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...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cowtown 5K

I ran in the annual Cowtown 5K race this past Saturday morning.  I'm not really much of a runner, but this was my fourth time running this particular race.  My best time was in 2009 after I had done about two months of training; I finished at 27 minutes and 15 seconds.  I didn't do much training this year, and I wound up with an official chip time of 30:42.

Since I hadn't trained much, the effort of running 3.1 miles left my legs feeling like jello.  The bad part about that is that I modeled for a drawing class later that morning.  In fact, the class started less than 45 minutes after I crossed the finish line.  The instructor of the class had asked me to model the Wednesday before, and since my wife and I had just returned from a Palm Springs vacation that we will be paying for for awhile, I didn't want to turn down the work.

The short gesture poses were the most difficult of the morning, since they occurred at the beginning of the session and they were five minutes long, not the 30 seconds to one minute poses that I do at the beginning of most classes.  And being the dedicated model that I am, I like to take advantage of the short pose times, even the five minute ones, to give the artists things that I just couldn't do for the 20 minutes or longer poses.

I made it through OK, but I did leave the class on shaky legs.  And since I hadn't had time to eat between the race and the class, I was famished.  I went straight to a Jack-in-the-Box and ate a large lunch.  I don't recommend running a 5K right before a modeling session, so that will probably be something I'll try to avoid in the future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Art Modeling 101, Part 2

I was looking back at my last blog post and realized that I left out one very important piece of information: what a model should bring to a life drawing class.

I carry a gym bag with me to all of my modeling appointments.  In the bag, I have a robe, which is an essential tool for a model (if not a robe, then a sarong or some other kind of cloth to wrap up in).  I also have a pair of slip-on house shoes.  The floors of drawing studios get very dirty with all the charcoal being used.  There are also other hazards, like thumbtacks, which sometimes find their way onto the floor.  I also carry a beach towel and use it for seated poses so that I'm not putting my bare behind on any furniture.  I also have a little digital oven timer to time the poses.  This sometimes doesn't get used in the instructor-led classes.  I always defer to the instructor as to how he or she wants to keep time.  In a little pocket of the gym bag, I keep a few business cards just in case the opportunity for more modeling work presents itself (like the instructor of another class stopping by for a visit).

Some models carry their own props with them, but I find that difficult since I'm usually arriving at class straight from my full-time office job.  I am often able to find a variety of props to use already in the room, even if it's just a broom handle to use as a pole.  Poles are very handy for being able to get an outstretched arm on longer standing poses.

I keep my contact lenses, glasses case, and bottle of lens fluid in a side pocket of the gym bag.  I normally wear glasses when I'm not modeling, but I have heard people complain about having to draw glasses.  Drawing the head and face is difficult enough, and I'd rather not get into a position where I have to model blind, so I put the contacts in before each class.  I only wear these contacts when I model, so my modeling bag is a good place to keep them.

There is one last item that I keep in the modeling bag, a small disposable razor, but I don't have to use it very often.  During the semesters when I'm modeling a lot, I remove the body hair from my legs, chest and back (I leave a small patch of pubic hair).  If I'm just coming off a long break, like summer or Christmas, I'll use Nair.  When the hair starts growing back, I'll go ahead and keep it shaved for the rest of the semester.  I will occasionally get under the lights in a drawing room and see some hair, usually around my ankles, that I missed the last time I shaved.  Having the razor with me allows me to take care of that during breaks.

I started removing the hair back around 2004, when I was asked to be a body cast model by a wax artist at Ripley's Believe It or Not wax museum.  She highly recommended that I shave my legs, chest, etc. since the plaster would probably take the hair off when they pulled the plaster off me.  I normally try to avoid pain, so I went ahead and used Nair all over, and I kind of liked the sensation of hairless legs.  Not long before this, I had done a beginning drawing class, and I had seen that a student had tried to draw the hairs on my legs which was, in  my opinion, detrimental to her drawing.  Figure drawing is about shapes and light and shadow.  So, I thought, I should just keep the hair off and allow students to concentrate more fully on the shapes and the light and shadow.  So, after the Ripley's session, I kept removing the hair.  The response I got from some of the drawing classes was very gratifying.  Models really like to hear an artist say, "You are fun to draw."

And by the way, if anyone goes to the Ripley's Believe It or Not wax museum and sees a standing figure of Jay Leno with his hands in his pants pockets, you can know that the mold of the body underneath his suit was taken from me...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Art Modeling 101

I get a lot of varied questions from people when they learn that I am a model for life drawing classes.  Some people even claim to have in interest in doing it themselves.  So, here is a primer for the prospective art model.  For simplicity's sake, I'm only going to talk about instructed classes rather than the more informal and uninstructed arts-center sessions.

The number one most important thing in modeling for art classes is to be in class and on time for each and every booking you make.  A person can strike the most interesting poses and hold them perfectly, but if that person doesn't show up for classes or is habitually late, then that person will be regarded as unreliable and will not get many bookings.  Modeling is a job (although I personally tend to think of it as something that I "get" to do rather than something I "have" to do to earn a paycheck), and every other job in the world expects one to be on that job and working at the appointed times.

Life drawing classrooms (or studios) can vary from school to school.  There is a model's platform, and there are usually easels, drawing horses, or both, although occasionally a room will just have work tables.  Most drawing teachers prefer their students to stand at easels so that they can occasionally back up and look at their work from a little bit of distance.  It's a little more difficult to get students to stand up from a drawing horse to take that step back.  The model's platform can either be up against one wall of the room with the easels/drawing horses arranged in a semi-circle or in the middle of the room with the easels positioned all the way around.  I call this second scenario "drawing in the round."  I find the semi-circle arrangement a little more advantageous for me as a model since everyone in the room will get a somewhat similar view of me.  With the platform in the middle, some students are getting a back view of me.  Back views can be good, but if I'm sitting in a chair, there's a chance that someone with one of those back views will get more chair than model.  I tend to place a lot of value on my time for these students.  One can draw a chair almost any time, but one's opportunities with a live nude model can be very limited.

Some studios have a private area blocked off for the model to change, etc.  This could be a dedicated changing room, a closet, or just a corner of the room with a privacy partition.  If there isn't a designated changing area in the studio, the model will sometimes change in a restroom and walk back to the studio in a robe, carrying his or her clothes.  Personally, I hate having to change in a restroom and will only do so if there is no other option.  Restrooms are for ... well, we all know what restrooms are for, and I would rather not have to change in one and risk my clothes falling on a less-than-clean floor, having people walk in on me to use the restroom, etc.

Once the drawing class starts, the instructor may or may not have a mini-lecture.  I, as a model, am always ready to go at the beginning of class time regardless of this.  More often than not, the drawing will begin with a series of short gesture poses.  Whenever the instructor gives me the go ahead, I drop the robe quickly and confidently, especially if it's a class that I've never modeled for before.  I want to appear to the students to be very much at ease and comfortable in modeling in the nude.  I've read/heard from artists who thought that the model looked very uncomfortable on the platform and as a result, had trouble getting comfortable themselves while trying to draw.  These beginning gesture poses can range in length from 5 seconds up to 3 minutes.  Since these poses are so short, I tend to take a lot of action positions that I could never hold for longer periods of time.  I do a lot of them with sports in mind, baseball, basketball, football.  The discus thrower and the archer are personal favorites.  And I'll also try to do some narrative poses, i.e. my hand shielding my eyes from an imaginary sun with my other hand pointing at something in the distance.  Here are some quick drawings of me from 2011.  You'll probably notice a couple of classic baseball poses, a batter at the plate (the artist added the bat) and a catcher in a crouch, ready to receive a pitch.

Once the gesture poses end, we'll go to a longer pose, usually ten or twenty minutes.  Some classes will stick to twenty minute poses for the rest of the class (the typical drawing class is three hours long).  Others will have progressively longer poses as the class goes on, even to the point of having a one-hour pose at the end.  The instructor will typically give the model a bit of a break between every pose longer than twenty minutes and a break in the middle of the one-hour pose (getting back into the same pose after such a break can sometimes be a challenge, but over the years, I have gotten pretty good at it).  And the entire class will take a ten or fifteen minute break about halfway through the three hours.

Some drawing classes (and almost all painting classes) will want one pose for the entire three hours (with breaks every 20 to 30 minutes, of course, although I sometimes go 45 minutes or longer between breaks, depending on the pose).  These positions are typically seated or reclining poses with the props set up on the platform by the instructor.  I find the reclining poses the easiest, as probably most models do.  Seated poses can be problematic.  Sitting can sometimes block blood vessels and/or nerves, and I will lose the feeling in my foot/leg.  I've come out of some poses unable to stand up for several minutes as the blood flows back into whichever foot went to sleep.  I've learned that trying to stand up immediately after such a pose will cause the blood to rush back into that foot way too quickly.  The result is a sensation that feels like a thousand pinpricks in the bottom of the foot.  If I turn on my other hip and keep my foot somewhat parallel to my pelvis, the blood will flow back at a slower pace, and that painful sensation can be avoided.

Standing poses can be tiring, but I seldom lose the feeling in any body parts during the pose.  Some instructors are surprised when I tell them that I don't mind doing a three-hour standing pose, even to the point of not believing me.  But I really don't mind doing them, especially if I can get a somewhat equal weight distribution between each foot.

My preferred type of class is one that starts off with a few gesture poses and then does 20 to 30 minutes poses the rest of the time.  Those are easier on my body, and I'm not confined to one pose for the entire session.  However, those three hour poses can result in some exqusite work by the artists in the class.  The following is a piece from a three-hour pose of mine by Julon Pinkston in 2008, who at the time was a graduate student at the University of North Texas.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lucian Freud

I just saw this story about the Lucian Freud portrait exhibit which opened in London yesterday.  It describes how Sue Tilley, a model for quite a few of Freud's paintings, attended the opening with Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.  I am particularly interested in this exhibit because its next stop, and its only stop in the United States, will be right here in Fort Worth, Texas.  The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's website lists it as opening on July 1st.  I plan on being there that day.

I've always been fascinated with Lucian Freud's paintings, especially his nudes.  I was modeling for a life drawing class at the University of Texas at Arlington some time in the late '80s or early '90s, and the instructor, an older gentleman named Bill Stegall, had a book which contained photographs of several of Freud's paintings.  I did a pose emulating one of them, a stark, curious painting called Naked Man with Rat.  Fortunately for me, I got to do it without the rat...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Christian Model

I am a Christian and have been since I was in the third grade (although there have been periods where I didn't live like it).  I am also a nude model and have been for the past 27 years.  A lot of people in the Christian faith, and especially in my church, may find the two to be incompatible, but they are not.  Of course, I go to a Baptist church, the same denomination that runs Baylor University.  In 1993, the art department at Baylor was forbidden by the board of regents to use nude models.  As far as I know, that ban is still in effect.

This attitude that nudity somehow equals sex or that viewing a nude body will lead someone into lust is a lie.  Our bodies were made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, our bodies, in and of themselves, are good and wholesome, clothed or unclothed.  It was Adam and Eve who tried to cover themselves after their fall, not God.  Why would God want to cover His own image?  And once God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He gave them animal skins to use to protect themselves from the now sometimes harsh environment outside the Garden (and by killing the animals for their skins, He gave Adam and Eve their first taste of the wages of sin, death).

Nudity, even public nudity, was never condemned as sinful in the Bible.  In fact, God commanded the prophet Isaiah to go naked throughout the land for three years.   ...at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush... (Isaiah 20:2-3 ESV).  Apparently, Isaiah wasn't the only one who received such a commandment.  Look at King Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24 (ESV):  And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Judging from the people's reaction, prophesying and public nudity seemed to go hand-in-hand in Old Testament times.  Would God command someone to do something that was sinful?  I think not.

I believe that Jesus Himself was crucified naked.  The Bible says that Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothes, and the historical record tells us that it was a standard practice of the Romans to crucify prisoners naked.  Personally, I find it interesting that before mankind's original sin, man was naked, and that the One who redeemed us from sin did so while naked.

When I step onto a modeling platform in a life drawing class and drop the robe, I am both humbling myself and practicing the most extreme kind of modesty.  Whenever I read the word modesty in the Bible, I have to define it, based on contextual clues, as avoiding the practice of putting on adornment (braiding of hair, putting on of gold jewelry, etc.) to show off one's stature, as if one were boasting.  Today's parallel would be the wearing of expensive designer clothes, displaying expensive jewelry, or any other way in which people dress to show how well off they are, either socially or financially.  1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV) says Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  What then could be more modest than removing everything that might, in someone's eyes, elevate my own status?  Isn't that what being humble is all about?  Wasn't Christ showing true humility when he allowed himself to be stripped naked and hung on a cross to die for our sins when none of us deserved it?

When I'm on the model stand nude, I am pure.  I am there just as God created me, with nothing artifical.  Most life drawing rooms have a skeleton available both for drawing and for study, and I am always fascinated whenever I look at one.  The structure of the shoulders, with the clavicles in front and scapulas in back, seems impossibly complex when you also consider the muscle structure that has to be involved to make the bone structure work.  And the pelvis is a wonder, with its complex shape, the way that it supports the internal organs above it and how the rounded tops of the femurs fit inside to make the hip joints which enable us to walk.  The human body truly is God's greatest creation and is worthy of artistic study.  In fact, I can't think of a subject in creation more worthy.  It is, after all, made in that image of God.  I love allowing art students to study my body, to draw the shape of my spine, the curve of my hip without the interuption of a waistband or any other apparel.

As a Christian, I desire to be transparent.  I want to be the same person in the art class that I am at church or at my full-time job or in my home as a husband and father.  I don't want to misrepresent myself in any way.  I haven't been extremely vocal in recent years about my modeling, but I don't want to deny to anyone what I do.  When people hear that I was once a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, their natural inclination is to ask to see a video.  I can usually point them to my Facebook page or to the Youtube video below, where they see my conversation with Regis Philbin about being a part time nude model.  Since the show was taped in 2001, long before my wife and I joined our current church, people there tend to assume that I stopped modeling some time ago.  Before starting this blog, I tended to let them keep assuming such things.

I volunteer in my church nursery every Sunday morning.  I've always had a natural affinity for babies, and on more than one occasion, I've been called The Baby Whisperer.  The job, if it could even be called a job, suits me, and I love doing it.  But that also makes me a "church leader."  I do have some concerns about losing that position as a result of starting this blog, mainly because of some objections within the church to drawings of me from 2007 that were posted on Facebook. If that happens, then so be it.  I am going to be the same Dan Hawkins, Christian, husband, father, IT technician, and art model, in public and in private, no matter where I am.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Texas Academy of Figurative Art

I wanted to make a quick blog post this morning and highlight a local artist named Ron Cheek.  He is a contemporary realist painter and is the director of the Texas Academy of Figurative Art.  I have worked with him at a couple of evening workshops at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, but unfortunately my day job prevents me from modeling at the Academy.  Some of his paintings are amazing.  I saw the one below, titled "Woman with a Burden," at an exhibit at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center a couple of years ago.  I instantly recognized the model as Barbados Pearl, whom I mentioned in my last blog post (Admiration for Artists).

To learn more about the Texas Academy of Figurative Art, please go to http://www.tafastudio.org/TAFA/Home.html.