Monday, December 17, 2012

The Fly

Yesterday was thoroughly exhausting.  I didn't sleep well Saturday night.  Sunday morning, I did double-duty childcare at church.  I was with the infants for the 9:15 service; then I went down to a room of one-year-olds for the 10:45.  Once I got done at church, I drove over to Dallas and modeled for another session at Oil & Cotton.  It was similar to the one I did there last week.  The glass double doors were still uncovered, and I was visible to anyone who came into the shop.  There happened to have been three customers in the store when my first break arrived.  I put on my robe, went out into the shop, and tried to convince them that they should all sign up for the next figure drawing class.  I don't know if any of them did, but I sincerely hope to see new faces in that class in January (if it makes).  When I came back into the studio, I told the instructor that I was trying to sell her class, and she seemed appreciative.

I do like having these open sessions.  With the draping over the doors, it seems like we're back there doing something that we don't want anyone to see, as if we should be ashamed of it.  Figure drawing shouldn't be like that, especially in a center that caters to artists.  As long as the models are willing, they should treat and promote it just like any of their other classes.  Of course, the model's comfort level in regards to outside eyes should always take precedence.

The class did have one other visitor, this one rather unwelcome.  I was bothered by a fly at various times throughout the three hours hours.  We have had a warmer than normal December, although we did have a stretch of cold days last week.  Our morning low was down to 25 degrees on one of those days.  But apparently, it did not stay cold long enough to kill the bugs, and our afternoon highs were back up in the 70s by this past weekend.

The fly would land on part of my body, then slowly crawl around.  I tried to stay as still as possible, but I had to break pose at one point when it landed on my genitals and shoo it away.  We ended the class with a long reclining pose, and the fly buzzed around my face several times.  I had to make a conscious effort to breath in through my nose and out through my mouth.  I kept thinking about the scene in the 1981 movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where a fly could be seen entering the mouth of actor Paul Freeman.  I certainly did not want to inhale that fly and gag while on the model stand...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nude Modeling and Significant Others

The poorly attended drawing sessions that I have done lately prompted me to wonder what class was my best attended.  So I went back into the archives in my head and came up with two, both at the Art Students League of New York.  They were evening sessions in the spring of 1993.  One of them had 40 to 50 students in the studio, but there were two different model stands across the room from each other.  I only had about half of that number drawing me and the other half drawing the other model.  It was kind of strange looking across the room between poses to see what was going on over there.  I've done quite a number of classes where I was one of two models on the same platform, but that was the only time that I can remember being across the room from another model.

The other session was in a different room at the Art Students League, and I believe it was a Friday night open lab.  There were at least thirty people drawing, and I was on a platform in the middle of a big circle.  I was an emergency replacement model that night.  I had been told that openings sometimes come up at the last minute, so I had gone into the ASL office hoping to get a gig.  I sat next to a petite blonde lady who was hoping for the same thing.  The guy came in from the open lab asking if any models were available, and the girl behind the desk motioned to us.  He asked the blonde if she did figure modeling, but she replied in a foreign accent that she only wanted portrait.  So, I got the gig.  The strange thing was, that petite blonde walked into the class and started drawing me after I had begun posing.  About an hour into the session, someone from the office asked her to leave since she hadn't paid the fee to draw.  I never saw her again.  I have always figured that she was interested in nude modeling but was hesitant and wanted to see a class.  I wonder if she ever did go through with it.

I only lived in New York for seven months, from September 1992 to April 1993.  Of that time, I only modeled about a month, and all of my New York gigs were at the Art Students League.  I was married to my first wife at the time, and she did not approve of my modeling.

She and I met in 1988.  I was a 22-year-old college student, and she was a 35-year-old paralegal.  One of the things that she found interesting about me was the fact that I was a nude model.  We got married in May of 1989.  Once we were married, she insisted that I quit modeling, stating that my body was now for her eyes only.  Looking back, we should have talked more about my modeling before we were married, because I was not willing to quit.  And after we were married, I should have been honest about that unwillingness.  But I wasn't.  I was still working on my Bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington, and I had a good rapport with the figure drawing instructor.  So I modeled and just didn't tell her.

I graduated from UTA in 1990 and then went on to get a Masters degree from the University of North Texas in 1992.  I cannot walk onto a college campus, even one I've never visited before, without walking through the art department.  This was true twenty-something years ago when I was a college student, and it's still true today.  Being a student and on campus every day, the temptation to model, to do what I love doing, was just too great.  I modeled at UTA and UNT, as well as a couple of other places where I had established myself as a reliable model.  And every March and April, I tried to figure out a way to complete our tax return without her seeing all the W2's from the different colleges.

After I got the Masters degree, I took a job with the New York Public Library.  My ex was hesitant to move to New York, but I assured her that it would only be temporary, three years at most.  I enjoyed many aspects of living and working there.  I was assigned to the Melrose Branch which is in the Bronx, not too far from Yankee Stadium.  I used to walk around the Stadium on my lunch break and think to myself, "Hey, Babe Ruth used to work here.  And Lou Gehrig.  And Joe Dimaggio."  On days off, I looked for any opportunity to go to midtown and walk.  I loved seeing Columbus Circle, Times Square, the Empire State Building, etc.  I walked all over Manhattan.

My ex had problems adjusting.  She was close to her family in Texas, and this was the first time she had been separated from them.  Living in New York was expensive.  There was constant noise.  And the weather was horrible.  I like sunshine and warm weather, and we got precious little of that during our time in New York.  After six months, she had had enough.  She hadn't found a job, and was, frankly, afraid to get out and look.

We could barely afford transportation back to Texas, which left the possibility of just picking up and moving out of the question.  So, I put her on a Greyhound back to Fort Worth in the middle of March.  The plan was, she would stay with her parents until she could find a job and an apartment we could afford.  She would then rent a truck and drive it to New York to get me and our stuff.

I wound up having five weeks to myself in New York, and that's when I started modeling at the Art Students League.  Needless to say, our marriage ended a few years later.  It had to; there was too much dishonesty between us.  Not long after we split, she told me that she knew that I was modeling but that she was afraid to say anything.  The lessons I learned from that marriage are not to expect a person to change as a condition for a relationship and to never lie to your partner/spouse.

I am blessed beyond belief now.  Jennifer and I married in March 1999, and we have a good relationship.  She is very supportive of my modeling even though it sometimes keeps me out late at night.  I am quite content with my life and my modeling now, although looking at the Art Students League website makes me wish I could go spend a few weeks in New York and model, model, model...

Sunday, December 9, 2012


After the disappointment of yesterday's modeling gig, today I had one of those sessions that I didn't want to end.  It was a session of the six-week course called "Line and the Figure" at Oil and Cotton.  The class is taught by a young artist named Gina, and she has three students enrolled in the current class.  Only two were present today.

The front part of Oil and Cotton consists of two rooms.  The main entrance goes into the retail shop area where various artists' supplies are sold.  Next to that is the workroom where the figure drawing classes are held.  A set of  multi-paned glass double doors separates the two rooms, kind of like the ones in this picture.

Prior to the figure drawing class, there was a big mercantile event held in the work room.  The drapes for the exterior windows and to the double doors had been removed.  Once the mercantile people cleared out, we could only find enough drapes for the exterior windows.  Oil and Cotton is owned by two women, and at 2:00, the scheduled start time for the figure drawing class, only one of those owners was in the building.  Gina and I talked to her about the lack of draping, and the co-owner said that nothing else was scheduled and that we should be fine without the draping on the double doors.  The co-owner also said that the small possibility existed that someone might come in to buy art supplies and that if that happened, she would just give them a warning that a live nude model might be visible as the customers came in.  Gina and I were fine with that.  Oil and Cotton was officially closed on Sunday even though the doors were unlocked and the co-owner was behind the desk more than willing to do business.  So we started the class without out the draping on the double doors.  There is always a feeling of liberation whenever I take of the robe at the start of a class, and this feeling was amplified today with the absence of that draping.

At some point during the three hours, two young women came in shopping for art supplies.  At the time, I happened to be in a pose where I could see out into the shopping area, and I saw both of the women take glances at me.  When they left, they walked by the draped exterior windows, and I could hear them laughing and giggling.  A couple of people later came in to work in the printmaking shop which is in the back of Oil and Cotton, adjacent to the work area where I was modeling.

This was at least the fourth time I've modeled at Oil and Cotton. and there always seemed to be a lack of privacy in the drawing room.  In past sessions, Gina was always quite diligent about making sure the drapes over those double doors were clipped shut with clothes pins.  But even with this, gaps in the drapery existed, and the sounds carried very well throughout all the rooms of the old building.

I really loved the openness of the session today.  At the break, after the two customers had come into the shop and left laughing, I put on my robe and went out to ask the co-owner if she had tried to sign them up for the next figure drawing session.  The co-owner laughed and said that those two hadn't been quite ready for that.  I told her that if anyone came in who seemed even remotely interested in figure drawing to please show them the class, even if I was in a pose.  Gina only has three students for her current class, and the lack of attendees at yesterday's session at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center has made me want to be an ambassador for the discipline of drawing from the live human figure.  I want to do everything possible to promote and inform people that drawing from a nude model is one of the most worthwhile studies one can undertake in the arts.  That's why I write this blog and why I cherished the opportunity to do the session in March at the Creative Arts Center and the sketch night in April at the Kettle Art Gallery.

I told the co-owner of Oil and Cotton that I loved modeling without the draping on the double doors because, a) I could see the clock in on the wall in the shopping area, and b) it seemed to de-stigmatize and normalize figure drawing.  So many places hold figure drawing sessions behind closed and (sometimes) locked doors, away from the view of the general public.  The sessions at the Fort Worth Creative Arts Center are held in a vault in the basement where the public never goes.  During my sessions there, I sometimes wonder how many people in the general art-loving public even knew that there was a figure drawing session going on in the building. It seems like artists (at least in my area) really have to work to find figure drawing opportunities. And I don't know how many times I've modeled for a group and heard one person say, "I would have started figure drawing a long time ago if I knew how much fun it was."

I realize that the insistence on privacy is done out of respect for the models and that most models appreciate this.  I know that I would have been mortified by being seen by someone outside the regular figure drawing class when I was first starting out as a model.  But after 28 years of modeling for hundreds of classes and thousands of students, I can easily dismiss such concerns.  I want more people to participate in figure drawing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I don't know how to make that happen without a little promotion of the existing sessions, even if that means opening myself up to more exposure.  Another reason for insisting on privacy is to not offend anyone who might stumble into the class unaware.  People in America seem to have a problem with nudity, even when such nudity is natural and non-sexual.  I figure when people are warned about the presence of a nude model and enter anyway, as happened today, the possibility of such offense is negated.

Perhaps I'm overreacting to the lack of attendance of the sessions I've modeled for lately, but I like the fact that I get a chance to be seen and raise awareness that there are figure drawing sessions in the area.  I was somewhat disappointed that the two customers at Oil and Cotton left laughing and giggling.  But as I thought about it, I realized that laughter was a common reaction to something that is rarely seen.  I hope for the day when seeing a nude model (or any instance of natural, non-sexual nudity) is not such a rare occurrence.  Counting the co-owner of Oil & Cotton, the customers who came in looking for art supplies, the people heading into the printmaking lab, and the people who came at the end of the drawing session to finish dismantling the big mercantile event that had been held, I was seen nude in pose by seven people who weren't in the figure drawing class.  If one additional person (one of them or a person that one of them talks to) signs up for the next figure drawing class, any exposure on my part will have been well worth it.

I have been booked for the next drawing session at Oil and Cotton, one week from today.  I hope the draping for those double doors remains lost.  I would love a repeat of today's experience.  And I really hope to see more people in the next figure drawing class there in January...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Joy to the World

I just finished a disappointing drawing session at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.  Actually, the session was fine; the disappointment was from the attendance, or lack thereof.  When the Texas Artists Coalition started doing Saturday sessions at the FWCAC earlier this year, I was the model for that first one, and they had at least ten artists drawing.  They planned on holding the sessions two Saturdays a month.  Since that first one, attendance has fallen sharply.

I got put on the schedule for the December 8th session a little while back.  When the TAC newletter was sent out Friday evening, it contained the following info:  "Saturday, December 8, 2012; 1PM - 4PM: SATURDAY Life Drawing This session HAS NOT MADE YET - please sign up NOW or it will be cancelled."  There weren't any more e-mails after that, so when I called the center Saturday morning, I was told that the session was still on.  Once I got there, I stopped by the office on my way to the drawing studio, and the lady told me that three or four artists had signed up.  She said that they had actually signed up just before that newsletter had gone out.  Unfortunately, only one artist, an older gentleman who had drawn me several times, actually showed up.  I can't help but think that the statement in the newsletter about the possible session cancellation might have deterred the other people.  The one guy who did attend said that he had called ahead just to make sure the class was still on.

The session carried on with just the one artist.  In an adjoining area of the building, a children's choir was rehearsing for an upcoming performance.  During our time there, they worked on only one song, "Joy to the World."  It was as if the song was on a continuous loop; we heard it over and over.  The kids sounded good, but I wished I could have heard some of the other selections.  At one point late in the session, a lady, who I assume was one of the people in charge of the children's choir, walked into the drawing studio while I was in a pose.  "Excuse me," she said quickly and backed out.  "That's OK," I said.  I felt like telling her to get some paper and draw since the room was so empty, but she was long gone by the time I could say anything else.

The guy drawing me said that he was going to talk to the director about possibly underwriting the drawing sessions so that they could be held every week.  He and I both agreed that doing Saturday sessions only every other week in addition to the regular Tuesday morning sessions only created confusion as to when a class was actually being held.  People tended to forget or not know which Saturday was a drawing Saturday.  We both hope that having the sessions consistently every Saturday afternoon would foster increased attendance.  And the increased number of sessions would also result in more work for us models.  I hope that the director will consent to the schedule change and that artists will actually show up.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Health and Color

The calendar says December, but it hasn't felt much like December in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Our highs have been in the 70s and 80s for the past week.  I'm not complaining of course; I love the warmer weather.  My new dieting and exercise regimen is off to a good start, and the warm weather makes it easier to get out and walk or run.  I take two "smoke breaks" a day at work even though I don't smoke; instead I walk around the building a couple of times.  And during lunch, I go to a nearby shopping mall and walk laps.  I started running in the evenings to get ready for the Cowtown 5K at the end of February.  I've also lifted weights a few times in the past couple of weeks in the exercise room in the building where I work.  Of course, since my job is ending, I'll need to find a new place to work out.  My church has a small fitness center which I can join for seventy dollars a year, and I'll probably just go ahead and do that.

While I am a lot more careful about what I eat, I'm not "on a diet."  I've been having a protein/fruit shake in the mornings (I'd have to ask my wife for the recipe), and I've eaten a lot of salads and high protein/low fat foods.  Grilled salmon has become a favorite entree of mine.  And I'm staying away from sweets and anything fried.  I've also cut out sodas, even diet sodas, in favor of water.  From November 23rd through December 2nd, I lost five pounds, and I feel great.

Modeling has been slow for the past couple of weeks.  I had a gig scheduled for this past Sunday, but that got moved to this Sunday.  I've also got a Saturday afternoon session at the Fort Worth Creative Arts Center, so it'll be a full weekend for me.

I did a session in Keller on November 14th that ended in a one hour pose.  I took this shot of a pastel of that pose by an artist named Linda.  I love seeing myself in color, even if she did capture the gray in my hair...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting My Head Examined

I got the opportunity to model for a portrait anatomy class last night at the Texas Academy of Figurative Art.  This was my second session for this course, and from the lectures I've heard to start each class, it seems to be a pretty intensive study of the anatomy of the head.  In fact, I joked with friends before that class that I was going to get my head examined.

Portrait modeling and figure modeling have some distinct differences, and I have to confess that I find modeling for portraits more taxing.  The most obvious difference is, of course, clothing.  Portrait models are fully clothed, while figure modeling is usually done in the nude.  When doing a figure class, I'm aware that my entire body is being studied, and while I will focus my eyes on a certain point in the room, I usually feel free to look about at times (without moving my head, of course).  When modeling for a portrait class, I'm aware that the focus of every artist in the room is my head; therefore, I try to keep my eyes on one fixed point and not move them.  This takes a lot more concentration, especially when my contact lenses start to feel like they are sticking to my eyeballs.

People who have never modeled (or just don't take their modeling job seriously) might think that, since artists are only studying the head, the model ought to be free to move his or her arms and legs throughout the pose. That's true to some extent, but I try to keep any movement to a minimum.  Moving a leg can affect the position of the head, and if the head moves, the pose (not to mention the lights and shadows) is changed.  So I treat each pose as a full body pose, even if the artists are just studying one part of my body.

Since I treat each pose as a full pose, clothing can sometimes affect my comfort.  When modeling nude for a figure class, my physical comfort is determined solely by muscle fatigue and blood circulation.  When modeling clothed, the neckline of my shirt, the waistline of my pants, the tightness of my socks or undergarments, etc. can all be contributors to the comfort level of a pose.

Last night's class was a relatively short one, only two hours, with just an hour and a half of posing/drawing time, and yet, I left feeling more tired than I do after a three hour figure session.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Job Uncertainty

My full-time job is coming to an end.  The company for which I have worked for the past two and a half years, Union Drilling, Inc., was purchased by another drilling company based in Houston.  Our division offices should stay relatively intact, but our Fort Worth corporate office will be closing.  I have unequivocally declined to move to Houston, so I have been notified that my last day will be December 31, 2012.  I'll get my regular year-end bonus, and I'll get a nice severance amount.  Between that, unemployment compensation, and modeling gigs, I shouldn't even feel any pain for at least three months, although I doubt that it will take me that long to find another job.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to getting some daytime modeling assignments in January, and maybe into February.  I've already talked to Ron at the Texas Academy of Figurative Art about a multi-week long pose.  While I don't look forward to the discomfort of such a long pose, I am excited about being a part of a long term project by a group of realist painters and artists.  The following is a drawing of me in a couple of 30-45 minute poses by a student at TAFA. 

If that level of detail can be achieved in such short poses, I'm excited to see what they can do with a long project.  Because the students at TAFA capture such detail, I'm using the prospect of modeling there as motivation to change my diet and exercise regimen.  I hope to lose at least fifteen pounds by the time this project starts, not that it will matter to the artists; they are happy to draw whatever body takes the stand.  But it will matter to me.  I'm anticipating some amazing work by Ron and these students, and I'd like to look my best for posterity...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Church and Modeling

Before this entry, there are 25 posts on this blog.  My stats show that of those 25 posts, one receives a much higher "hit" count than all the others.  In fact, the hits on "A Christian Model" outnumber the hits on the 24 other posts combined.  Why is that?  When I look at the search keywords used to send people to my blog and that particular blog post, I see such things as:  "naked crucifixion," "crucified naked," "public nude crucifixion," etc.  While I will never know if the majority of people making these searches are doing so in a desire to learn more about Jesus Christ or merely a (somewhat disturbing) fascination with torture and execution, I hope that all visitors find something enlightening in what I wrote back in February.

I was recently scheduled to model for a drop-in session at Oil and Cotton, a relatively new artist venture.  In an attempt to boost their attendance (because better attended figure drawing sessions tend to spark even more figure drawing sessions which means more work for us models), I invited a few people on my Facebook list. I invited only those whom I knew to be serious artists. Many of those had drawn me before. Of the ones who had never drawn me, one was a lady from my church. She has a degree in art and recently started her own art school for children. Her response was: " lol I would totally go but I cannot go if you are modeling. Im not squeamish but I just can't see my friend or my friends husband nekkid lol." I told her that I was a professional and that it wouldn't bother me, but she replied: " haha i'm sure its not but it would be weird for me. I would consider going though because I really love figure drawing. It is challenging and beautiful and every time I do it it turns out differently. love that." Seeing that she loves figure drawing, I made one last attempt to get her to go, but I got this rather emphatic reply: "Maybe I was a little unclear. I mean this in the nicest way possible. It would be somewhat offensive to see my friend, my husbands friend nude. I have not figure drawn since college days!"  She wound up not going, of course.  I continue to be disappointed with the church's view on simple nudity and on my part-time job.

Keeping with that theme, I did recently add a new blog to the roll at the right side of the page.  My Chains Are Gone is a website designed by Christian ministers to help those struggling with an addiction to pornography.  I highly recommend reading the articles to everyone, but especially to those who view life drawing of the nude and Christianity as somehow incompatible.  The articles explain very eloquently and with scriptural references that they are not.  I plan on "liking" and commenting on posts on the My Chains Are Gone Facebook page in the hopes that some of my friends from church will see it.  Maybe some of them will even begin taking a view that seeing nudity, even the nudity of our fellow church members, is not "somewhat offensive."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Have To" Versus "Get To"

I was having a conversation with someone the other day, and when I told her that I modeled for art classes as a part time job, she seemed somewhat interested in doing it herself.  It seems like everyone is searching for a way to make ends meet in the current economy.  Once she expressed some interest, she asked me, "Do you have to pose nude?"  My answer at the time was, "Yes, usually."  That seemed to kill her interest...

But when I thought about it later (while doing a two hour pose at Oil and Cotton), I realized that I have never thought of modeling nude as a "have to."  It has always been a "get to" for me.  I get to model nude.  In the art studio, the teacher and artists all have to wear clothes because of the law, the rules of the college, university, or art center, and/or the expectations of society.  But I, as the model, get an exemption from that.  I'm expected to be nude.  I get to be nude.  I consider it the most wonderful of freedoms.  Free from clothing, from covering, from disguises.  Is that what makes the difference between those of us who continue to model over many years versus those who model for only a year or two and then move on?  And are artists/art students able to tell the difference between the "have to's" and the "get to's"?  I've heard it said that artists really prefer a model who appears comfortable over one who seems uncomfortable.  Is that why there seem to be so few of us who are suited for art modeling as a long-term job?

Over the years, I have had a great many people tell me that they would like to try modeling for art classes.  Of those, I know of only two who went ahead and actually modeled for at least one session (and one of those had grown up in a nudist family).  In the current climate of gymnophobia that seems to have the United States in its grip, those of us who are truly comfortable in our natural, God-created state, seem rare.

Nothing profound here; just some random thoughts that passed through my mind during that two-hour pose I just completed...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6th

November 6th has always been a milestone date in my modeling career.  It was on this date in 1984 that I modeled for my first life drawing class.  Modeling Session Number One was for a Tuesday night drop-in session at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  I had attended that session as an "artist" a couple of times before when I had been considering modeling, and I had given my name and number to the moderator as a potential model.  He called me just an hour or two before that session was due to start, just as I was about to go eat at the cafeteria, and asked me to model.  After swallowing the lump in my throat, I said OK.  My appetite suddenly gone, I took a long walk around campus and arrived at the art studio just a bit early.  The moderator wasn't able to attend, but there were two ladies there to draw.  I was somewhat relieved that it would be such a small class.  A more detailed description of that experience can be found here.

Just like that November 6th 28 years ago, today is a presidential election day.  In 1984, Ronald Reagan easily won re-election over Walter Mondale.  Even though I was only 18 years old, I was a big Reagan fan.  Before receiving that first model booking, I had been looking forward to sitting back in the TV room at my dorm and watching the election returns, confident that Reagan would win.  I remember really liking him way back when I was 10 years old, watching his concession speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention after Gerald Ford had won the nomination.  I guess I've always favored lower taxes and smaller government.

This year's election presents something of a dilemma for me.  I neither like nor trust either of the major party candidates.  I voted for the Libertarian Party candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.  I don't agree with him on everything, but I've had a chance to meet him and talk with him and believe that he is, by far, the most qualified and best suited candidate for the job.

Realistically, I know that either Romney or Obama is going to win the presidency.  And in my state, it is a forgone conclusion that Romney will win the 36 electoral votes up for grabs here.  So my vote for Governor Johnson amounts to a mere protest vote--a protest against the ever-increasing power of the state, the status quo, and the lack of a trustworthy Republican candidate.  And yet, of the two, I have to root for Romney.  The Obama presidency has been an abysmal failure, and considering the damage over the last four years to our economy and to the limits on government that were specified in the Constitution, I cringe at the thought of what an Obama who doesn't have to worry about getting re-elected would do.  And when I really think about it, I'm amazed that Obama has a chance of winning, given the current state of our country and of the economy.  I guess that is just a testament to how lackluster the Republican candidate really is.

But the best thing about Election Day is that tomorrow the political ads will all be gone from the airwaves.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emergency and Exposure

Every once in a great while, I will get a call to model immediately for a class due to a model no-show, a mix-up in booking, or a teacher or coordinator just forgetting to schedule a model.  Such an instance happened last night on my way home from my regular job.  I'd already had a busy weekend modeling after a Saturday afternoon drop-in session at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and a Sunday drop-in session at Oil and Cotton in Dallas.  Modeling for a third day in a row was not on my radar, especially after putting in a full Monday at my day job.

The call came at about 6:20.  A mix-up had occurred, and the session organizer needed a model for the 6:00 to 9:00 long pose session at the aforementioned Fort Worth Community Arts Center.  I never turn down modeling when I don't have anything else scheduled, so I took the gig, altered my route, and made it to the Arts Center at around 6:35.  The only problem was that I didn't have my modeling bag with me.  No robe, no towel to sit on, no slippers, no timer, nothing.

My son and I had gone to the Texas Rangers' playoff game with the Baltimore Orioles about three weeks earlier, and upon entering the Ballpark, we had each been given small rally towels to wave.  I still had those two rally towels in the car, so I grabbed them and scurried into the Arts Center.  I figured I could sit on them rather than the black felt material that they use to drape the model stand.  That stuff might be good for theater, but it's not good for bare skin.  Besides that, who knew how long it had been since that black felt stuff had been washed, and I was fairly certain that no other nude model had sat down on my Texas Rangers rally towels.

I was moving so quickly as I entered the drawing studio that I didn't think about much else.  I went to the back corner of the room, stripped down to nothing, grabbed my rally towels, and sauntered over to the model platform.  Once I got into the pose, I held it for about thirty minutes.  It can sometimes be a trick to go from moving as quickly as possible to being motionless in a pose.  As the hand I was leaning on started to go numb, I thought about the upcoming break and the fact that I didn't have a robe to put on.  My clothes were across the room, and they were my business casual office clothes, not the shorts and t-shirt I could throw on easily.  My options would be a) stay nude during the breaks, or b) run across the room, put my clothes on for two or three minutes, then take them off and run back across the room to get back into the pose, or c) run across the room on the first break, get dressed for a couple of minutes, then get undressed next to the model stand in front of everybody, which would mean getting dressed and undressed in front of them for each of the remaining breaks.  I decided to go with option a.

The break came, and I got up and walked around the platform, shaking the stiffness out of my hands and letting the blood recirculate to my butt and legs (it was a seated pose).  Some of the artists talked to me anyway while I was stretching, as if they understood that I was robeless because I had been called in on zero notice.  It felt just a bit strange at first, but I quickly got used to it.  It's one thing to be nude in a pose, but it's another to be nude, in motion, and viewed as a person rather than a subject.  It got to be just a little bit exhilarating.

Once I got back into the pose, I thought about the tradition of models wearing robes on breaks and about attitudes toward nudity in general.  I have almost always been comfortable nude in a variety of situations, especially in art classes, but I wear the robe in consideration of the artists and art students.  Even during that session, when I didn't have the robe, I kept my distance just because I didn't want to offend any of the attendees.  What would an artist think if I had just walked up and stood right beside her, looking at her work, and striking up a conversation while I was nude?  I'm sure answers to that question would vary considerably depending on the person involved.  So it's always better to play it safe and only be nude when necessary, no matter how personally liberating I find nudity to be.

I agreed to stay until 9:30 since the scheduled 6:00-9:00 session got started so late.  They were paying me three hours anyway, so I figured I might as well put three hours in (especially since each artist had paid for a three hour session).  By the time we got done, there were only two artists left drawing (or painting), and I realized I had spent the entire three hours completely exposed, without ever donning any kind of covering.  I was somewhat sad to have to get dressed, especially in my office clothes.  But I did...

I will occasionally look for t-shirts to wear when I go model.  Jen bought me one a few years ago that says, "I'm naked under this t-shirt."  I got another one last year that says "I'd rather be naked."  I found this shirt this morning, and I absolutely love the quote, attributed to Michelangelo, on it:  "What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?"  I don't buy many of the shirts that I see when shopping, but I may have to get this one...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I haven't been modeling as much this semester compared to the last couple of years, but I do have not one but two figure sessions coming up this weekend.  I did a costumed painting session a couple of weeks ago in my vintage base ball uniform.  This watercolor was painted that night by a lady named Judy...

Speaking of vintage base ball, I played in my second game on October 20th, and my quads are still sore from sprinting around the bases.  I love playing though, and I give it everything I've got when I'm out there.  But this 46-year-old body just isn't what it used to be.

A friend of mine recently posted a photograph of me with my shirt off and muscles flexed, taken in the summer of 1986.  At the time, I had only been modeling for art classes for less than two years.  I've often reflected on those early days of modeling.  My perception of myself back then was that I was so skinny that the art students must have only had skin and bones to draw.  When I saw this old picture, I was surprised by how good I looked.  I had much more muscle definition than I remember having.  And I'm really jealous of the size of my waistline then as compared to now...

I do remember modeling for a drawing class at Texas Wesleyan University back around the time this photo was taken, and a young lady in the class asked me if I lifted weights.  At the time, I thought she was kidding; that skinny-kid self-image I had was too ingrained for me to take her question seriously.  Now that I look at this photo of myself, more than a quarter of a century later, I can really envy the body I had back then.  I only wish I could see some of the artwork done of me at the time...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vintage Base Ball

This past Saturday I played in my first vintage base ball game, for a club called the Farmers Branch Mustangs.  The team actually falls under the management of the Farmers Branch Historical Park.  The team plays games under the rules that were written and adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players in March of 1860.  We also try to play with uniforms and equipment that players of the era would have used.  This means that, in the field, we play without gloves.  Bare-handed.  The base balls are a bit different in that they are a little bit softer than a modern baseball and with a single piece of leather instead of two.  Here's a picture...

The bats are thinner at the barrel but thicker around the handle than the bats of today.  There are no ball and strike counts, so there are no walks.  A swing and a miss is a strike, and three strikes is an out.  A foul ball is not a strike.  A foul tip that is caught by the catcher, either in the air or on one bounce is an out no matter how many strikes there are.  Any ball hit, fair or foul, if caught in the air or on one bounce results in the batter being out.  I really like that one bounce rule when I’m playing in the field since we aren't wearing gloves.  The pitchers have to throw the ball underhanded which makes things easier on the batter (called the striker) and on the bare-handed catcher (and I played four innings at catcher this past Saturday). 

I've always been a fan of baseball history, and participating on this team makes me feel more connected to that history.

So what does this have to do with art modeling?  Well, I've already arranged one modeling session in my vintage uniform for a group of portrait painters in a couple of weeks.  Here's a picture of me in uniform from Saturday's game.

The Farmers Branch uniform is more of an early 20th-century look.  The 19th century uniforms had high collars, and some of them had what looked like shields on the front of the shirts.  I wish the Farmers Branch team had those shield uniforms since they look really cool.

I had so much fun playing last weekend that I will definitely be a part of the team in future games.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Vacation

We still haven't heard anything from our insurance about Elijah's HGH treatments, and I haven't been aggressive about looking for a more regular part-time job.  I have modeled more this summer than in past summers.  I've done two Saturday life drawing sessions with the Visual Arts Guild of Frisco and a couple of other Saturdays with the Texas Artists Coalition in Fort Worth.  I've got another gig next Wednesday in Keller, TX originating from a Meetup group I'm running.

My full-time job has me feeling a little burnt out, and I am really looking forward to our family vacation.  We'll be leaving two weeks from tomorrow, flying to Chicago (the first airplane flight for both of our boys) and coming back the following Sunday.  The boys then start school the very next day after our return.

We should have a good time on the trip though.  There are several eating establishments that I want to hit (Gino's East, Harry Caray's, and Ditka's among them).  We'll also be seeing a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and my older son and I will be heading to a White Sox game that night (two ballparks in one day for us diehard baseball fans!).  Another big item on our agenda is a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.  I've been tempted to scour the web looking for Chicago drawing sessions to model for while I'm there, but I have so far resisted that temptation.  The trip will be family time.  Although if I were going to Chicago alone...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Here's a post that's completely unrelated to art or art modeling, but I'm going to post it anyway.  I was saddened to hear that Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space passed away yesterday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  My younger son Elijah and I went to hear her speak at the University of Texas at Arlington in February 2010.  Elijah has always loved things having to do with space.  I've taken him to the Johnson Space Center in Houston on three separate occasions over the past five years.  For the lecture that night, he went in an astronaut uniform, and I was able to get these two pictures of him with Sally Ride.  Rest in peace Sally.  What a great trip you are on now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lucian Freud at the Modern

I should have blogged about this three weeks ago, but the Lucian Freud exhibit opened at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on the first of July.  That was a Sunday, so, after church, I took the wife and the two kids down to have a look at it.  It was an amazing exhibit, and yes, Naked Man With Rat was part of the collection.  It was a little surreal, looking at the original painting 25 or so years after emulating that pose in a drawing class.  It is a haunting piece, which is why it has remained in my mind for so many years.  But it was just one of many amazing pieces in the collection.  Here are just a few examples from the exhibit:

Needless to say, Jen and I enjoyed the exhibit a lot more than our boys did.  Seth, our 12-year-old, was uncomfortable and ready to go after about ten minutes.  He has developed an aversion to nudity over the past couple of years, and I'm sure he is not at all pleased that his father is a part-time nude model.  Elijah, our 9-year-old, is developing a taste for the arts, and seemed curious at the whole art museum concept.

I don't consider myself a huge fan of contemporary art unless it is art that deals with the figure, so I was really excited to see that this Lucian Freud exhibit was making a stop in Fort Worth.  And luckily for all of us here in North Texas, this is its only scheduled exhibition in the United States.  I think what I love most about Freud's paintings is their honesty.  His figures are not idealized; they are not glossed over or censored.  You see all of each body's perceived imperfections.  Genitals, when visible, are depicted in the paintings just as you would see them if you were looking at the model yourself.  And yet, all of those imperfections and brutal honesty demonstrate how wonderful each body is, in its own way.

The exhibit runs through October 28th, and you can bet that I will be going through it at least one more time. In fact, the Modern is running an 8 week painting class in conjunction with the exhibit, called "The Muse," and I'm hoping that I'll get to be one of their models...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life and Love

Summer has always been a slow time for art modeling, at least for me.  Since I work full-time, I always have to limit my modeling to evenings and weekends, and there just aren't that many evening classes going on during the summer.  During the busy part of the semester, I model from six to ten hours per week.  But that's not steady since there are slowdowns around the holidays, spring break, etc.  I love modeling, and I really like the extra income.  But that income is not something that I can really count on when budgeting, since it is so sporadic and variable.

My wife and I found out this week that our younger son, Elijah, will need human growth hormone treatments for the next few years.  He is currently nine years old, but he looks more like he's six.  He recently had a test to see if he was just a late bloomer or if his body is not producing enough HGH.  As it turned out, it was the latter.

Most concerning to us right now is the cost and whether insurance will cover it.  Without insurance, the cost would be close to 25,000 dollars per year.  If he has to stay on the treatments for five years, that's more than the cost of our house.  Of course, not getting the treatment means that he would not grow to full height, have late puberty or even no puberty (which would mean that he would never be able to have children), and have other serious health problems throughout life.  So not getting the treatments is just not an option.  He is my son, and I will do whatever it takes to provide him with what he needs to grow into a healthy adult.  Of course, we are hopeful that we can harass and/or force the insurance company into covering these treatments.

All these concerns have me looking for another source of income.  I've already applied for a part-time night hotel desk clerk.  Who knows what all this will mean for my modeling.  I may have to give it up for a few years while I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs to provide for my son.  But it's a sacrifice I must make.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sketch Sanatorium at the Kettle Gallery

As someone who obviously loves modeling for figurative art, I occasionally do web searches for photos, videos, and events having to do with life drawing. One of the things I've found but have never experienced is the concept of life drawing marathons. Pallette & Chisel in Chicago hosts three 12-hour long drawing marathons per year with "models in multiple studios." In San Francisco, the Bay Area Models Guild hosts occasional six-hour-long drawing marathons with "many models posing at once: males, females, nude, costumed, short and long poses." I've also seen information about drawing marathons with multiple models held in several east coast cities (like Washington D.C.).

To my knowledge, such a marathon (with multiple models) has never been attempted here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, probably because the interest from the art community just doesn't seem to be there. Most of the open, drop-in sessions that I do are sparsely attended. The last drop-in session I did at the Creative Arts Center, which turned out to be a wonderful experience, only had four artists present. I've done an open session or two at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center with only one artist in attendance.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the largest population centers in the country, and I do think that interest for a drawing marathon and more figure drawing events could be cultivated. About three years ago, the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, at the request of some of their regular artists, tried to hold a special double model session. Due to a scheduling mistake, there actually wound up being three of us models that night, but there were at least fifteen artists in attendance, the most I had ever seen there. We all had a great time during the three-hour session, but the FWCAC has, to the best of my knowledge, stuck to one model per session since.

So I started thinking about what I could do to generate more interest in life drawing in the area. I realize that part of the problem is that Dallas lies in the Bible belt where nudity and public and semi-public displays of the unadorned body are generally thought of as prurient by the general population. Those of us who have spent time in life drawing class know that that isn't the case. It's about seeing us, human beings, as we really are and as we were created. And for the artists, it's about lines and values, shadows and darks, perspective and proportion.

I started looking into galleries in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas, thinking that perhaps I could inspire a live figure drawing event. I've never drawn or painted, but I've always considered modeling as my artwork. I was thinking of a big art-show-opening-type of event, open to the public, with me and at least one other model posing. People could draw, watch the models pose, watch the artists draw, or just mingle. Paper and pencils would be available for anyone who wanted to draw.  Artists have been drawing nudes for centuries, and it is entirely natural for a model to be seen posing nude. So the goal of such an event would be to normalize life drawing from nude models. The more people see it as normal, the more people will be interested in it.

Anyway, that's my vision, and perhaps it will happen one of these days. In the meantime, I found a small gallery called Kettle Art in Deep Ellum that holds monthly Sketch Sanatorium nights. The "rules" of Sketch Sanatorium, as listed on the website, are as follows:

1. Come ready to draw
2. All drawings can be traded with other artists, or bought by anyone else for $10 (all proceeds go to artist)
3. Come to meet, greet, and share with other artist and collectors in an open environment.
This is a chance to get to know what the Kettle is about, and let the Kettle know what you’re about.

I contacted Richard Ross, one of the people who run the monthly sketch night, and asked about the possibility of volunteering to model for the group.  He seemed OK with the idea and invited me to the next one, on April 5th.  I arrived not knowing what to expect or whether I would even model or not.  As it turned out, Richard wasn't there, and that session was being run by Amber Campagna.  Amber had invited a friend of hers to model as well, a young woman named Kristin with an amazingly frizzy head of hair that everyone agreed would be fun to draw.  Kristin arrived in a green dress, and she intended to wear it while she modeled.

At the beginning of the session, I asked Amber where I could change, and she directed me to the bathroom in the back room.  She then asked me what I had brought to wear while modeling.  "Nothing," I replied.  "So you want to pose nude?" she asked.  "That's how I usually model," I said.  She paused and seemed to think about that for a moment before giving me the go ahead.

Amber got a couple of people to help her cover the windows as I changed into my robe.  There was still a lot of activity going on in the gallery around the table that had been set up for those participating in Sketch Sanitarium.  The sketch nights were also portfolio review nights for artists who would like to get a show in the gallery, and there was one lady there having a member of the Kettle's all-volunteer crew look at her work.  Amber was working on her paintings and didn't intend to draw with the others.  And a couple of other people were doing something else with something that had been on exhibit.

Once the sketch artists had their sketchbooks and pencils ready, Kristin and I got into place, and I dropped the robe.  Those first moments of exposure are always the most intense of any drawing session for me as the model.  Scary, liberating, exhilarating, vulnerable, and humbling are just a few of the adjectives that could describe the moment, and those feelings were even more intense that night in such an open place and with another model who was not disrobing.  I was a little fearful of the reactions of non-sketch night people in the gallery, but the other activities continued normally around the artists as they got busy sketching Kristin and me.

While the majority of my modeling is done solo, I have had more than a few sessions with another model where both of us were nude.  I've also had a couple of portrait sessions as one of two clothed models.  But I had never done a session like this, where one model was nude and the other fully dressed.  It made for an interesting dynamic.  As the session continued, Kristin and I got comfortable with each other, and we did a few interactive poses.  We took several positions that looked like we were in deep conversation, and we even did a pose as if we were dancing a waltz.  I even had a little fun with one where Kristin was seated in a chair and I pretended to sneak up behind her, my fingers bent as if they were claws.  A couple of people in the gallery who were not drawing even took notice of the pose, and Amber grabbed her phone and took a couple of pictures...

Personally, I had one of the best times I had ever had modeling.  Perhaps it was knowing that I was volunteering and not "working" that made me more relaxed.  Or maybe it was the openness of the session, that we weren't in a closed classroom but in a gallery that was open to the public.  Throughout the session, people came and went, although I later learned that most of them were members of the all-volunteer Kettle gallery crew.  Some of them had shocked expressions upon entering, and a few others couldn't hide their amusement.  But I never once felt uncomfortable because I was in my natural element, modeling for artists.  I can only hope for more opportunities to introduce people to the wonderful discipline of drawing the unadorned human figure from life.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Summer slowdown

My summer slowdown has begun as all of the college classes for which I have been modeling regularly are now doing final critiques.  I only have one modeling gig on my calendar, a June 6th evening class at the Art Institute of Fort Worth.  I'm sure I'll pick up a session or two as the summer goes on.

I don't know whether to be sad or relieved.  These past four months have been extremely busy with working my day job and modeling in the evenings, sometimes three or four nights a week.  It was sometimes difficult to keep up with, especially when you add my son's baseball practice and tournament schedule to the mix.  And yet, I love modeling so much that I'm sad to see the opportunities fade for awhile.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Yesterday, I was asked to pose "semi-nude" for a group of artists this Friday. I reluctantly said yes, mainly because it was the first time this group had requested a booking of me in years (I had thought that the group had disbanded), and I didn't want to turn down this first request. But I absolutely hate the idea of posing "semi-nude." The organizer suggested that I model in swim trunks or something similar. I did find a pair of gray gym shorts which I will take to the session with me.

99% of the modeling I do is nude; the rest is the occasional fully-clothed portrait. I haven't done a "semi-nude" session in 8 years, and after the last one I did, I swore I'd never do another one. That session in 2004 was for an intermediate drawing class, the students of which were deemed "not ready" for a nude model. But the instructor wanted them to be able to see as much of the form as possible, so she asked me for minimal coverage. I got a posing pouch, which was just a male g-string, and modeled in that. I absolutely hated the state of mind that put me in. I felt impure, as if part of my body was deemed inappropriate even after all the nude modeling I had done. And of course, covering that one part of the body just drew more attention to it, to the point that I felt that the atmosphere was much more sexual than in a regular nude life drawing class. I felt degraded somehow.

That's not me in that picture, by the way. I would never post a picture of myself in such a thing. Nude yes, posing pouch no.

I threw the pouch/g-string away after that class, and since then I've shyed away from anything that didn't say "figure drawing" or "life drawing" in the course title unless I knew that nude models were the norm (like the Drawing II classes at the University of North Texas, for instance). It is the purity of the nude that has kept me modeling all these years. I'm helping artists and art students create art which represents and depicts God's greatest creation, made in His image and likeness, in its purest state. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm doing a job that the majority of the population either wouldn't or couldn't do.

Experience has taught me that nude is my overwhelming first preference, clothed second, and semi-nude a very distant last. But of course, once I accept a job, I'll do whatever the group has asked of me. I did air my feelings to the session organizer, so we'll see what happens Friday night. If I don't change the organizer's mind, I hope modeling in my gym shorts won't leave me in the awful state of mind that working in that posing pouch did those 8 years ago.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nudity in Entertainment

My wife and I recently switched to a new satellite television provider, and with the switch came a lot of channels that we didn't have before.  Modeling for a night class in Dallas and then driving back home to Fort Worth became a weekly part of my schedule this semester.  My wife is usually asleep when I get home on these late nights, and I will lie in bed and channel surf as I wind down from modeling and driving through construction traffic (it seems as if the entire Dallas-Fort Worth freeway system is a construction zone lately).  The show I always found myself stopping and watching was a bloody, gory series on Starz called Spartacus: Vengeance.  It was like nothing I had ever seen on TV before, and I would imagine that a few episodes, if submitted to the MPAA, would get NC-17 ratings.  And yet, the series, set in ancient Roman times, was strangely compelling, so compelling in fact, that, once the current season ended in a spectacularly violent and gory episode, I found myself going to Bestbuy and purchasing a Blu-ray disc set of the first season (called Spartacus: Blood and Sand).

I started watching these in the early evenings on my non-modeling nights (with the kids in the other room), and my wife also got sucked in by the violent and sexual conflicts between the characters.  I think we watched all thirteen episodes over the course of just six days.  The first difference I noticed between this first season (which aired in 2010) and the one I had just finished watching on the Starz channel is that the lead role of Spartacus was played by a different actor.  That first season's Spartacus was Andy Whitfield who, tragically, contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma and died last September.  My wife and I found that difficult to believe watching him in that first season, as healthy as he looked.  And he had a very expressive face, playing the range of emotions very, very well.

In addition to the gory violence, Spartacus: Blood and Sand also pushed the envelope in the amount of nudity and sex on display.  Part of it, I'm sure, is the result of trying to portray an accurate picture of life in the decadent late Roman Republic (the show is set around 73 B.C., before the Empire).  One of the refreshing things about the nudity in the show is that the producers didn't discriminate.  Males were just as naked as the females, as the show featured full frontal nudity of both genders.

It was the ninth episode of that first season that stands out.  The nudity was much more prominent than in any other episode, and a new character, a slave girl named Mira, was introduced.  Mira was completely nude throughout most of the show, and it took me awhile to recognize her from the second season.  She was, apparently, to become a recurring character from that point forward.  As I watched that episode, I felt admiration for the actress playing Mira.  There are regular nude scenes, and then there are scenes like those found in that episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand where Mira, because she is a slave, was forced to stand naked and completely exposed, and the camera didn't shy away from any of it.

So, I went to one of my favorite sites,, and learned a bit more about this actress. Her name is Katrina Law, and I was fortunate enough to find her website and a blog entry she wrote about those nude scenes. I find her thoughts very interesting. I've been modeling nude for art classes for almost three decades, but I still remember how I felt before my first figure drawing session. I identify with her when she says: " I distinctly remember finally getting a full script and, after reading it and realizing what I had gotten myself into, I just sat in my trailer for a few minutes and willed myself to breathe normally; not to panic."

The only thing I would question her on is this statement:  "I remember the director telling me that they were going to shot from straight on and I thought, 'But what about the best angles? Straight on is a terrible angle and quite possibly the least flattering out of all the angles!'"   I've looked at a lot of drawings of myself, and it's the straight on angles that I prefer the most. It's those profiles, where one can see that my abdomen extends out farther than my chest (too many beers, I guess), that I don't really care for.

Anyway, her entire blog post is interesting, and I recommend it to anyone who is contemplating doing any kind of job that requires nudity, be it modeling, acting, or whatever.  I also recommend Spartacus: Blood and Sand to those who can handle the graphic scenes, but just make sure the kids are asleep before you start it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Modeling With My Infant Son in 2003

I was looking through files on my computer and came across something I wrote in April of 2003.  I thought I would share it here since it is one of my most memorable modeling sessions.  It's hard to believe that Elijah is 9 years old now...

I modeled for a two hour figure drawing class last night with my son, Elijah. Although I was somewhat nervous about it at the beginning, the class went reasonably well.

Elijah turned five weeks old last Friday. My wife told me before he was born that I would need to cut back on my modeling so she wouldn’t be left alone in the house with our two kids. So I got the brilliant idea to take Elijah along. I figured that it would be a good bonding experience, and it would give the students something different to draw. Elijah is still at the age where all he does is sleep and eat. In my master plan, Elijah would sleep in the carrier while I did the gesture poses. Then I’d hold him for a couple of long poses while he slept. Let’s just say that things did not go according to plan.

I knew that I might be in trouble right after I walked into the building. I really had to relieve myself, so I set his carrier on the floor of the men’s room behind me. Leaving the diaper bag and my modeling bag slung over my shoulder, I stood at the urinal and did my business. Elijah started getting fussy. As we walked out of the men’s room, he started screaming. I had the cell phone with me, and I thought about calling my wife to come get him right then. But with the use of a pacifier, I was able to get him quieted down.

This particular school does not supply the models with changing rooms, so I usually change right there in the drawing studio. In an out-of-the-way corner of the room I take off my shirt, then put on my robe, and finally remove everything else. I had set Elijah's carrier down on the desk by the instructor and had gone to a far corner to change. Apparently, Elijah didn’t like being away from me, and he started crying again. I changed quickly while the gracious instructor tried to entertain him. As soon as I got changed, I picked Elijah up out of his carrier, and he was happy again.

I gave him a bottle that he had started earlier. I had told my wife to feed him right before I picked him up, so that he would hopefully sleep during class. Unfortunately, Elijah hadn’t felt like eating the entire bottle then. He ate fine now, finishing the bottle just before class was scheduled to start. I burped him as the students were setting up their easels. Unfortunately, he was wide awake after the burp. I tried setting him in his carrier so that I could do the gestures, but he objected.

So, I removed his outfit (I did leave his diaper on; I’m not a complete moron) and we did five one-minute gestures and two five-minute poses together. I held him in a burping position while twisting my body; I took a knee and sat Elijah on the other knee; I held his head in my hand with his body lying on my arm and supported by my torso; etc. The instructor was very complimentary about the poses.

From there, we went to a thirty minute seated pose. Elijah was just fine as long as I was holding him, and he was still wide awake. I sat in a chair and held him like I normally do. I figured that the skin to skin contact would really be a bonding experience. And I guess getting sweaty and sticking together could be called bonding. As the time went on, Elijah kept looking at me as if to say, “What the hell are we doing Dad?” About fifteen minutes into the pose, my back really started to hurt. Elijah must weigh ten pounds by now, although he was feeling heavier by the minute.

We made it through that pose, and the instructor called for a very welcome break. Elijah had made good use of that diaper, and I could smell it. So I changed him on the model platform, and we walked around a little bit. Several of the female students offered to help out with him, and everyone commented on how cute Elijah was.

The last pose was going to be a one hour reclining pose, but the teacher wanted me to shift every fifteen minutes. He wanted the students to incorporate the passing of time into their drawings by showing my movement somehow. So I lay down on my back, and I put Elijah on my chest. He usually sleeps there when I’m in my recliner at home, so I figured he’d go to sleep quickly. But he struggled, and he even started looking around for something only his mother had. I grabbed the pacifier, and this calmed him for a few minutes. Gradually, he went to sleep. The rest of the pose went great, although Elijah did wake up once and turn his head the other way. Since the pose was supposed to move every fifteen minutes, this worked out well.

The instructor and students were very complimentary and very pleased with their drawings. One student even commented that she had never seen a baby be that good for two hours. I put Elijah in his carrier while I got dressed, and of course, he started getting fussy again. Once I got everything together, I made a hasty exit. I return to that class again tomorrow night, but I will be by myself then. My back just couldn’t handle doing that with him again…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Looking and Seeing

A couple of months ago, I posted about artist Ron Cheek and the Texas Academy of Figurative Art.  I had the pleasure of modeling there a couple of weeks ago for an evening anatomy series he has been teaching.  The class started with Ron lecturing on different muscles and bones.  On the platform was a skeleton, and on either side of that were full color charts depicting the muscular system.  After about twenty minutes of lecture, he called for me to step onto the podium.  I took my place next to the skeleton and tossed my robe aside.  Ron told me to stand straight and "look anatomical."  So I stood with my palms turned outward, like the diagram below.  He then continued his lecture and used a laser pointer to highlight my anatomical features.

It was strange (but, for me, not unwelcome) to be standing nude in front of a group of people who were simply looking and not drawing.  It has become the custom in most classes that I do to not take off my robe until all (or almost all) the students are ready to draw, as if to be nude when people were not drawing would somehow be improper.  I've never really seen the need for such a custom since nudity is such a natural state, especially for me after doing this job all these years.  But customs are a hard thing to break, especially if one loves what one does and wants to keep doing it.

Once Ron finished discussing the anatomy that can be seen from a frontal view, he asked me to turn around and face away from the students so they could see my back.  As I did so, I turned the skeleton as well.  Once all the anatomy lectures were done, the rest of the class time consisted of me in two fairly long standing poses, one front view and one back view, with the students drawing me.  What I saw of their drawings during and after class seemed to be a few steps above the typical college figure drawing classes in terms of capturing the form with the correct proportions.  I got to thinking about that after class was over.  Why were their drawings so much more accurate that what I usually see elsewhere?  I thought about those anatomy lectures, with the students simply looking at me.  Seeing me.  So many people in other classes spend so much more time looking at their paper than at me that I wonder how much of me they really see.  And if they don't really see me, how can they draw what they see?  Are they drawing not what they see but simply what they expect to see?

Quite a few of the teachers I have worked with will talk about anatomy with a skeleton before going into the drawing time, but won't do it with a live model.  I've even offered to get up next to the skeleton a time or two but have been turned down.  It is the job of an art model, especially a model for college classes, to be seen and studied as an aid to teaching students to draw accurate representations of the human body.  I wouldn't be doing this job if I weren't fine with that.

So, I applaud Ron Cheek's teaching methods, and I look forward to working with him more in the future.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Plein Air

Today I had one of the more remarkable drawing sessions of my 27 year modeling career.  It was an open lab session at the Creative Arts Center in Dallas.  There were four artists present, which is on the low side of average for this session.  The youngest of these artists was somewhere around 40 years of age, which is also typical of this group.  For an open session, the proceedings are pretty structured.  I always start with 6 one-minute gestures followed by 6 three-minute sustained gestures.  We then go into 30 minute longer poses, and each artist takes turns suggesting poses, in the order in which he or she arrived at the class.

The session started normally.  I did the gestures, and the then the lady who had arrived first put me in a seated pose on a stool for 30 minutes.  After that, we took a little break, and I took the opportunity to go outside for a bit of fresh air.  Living in Texas provides one with precious few perfect weather days.  The summers run from May until September and can be brutally hot.  During the summer of 2011, we had several days when our official low was 86 degrees.  By 8:00 AM, the temperature those days would be over 90 and climbing up to as high as 110.  Winters, mild by northern U.S. standards, can also be extremely uncomfortable.  With the winds that we get in the winter, temperatures in the 50s can feel very raw.  I've lived in the Denver area, and 55 degrees there would be t-shirt weather, so there's just something about this Texas wind.  But today was one of those perfect days.  When I arrived for the 10:00 AM session, my car thermometer said it was 72 degrees outside, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  By the time of that first break, the temperature was in the mid-70s with a nice, gentle breeze.

The Creative Arts Center is comprised of three buildings.  The figure drawing session is in building A in the photo below.  Building B is a sculpture lab, and Building C has a couple of general purpose rooms.  There is also an outdoor metal shop under a big canopy (marked as M in the photo).

There is a break area between building A and B, and this is where I went after that first long pose.  There was a metalwork class going on under the canopy, and there was a clay pottery session going on in building B.  Building C was vacant on this morning.  I went back in, talking with the artists about how nice it was outside.  In an almost joking manner, I said, "If there weren't any other classes going on, we could just go draw outside."  And then I added, "We should just go draw outside anyway."  Much to my surprise, all four artists eagerly agreed.  So, we went out to the break area and set up for a pose.  We figured that this was an art center; there were nude clay sculpures all over the place outside in that break area.  So why not pose outside?  After doing this as long as I have, I certainly didn't mind additional sets of artists'eyes on me.  One lady, the volunteer moderator of the session, suggested that I might cover my genitals just in case people walked by.  I didn't find a feasible pose in which to do this with what we had to work with out there.  And besides that, these four had paid money to work from a nude model.  I wasn't going to deny them of this just because we were moving outside.  I figured that if there was a problem, we would just move back to the drawing room.

I was to sit in the sun on a big wooden table up against building B, leaning back on my arms as if I were enjoying the sunshine.  The four artists all got under a covered smoking area to draw me.  I slipped my robe off, set the timer for 30 minutes, and got into my pose.  The sunshine warming my skin, the breeze caressing every inch of my body, the freedom of being outdoors just as God created me, it all made for a glorious session.  I had my head turned toward a window of building C, and in that window, I could see a reflection of both myself and of the parking lot beyond, behind a chain link fence.  About ten minutes into the pose, a lady parked her car and walked in through the open gate of that chain link fence.  She walked between me and the artists without saying much, heading toward the metalworks area.  A few minutes later, the instructor of that metal works class walked by, heading into building A.

"Are you OK with this?" the figure drawing moderator asked her.

"Yeah, I'm fine with it," she said.  "I'm just having them go around the other way."

Sure enough, I saw the earlier lady walking by outside the fence, still bringing stuff in from her car.

A little while later, the lady who was teaching the clay pottery class walked outside to get something off a table across from building B.  I'm not sure, but I think I heard an audible gasp when she turned and saw me in all my glory.  Still, she just went on about her business.  She came outside a couple more times during the session, and I briefly talked with her once I was fully clothed after the class ended.  She seemed very positive about the whole thing.

I finished that pose and did two other long poses before the session ended.  Most people avoided us, going around the other way via the parking lot.  Of course, I could see them looking my way from that distance.  But the two earlier ladies from metalworking  (the instructor and the student) did walk close by several times going back and forth from the metalworking canopy to building A, even talking to some of the four figure artists as they went.  If anything, I'm hoping that the figure drawing sessions gain an artist or two.

It was a wonderful, glorious, and liberating drawing session, one that I honestly did not want to end.  When it did, all four artists raved about how much fun it was.  Personally, I had a blast, but I half expect the moderator to get an e-mail from the Arts Center's powers-that-be telling her not to have nude models outside again.  For the majority of the year in Texas, such a thing wouldn't even be considered.  But if the opportunity ever arises again, I would love to repeat the experience.

During my second plein air pose (a standing one) the moderator took a few pictures of me with my phone.  The sunshine, with its normal movement across the sky made for some interesting lights and darks, much more so than posing under lights in that dark drawing studio would have.  Now I just hope I didn't burn too badly...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Living Forever

Last night, I went to model at one of my favorite classes of the current semester, but before I got on the platform, the teacher showed the students a PowerPoint presentation of figurative works from the past.  The slideshow went in roughly chronological order, and displayed works by, among others, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and ended with several works from artists of the Bay Area Figurative group of the 1950s and 60s (David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Brown, etc.).  As I watched each slide, I thought not about the artists but about the model for each drawing or painting.  What was he or she like?  Why did he or she choose to be an art model?  How long did he or she remain in that particular pose as the artist created the piece?  I also couldn't help but envy the models whose poses had inspired the creation of the works I was now seeing projected on a screen here in February of 2012.  And I wondered if someone one hundred years from now might look at a drawing or painting of one of my poses in the same manner.

In my 27 years of modeling, I have modeled for many classes of all different sizes, but I have not done many one-on-one sessions.  The idea of it just seems rather intimate, unlike a classroom full of students or a workshop with several artists.  In fact, given the choice between working a small class with only four or five students or working one with 25, I would pick the latter.  There's just something about the larger classes that I really enjoy--maybe it's the variety of different works that I get to see when I walk around the room between poses.  As for those one-on-one sessions,  I've never sought them out, even though I know that that will probably mean that no drawings or paintings of me will ever make it to the major art museums of the world.  The art that hangs in most galleries or museums is generally not art that was done in an undergraduate classroom, where 99% of my modeling takes place.  I'm sort of OK with that.  Part of what I love about this job is seeing what students do at the beginning of a semester and comparing that with what they do at the end.  In many cases, the improvement is quite dramatic.  I get up on that platform to help students see and learn and progress, not necessarily to inspire their masterpieces.

But there is some part of me that longs to be immortalized in something that will be seen for generations.  The woman who posed for the Mona Lisa, the young man who stood for Michelanglo's David sculpture, the model for Botticelli's Birth of Venus--the images of these individuals will live for the rest of human history.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I stepped onto the platform in last night's class, after the slide show, and dropped the robe.  I went through the quick warm-ups and then a fifteen minute standing pose leaning against the wall.  The class ended with a seated-with-a-twisted-torso 45 minute pose that I managed to hold without a break.  I watched and listened as marks were made on paper, as eyes went from me to easel, back and forth, and I wondered how many of the eighteen students present would go on to create something during their careers that would get shown and talked about in future slide shows.  The drawing was so intense during those 45 minutes that I was hesitant to even think about taking a break and disturbing anyone's momentum.

The instructor of the class even set up an easel and drew, although she did so for less than half of the time as she also made rounds throughout the room working with the students.  She gave me the drawing after the class ended, although she wasn't that happy with it.  And she made me promise not to put it on Facebook and tag her.  I think the drawing is remarkable though.  When I look at it, the amount of shading around my face as compared with the rest of the drawing immediately draws my attention there.  And since I had been contemplating life and death and immortality through art during this pose, it just makes that emphasis on my head and shoulders even more appropriate.  Here's the drawing.  Given the artist's instructions when she gave it to me, I will decline to name her here...