, which I wanted, and it’s monitored by my friend David Silverman. Plus, I heard that the model booked for that particular day was very good, which she was indeed. Outstanding, really. Her name was Stephanie.
So you might be wondering, how did I do? Well, let’s see, how should I describe my drawings? Hmmm . . . um . . . OK . . . I think the best adjective to describe them is ABYSMAL. PITIFUL works too. And ATROCIOUS. And APPALLING. Basically I’m saying that I sucked. I can’t put down a pretty line. I’m awful. I’m a disgrace! 😥 Believe me, I didn’t go in there with delusions of grandeur. But I did, however, think I’d produce somewhat better drawings than I actually created. My reasoning was this: after years of being an art model, I’ve heard everything in the way of art instruction. I’ve seen and absorbed (or so I thought!) the measuring technique for proportions, lessons in human anatomy (for which I’ve been the “demo figure” countless times), the observation of shadow shapes and perspective and foreshortening, the whole shebang. So I KNOW what goes into a drawing. I just can’t DO it. Not yet, anyway.
Then again, my mental approach and attitude was less than focused that afternoon. I wasn’t exactly the picture of diligence and patience. I knew something was wrong when I found myself erasing more than drawing. That’s really what I did for three hours: ERASE. Rub, rub, rub, blow erasing residue off paper. Ok. Now. Wait. Fiddle with iPod. Find the right song . . . some Beatles. Abbey Road. Good. Now, DRAW. Hold on! Straigthen drawing board. Adjust chairs and get more comfortable. Put feet up. Ok, draw! Hold on, where are my sesame sticks? Ah, found them. Munch, munch. NOW I’m ready to draw. Go! Good . . . good . . . not bad . . . looking decent . . . ugh! What’s that???? It’s ruined! Start over. Erase!!! Rub . . . rub . . . rub . . . blow off residue . . . play with kneaded eraser . . . stretch it out. Fun! Just like Silly-Putty. Then roll it into a ball. Neat! Ok, draw. Ooops. There goes the timer. Pose is over. “Five minute break”, David announces. Alright, time to go across the street and get coffee. When I get back, THEN I’ll be in the groove.
So as you can see, I wasn’t exactly the paragon of concentration.
IF I could draw – and I can’t emphasize the word “if” enough here – I’d aspire to draw in the style of this exquisite ink sketch by Robert Henri. I love these lines:
My friends, I can’t draw like that, and It’s highly unlikely I ever will. But I can POSE like that. Hey, that model has my shoulders! After the session, I sat with Minerva as she gave me my bookings for the summer. She asked me how I did with the drawing, and I moped. “Minerva, I suck!”, I told her. She asked to see my sketchbook and I refused. But she reassured me that figure drawing is, without question, very, very difficult to do. To master it, “takes years”, in her words.
I have always had nothing but admiration for artists who draw, paint, and sculpt the figure. I’ve said it repeatedly, both on this blog and to artists personally. Now my respect and admiration is multiplied by, say, 50. I didn’t think it was possible for it to increase any more. But it has. You guys are amazing.
I will draw again. I want to and I have the opportunity to. But I understand that my true place is up on that platform. That’s home. That’s where I belong. For now, I can’t draw a fluid, elegant line. But I can create one with my figure, and the energy, joy, and passion with which I pose. So I’ll do the modeling, and you guys do the drawing. Sound like a deal?