Objets d’Arts

The New York Studio School is the most “prop-happy” place I’ve ever worked. Their stash of plastic fruit, bottles, vases, plates, silk flowers, musical instruments, etc, is so extensive it puts other schools to shame. I personally think the school elevates these objects to a higher status than they deserve. They have their own philosophy down there and that’s their right. But they tend to clog their compositions with these things and obsessively draw and paint every one of them. Many times I have found myself posing in a chair surrounded by a sea of props, feeling like I’m in the middle of a rummage sale.

Amidst this flea market atmosphere the life model, sadly, gets lost. We are rendered to merely blend in like just another object, and models are supposed to be “subjects”, NOT objects. But figurative beauty is not the focus apparently, and this approach can trigger a bit of insecurity in the model. It makes us call into question our purpose and our power to inspire, not to mention our hard work!

As an art model I harbor a touch of contempt for inanimate props, especially when they’re used to excess. Now I like working at the Studio School, I do. Great place, good people (mostly). But I have gotten into it down there a few times and voiced my objections (albeit mildly) to the devaluing of the model’s role in art. It’s brought out my militant art model side, the side that proclaims, “I am life, hear me roar!” and “How dare you force me to compete with a wine bottle!”. It would make more sense to me if they were just painting a still life, without a model.

I took these pictures yesterday when I was posing, happily, in one of the more sparse set-ups I’ve seen down there. It was a relief to have fewer things around me to knock over and navigate around.

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This arrangement would make Cezanne proud:

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Ok, those pictures were fine, but not terribly exciting, right? Do I need to explain why? I mean, let’s be honest folks. Are the textures, colors, and contours of those things more artistically appealing than, say, this?

shoulderleg2

Which inspires you more? 😉

20 thoughts on “Objets d’Arts

  1. Jeff says:

    That is a rhetorical question, right? I mean, still lifes have their value, but they’re not exactly something sane people get very passionate about.

    The human figure, on the other hand, is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It is something that captivates and motivates us. There is no bottle, plate, or piece of fruit in the world that can compare to a good art model, as you surely know.

  2. lkwinter says:

    Question: “Are the textures, colors, and contours of those things more artistically appealing than, say, this?”

    Answer: No

    : )

    (I couldn’t find any of those smilies, ya know, the one with the dog hanging his tongue way down to the floor through a grin, but I think you catch my drift.)

  3. Ron says:

    Ok. Here’s the choice. A bowl of fruit, a bottle of wine, or a live artist’s model.. Tough one there. After due consideration, I’ll go for the model.

    Well really that wasn’t so tough. I think that was a set up. I think you designed this quiz just so the model would get the most votes. Sneaky but clever.

  4. artmodel says:

    Jeff,

    Your comment was great! And you made me laugh so hard over that “sane people” part. So funny, I love it! I’d like to elaborate on that point more, but to do so would require me to discuss the sanity of the people at the Studio School, and I don’t want to get fired 😆

    I agree wholeheartedly that no plate can outshine a life model. Thanks, baby!

    Claudia

  5. artmodel says:

    lkwinter,

    Your visual is far better than a smilie. And I appreciate the “NO” vote.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Claudia 🙂

  6. artmodel says:

    Ron,

    I probably could have been even sneakier, and ensured even more “pro-model” votes, with a different picture, if you catch my drift 😉 Then you’d see some real vote-rigging!

    But of course I’d expect nothing less than a yea model vote from you, friend.

    Claudia

  7. Jeff says:

    If you’d like to throw that other picture up, I’d be more than happy to vote a second time. 😀

  8. Of course the model inspires me more:)
    When I go to life drawing sessions, I feel like I’m wasting my time drawing props – if I wanted to do that, I could arrange a nature morte at home. I’m out of art school already, so I don’t get to do as much life drawing as I’d like, and when I do – drawing from a nude model is a precious luxury almost:) So props/sofas/chairs – become an afterthought.

  9. Brian says:

    A bowl of fruit, a bottle of wine, and an art model…hmmm, sounds like my idea of a romantic date! I’d take them all together! (not just “any” art model by the way)…

  10. Rob says:

    You’re the model provocateur!! My bet is that most male paint-throwers would quickly glance away from the table setting and begin the work of rendering the human form……..without another thought of wine bottles, grapes, etc. Unless, of course the bottle had some contents and the glass was clean!
    Best,
    Rob

  11. artmodel says:

    Jeff,

    You’ve got that naughty boy side to you, and I love it! 😉

    Claudia

  12. artmodel says:

    Natasha,

    I love your comment! Thanks for your strong affirmation of the model’s superiority, and for calling props “afterthoughts”. Excellent priorities you have. I do hope you find a way to participate in some life drawing. Your appreciation for it is evident.

    Thanks for visiting Museworthy, and I hope you comment again! Nice to have you here.

    Claudia

  13. artmodel says:

    Brian,

    Ah, so you want the whole kit and kaboodle! If I could send all those things to you I would, and no it wouldn’t include just “any” art model 😉

    Thanks for commenting.

    Claudia

  14. artmodel says:

    Rob,

    Yes, if the wine bottles were actual bottles filled with a nice Cabernet, rather than empty props, then we’d be onto something! Imagine if both the model and the artist were drinking? THAT would no doubt produce some exciting art.

    Great to hear from you!

    Claudia

  15. ColdSilverMoon says:

    Great post, as always, Claudia! I’m with Jeff on this one – the figure is always more interesting than props, especially when it’s YOUR figure.

    I agree with you about the composition being cluttered with props. I once had an art teacher ask me to hold an empty bottle, scattered chicken bones around me, and placed a wreath on my head as if I were some sort of drunken nude monarch. It was kind of a nice change of pace from the usual routine, but still a bit much…

  16. Alex says:

    Hi, Muse.

    I haven’t run into that experience too often where I am overwhelmed with props. Most of the time it’s just me or maybe a singular object. Personally I think I work well as a stand-alone, objet d’art….

    I think you would stand out no matter how much miscellaneous stuff they put around you….

  17. artmodel says:

    ColdSilverMoon,

    That chicken bone arrangement sounds really bizarre! It’s different, I’ll give it that. But still, very odd. And like the good, professional art model that you are, you cooperated. Don’t we always?

    Thanks for commenting.

    Claudia

  18. artmodel says:

    Alex,

    It’s so totally great to hear from you, friend. Nice to have you back 🙂

    Be glad that you haven’t been cluttered with props. It’s not the most sublime art modeling experience, I can tell you that. But I try very hard to respect the “method to the madness”. I have fond feelings for the Studio School and the people there, so I’ve tried to keep my personal objections to a minimum.

    Thanks for your comments, Alex.

    Claudia

  19. Props. I use them. Though to prop myself up (pun intended).

    I have some plastic pipe and fittings that I can assemble into a staff (easier to transport that way), which I use for foreshortening. That way, I can extend my hand toward the artist without regretting it mid-pose. I have a yoga block that I’ll step on to get a bit more muscle definition. I’ll tie ropes to the dias, wrap them around my arms and lean backwards – using the ropes for support. For more muscle definition.

    Yes, I use props as crutches. To make it easier to pose and make more interesting poses!

    However, props like fruit (which should be eaten), and other odds and ends, make me feel like I’ve been transported into a still life setting where I don’t belong. I actually felt like I was naked at a rummage sale once!

    In my opinion, I think fledgling artists will naturally spend too much time on the “easy” stuff and neglect drawing the life model. Which is harder to draw well. Which is the whole reason I’m there!

    I’m one of those dreadful models that tries to include contraposto, negative space and foreshortening in EVERY pose (and chiaroscuro, if they will let me play with the lighting). Because, unless challenged, how will the student artists ever get any better. That’s my job. And having random props detracts from the experience.

    I guess I’m just an elitist figure drawing model curmudgeon.

    • artmodel says:

      malefiguredrawingmodel,

      You’re not an elitist! You’re just conscientious and dedicated, which is good stuff 🙂
      I myself don’t bring any of my own props with me, but there have been times when I wish I did. The ropes are actually very useful, more than the poles in my opinion. Good for bringing out those muscle definitions. Anatomy classes often come equipped with those.

      But yes, as this blog post discussed, a glut of props does start to get that rummage sale feeling! We models are the “life” in life drawing. We deserve to be the focal points, not some ceramic thing.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

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