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...