Joyful Happenings

Hi everyone! Just a couple of announcements for our Museworthy community. Spring will be arriving in a few weeks – YAY!! – and it’s the time of year that reinvigorates us, lifts us up and out and about, gifts us with buoyant spirits and pours a feeling of expansiveness into our souls. So first, I’ve finally set a date for the Museworthy “Portraits and Pets” art show. Because I’ll be quite busy with a full art modeling schedule in March, the show will go up on the blog on Tuesday, April 4th. For those of you who still plan to submit something, if you could get it to me by March 26th at the latest that would be great.

The artwork of longtime Museworthy reader and friend to this blog Todd Fife will be on exhibit at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky. His “Oculi” series of bold, compelling portrait pieces created with graphite, watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil, and gold and silver leaf, presents to the viewers a collection of expressive gazes in the eyes of various models. I am honored to be one of those models 🙂 The opening reception is on Friday, March 3rd at 6 PM and the exhibit will remain on view through March 30. You can read the press release for Todd’s show at this link. Congratulations Todd!

Lastly, the 2017 Whitney Biennial will open on March 17. New Yorkers and tourists who may be visiting our fair city this spring might want to check it out. Notably, it will be the first Biennial to be held at the Whitney’s new home in lower Manhattan. I wrote two blog posts about the new Whitney that readers can revisit if they’re interested; “Glass, Granite, and Urban Awakenings” and “Resurrection at the Whitney”.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all soon, friends!

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Mirror Image

In my experiences modeling for figure drawing classes I’ve seen teachers instruct a class to try drawing with their non-dominant hands. Obviously the resulting drawings are not – nor are they intended to be – artistic masterpieces. It’s just an exercise. But the looks of puzzlement on the artists’ faces afterward is amusing to see. I can relate though, as I have not an ounce of ambidexterity in me. I’m right-handed and anything I write with my left hand is barely legible. I’m right-dominant even beyond writing. I balance better on my right leg than on my left. When performing workout exercises, such as lunges and reverse lunges, side planks, etc, I feel more stable doing them on my right side than on my left. I can’t hammer a nail in the wall with my left hand, can’t throw a frisbee with my left hand. The list goes on.

They say that a mere 1% of people are fully and naturally ambidextrous. That’s quite an exclusive club! It’s all about our brain hemispheres and the degree of symmetry between the right and left sides of the brain. Michelangelo was ambidextrous, as was Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein. NBA superstar LeBron James is ambidextrous, along with some other famous athletes who display ambidexterity in their respective sports, such as tennis player Maria Sharapova and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Perhaps the most famous ambidextrous figure in history is the original “Renaissance Man”; the one and only Leonardo da Vinci. And as if his genius and ambidexterity weren’t impressive enough, da Vinci took it a step further. He was adept at the skill of “mirror writing”. Mirror writing is writing that is backwards – from right to left – and can’t easily be read on the page, but appears normal when reflected in a mirror. I remember, as a young child, not understanding why the word “AMBULANCE” was written backwards on the front of the emergency vehicle. My dad explained to me that it was so the word could be read in the rear view mirrors of drivers on the road. That’s an example of mirror writing in the world around us.

In this page from his notebooks exploring the anatomy of the arm, Da Vinci’s notes are done in mirror writing:

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So the question is, why did da Vinci do mirror writing? The answer is we don’t know for sure. It remains a mystery although speculations have been offered. One theory is that he wanted to retain some degree of secrecy with regard to his studies and discoveries. Let’s say some idiot troublemaker broke into Leonardo’s studio and stole his notebooks. He’d later look through them, thinking he got his hands on the genius’s precious work, and ask, “What the hell is this? Dammit!”. Another theory is that the mirror writing provided better neatness. da Vinci painted with both his left and right hands, but he wrote with his left hand, and as you southpaws out there can attest, smudges and smears can be a nuisance when writing right-to-left. Yet another theory – my favorite – is that da Vinci simply enjoyed mirror writing and found that it fueled his creativity and intellect. He’s Leonardo da Vinci, after all, so why the hell not? 🙂

You’ve all seen this iconic study of human proportions. It’s da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, c. 1490, again with notes written in mirror writing:

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So because I felt inspired by a brilliant polymath like Leonardo da Vinci, I decided to do my own mirror writing. I did it with my right hand … and it still sucks! Thought I was running out of space and got jammed. I took a picture of it in reflection. For what it’s worth, I actually have pretty nice handwriting when it’s done normally. Now if only I can come up with some engineering inventions, timeless portraiture, and detailed anatomical studies, then I’ll be on my way to greatness. Watch out, Leo! 😆

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Life in Detail

Friday morning. I walk down tree-lined blocks in my neighborhood toward the train station. Have to catch the 8:14 to Manhattan. Suddenly, from overhead, that distinct harsh screech of a red-tailed hawk; “keeeee-aarr!!”. I look up and there he is. Circling effortlessly above the Duane Reade and Queens rooftops. Good morning you beautiful wild raptor. Seeing me off to work, are you? 🙂

25 minutes later, Penn Station, morning rush hour. A woman begins to struggle getting her stroller with a toddler up the stairs to the C subway platform. I bend down and pick up the front. Together she and I make easy work carrying the stroller for the ascent. “Gracias”, she says to me. “Muchas gracias”.

Downtown, 15 minutes before drawing session starts. At the overpriced hipster coffee shop, a pleasant exchange with the barista about the deliciousness of almond milk. He tells me to “have a great day!”.

At Minerva’s studio, I’m introduced to a man from Naples. A math professor who enjoys drawing in his spare time. He pronounces my name “CLOU – dia”.

Morning session, long pose. Afternoon session, gestures and short poses. I’m the model for both. Bang my shin. Can’t find my favorite hair clip. Feeling flexible. And creative. Finished at 4:00. Man who had been drawing comes over to me, presses a $10 bill into my palm. “Oh gosh, thank you so much!” I say. “No, thank YOU” he replies. “Great poses”. A rare modeling tip.

C train back uptown. Muscly hardhat guy gives up his seat for an elderly lady. My Blackberry beeps out a text message; a modeling gig inquiry for January. Group of tourists consulting a NYC subway map.

Penn Station again. Rush hour again. Homeless trumpeter is playing a plaintive “Silent Night”. His horn reverberates throughout the Eight Avenue concourse. I drop some singles in his instrument case. He nods at me without moving the trumpet mouthpiece from his lips.

Back on the railroad, track 21, the 4:46 back to Queens. Seat at the window. Man, mid-thirties, dark complexion, sits next to me. Takes out a leather bound Bible. Reads Corinthians for the entire ride. I put in my iPod earbuds. Scroll for music. Schubert’s piano Impromptus. Sit back. Finish my box of raisins.

Home in Queens. Jessie the cat rubs lovingly against my legs. Purring … “rrrrrr”. The ball of fur missed me. Can of salmon for her. Glass of wine for me. Day of blessings. Day of grace. Day of reminders, reinforcements, interactions, and taking nothing for granted.

From that day, my one minute gesture poses sketched by Bob Palevitz … in detail:

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Sustaining Days

Modeling by me. Sketches, notes, and anatomy lesson by Minerva Durham. Wednesday afternoon, 293 Broome St, New York City:

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So what have you all been doing the past few days? 😉 Hopefully being sustained, as I have, by doing what rewards you, challenges you, nourishes you, and galvanizes you through the tedium. I am grateful for my livelihood an an artist’s model, and privileged to work with inspiring individuals like Minerva, the best life drawing instructor in New York City.

It’s a busy time of year. So when I’m not blogging, you know what I’m doing! Early wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to all. See you back here very soon … peace, friends.

Ten Days on 8th Street

For artist participants, it’s an intense and challenging learning experience. For artist’s models, it’s an arduous but highly worthwhile gig. It’s the renowned Drawing Marathon hosted by Greenwich Village’s own New York Studio School, presided over by the school’s Dean, Graham Nickson. I was honored to be one of the six models – with Julie, Morgan, Marie, Erin, and Juliana – working in three different studios for ten days, doing long poses in group set-ups amid sounds of staple guns, paper cutting, rag smudging, and the occasional object falling to the ground. The marathon has dominated my work schedule for the past two weeks, and on Friday we concluded with a wonderful final day, replete equally with grimy, fatigued bodies and fortified spirits. Old acquaintances were renewed, new acquaintances were formed, and enough charcoal soot was produced that could bury a Buick. I took some photos to share with my readers.

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In addition to drawing from the live models, Marathon artists also did transcriptions of old artworks, with each person creating a section and then assembling them all together. This is Pieter Bruegel’s The Blind Leading the Blind. The students did incredible work here:

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And another transcription, from a 15th century engraving by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, a Florentine painter, sculptor, and goldsmith:

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The mother of all modeling platforms. Big, padded, suitable for both art posing and break naps 😉

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This exercise involved drawing the figure, and then drawing only the forms and space around the figure:

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Artists can always learn something from the great Matisse, which is why a work of his provided material for one of the day’s lessons:

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I really like this smaller drawing of me. The artist is Heejo Kim:

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Warm and sincere thanks to all the artists for their kindness toward us models and their expressions of appreciation for what we do, to the class monitors who did a terrific job, to Graham Nickson for his graciousness and inspiration, to his outstanding assistants Sarah and Rachel, to my old Spring Studio pal Audrey who was among the marathoners and made me laugh every day, to all the models for rocking it like the pros they are, and, last but definitely not least, very special thanks to Roxy, who is beautiful inside and out, and whom I’ve been privileged to know for years on my art modeling odyssey.

Hope you all enjoyed this little photo essay from your NYC art model muse.
I’ll see you right back here on Saturday, September 24th, when we’re gonna do one of these celebrations again. Until then, have a fantastic week everyone!

Connecting the Dots

The month of July, now coming to an end, heaped a load of emotional turmoil upon me. I suppose, in a cruel joke sort of way, it’s fitting that it occurred in the month of my birthday. A week ago, I turned 48 years old, and though I would have much preferred to celebrate it downing margaritas and dancing til dawn, I spent most of it sloshing around in the morass. I wish it was possible to drown the monsters, to forcefully hold their heads underwater and bring an end, once for all, to the ogres of loneliness, regret, and self-doubt. But they are, I fear, undrownable.

As I glumly took a walk in the park on my birthday – that hot, sticky day, July 22nd, having been day one of the New York City heat wave – a turn of phrase that had impacted me once before poked its way again into my consciousness when I strolled past the softball fields: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”. That is Steve Jobs, from his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University. As someone who tends to beat herself up about past decisions and questionable choices, I am astonished at Jobs’ remarkable ability to spin all the events of his life, including the failures, the ugly battles, and humiliations, into mere spokes on the wheel of a larger, fulfilling destiny. I’m astonished because it is an art I have not mastered. Not even close. I mean, this is a man who declares that, in hindsight, dropping out of college was one of his best decisions … to a class of recent college graduates! Who else but Steve Jobs could get away with that? This was also a man who, in 2005 when he delivered this address, was much closer to death than he knew.

My art modeling work is done for the rest of the summer, except for a weekly portrait class on Long Island through August. But in the weeks leading up now, New York’s art community graciously sent me off into my hiatus with much needed expressions of appreciation for what I do. It was wonderful. After every July gig came an enthusiastic verbal validation of my modeling. Where did this come from? From the ladies at the 92nd St Y to the diverse group of sketchers at Battery Park and even to the high schoolers in the pre-college summer art program at FIT, I was treated to the most generous words; “You are so fun to draw!”, “Your poses are beautiful!”, “You’re the best model I’ve ever seen!”, “It’s been a pleasure working with you”. Now, I’m not entirely convinced that I’m deserving of such praise, especially given my dejected mood of late, but gosh am I ever grateful. And it offset the emotional turmoil I alluded to at the start of this post. I could not have needed those complimentary words more than I did this past month. Like a gallon of water for a thirsty soul.

I’ve blogged more than a few times about the profound value art modeling holds for me, most recently in this post from May. So I think I may have actualized at least one of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech themes; allowing your inner voice to lead you to your passion and “find what you love”. Passions are, truly, what propel us through our lives, push us through adversity, and imbue us with a sense of purpose. The purpose for most of us, unlike Steve Jobs, may not be grand or revolutionary or trailblazing, but it’s purpose all the same. Obviously we can’t all possess the creative vision and business acumen of Apple’s co-founder, but we can all answer inspiration’s call.

I still have to work on the “connecting the dots” bit however. When I reflect backwards, as Steve Jobs proclaimed, I can’t see it in the collected experiences of my own life. The dots just aren’t connecting. Yes I made ONE good decision ten years ago which introduced me to a passion that had been dwelling inside me. But all the rest? I can’t piece it together like a triumphant puzzle the way Jobs did, no matter how hard I try. Maybe, someday, it will all make sense to me. But not now.

Sketch of me .. still reaching, still actively standing, still stepping forward … by Giovanni Lipari:

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Welcome to Minerva’s Drawing Studio

Some of you may remember that I blogged many months ago about the imminent closing of Minerva Durham’s life drawing studio on Spring Street in the SoHo section of Manhattan. And longtime readers know well that Spring Studio has always been, hands down, my favorite place to model. I have since mentioned, in a post or two, that Minerva has found a new space in which to set up shop, and do what she does better than anybody: keep daily, open life drawing alive in New York City. A few readers have requested a formal introduction to the new space and I’m happy to oblige! First, a brief homage to the old Spring Studio with a photo of its distinctive red door, and the staircase descending into the basement studio we loved and depended on for so many years. Farewell 64 Spring Street. You are missed.

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And now ladies and gentleman, the sign and door of the new incarnation, renamed Minerva’s Drawing Studio! Broome Street, in the heart of Chinatown, just around the corner from the Grand St subway station. The excellent dumpling shop around the corner on Eldridge Street is enjoying a burst of new business customers from snacking artists!

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The Broome St studio space differs from the Spring Street space in two significant ways: it is above ground on street level, and it is blessed with natural light that bathes the room through tall windows overlooking a private courtyard. Upon entry, visitors are greeted by this marvelous large cityscape painted many years ago by Minerva Durham herself. Edward Hopper would be envious!

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Minerva has held onto the trusty half-circle arrangement with two “tiers” of seating for the artists to choose from. That’s me relaxing on the platform during the long break last Tuesday. Thank you Bruce for taking this photo!

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And I took this photo looking above from the platform; the model’s lighting, and I really like the ceiling tile design. Lovely detail.

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During the move between studios Minerva had to sell off or throw out a lot of her accumulated things, as the new studio is smaller and has less storage space. But this guy could never be left behind – an essential player in Minerva’s anatomy lessons:

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I was on the modeling schedule at the Spring Street studio into its last days, and I was on the schedule at the new studio in its first days … a transition that has defined for me – professionally and personally – the supreme sense of loyalty, purpose, and belonging that I’ve always felt from Minerva’s mission, her circle, and her stewardship. As an artist’s model, it is an honor to be aligned with this journey, and this courageous, inspiring woman I admire.

At the opening reception for the new studio back in January, Minerva spoke to the crowd and welcomed everyone to the new space. In the true spirit of this community, a man took the opportunity to sketch Minerva as she spoke:

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A pencil and pastel sketch of me by Chuck Connelly, from last week:

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And from the same session, a quick sketch by Jerilyn Jurinek. I was in a reclined-pose kind of mood that day 🙂

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