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
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...