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...

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! This is really, really cool! Modeling outdoors has been on my proverbial bucket list for a few years now, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. There aren't any schools or studios that I know of with a courtyard or private area outdoors.

    Still, it's something I plan on pursuing should the opportunity arise, and it was really cool that the group was kosher with it. This is really neat, and I can tell by your writing that you definitely enjoyed that day!