Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life Drawing: a Novel

I have finally begun editing and rewriting the novel, called Life Models, that I started back in October 2013.  I never actually finished that first draft since the story had taken a turn that I knew would have to be drastically changed.  Because of this, my motivation just kind of petered out without putting an ending on the 84,000 word manuscript.

I retrieved the manuscript after it had lain dormant for over a year and started over at page one, revising and re-writing.  My female main character, Lydia, has undergone some radical changes from how I had written her in the first draft, which has necessitated changes throughout the story.  The plot also needed a lot more conflict to make it interesting, and these changes to Lydia help provide that.  I’m hoping to finish this draft in October so that I can start on a new project for 2015’s National Novel Writing Month.  I’ll pick up Life Models again in December for a third draft and a polish and hopefully have it ready to submit by February.

In the meantime, I’ve got a short story or two that I plan on submitting to magazines and literary journals.  To prepare for this, I bought the newly released 2016 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  In one of the articles about outlining in the early part of that book, a novel called Life Drawing by Robin Black was referenced.  I was immediately intrigued since the first title for my novel was Life Drawing (I changed it to Life Models in December of 2013).  In fact, I was so intrigued that I ordered a copy from Amazon and read it in about two days this past week.

I will say that Robin Black’s Life Drawing is not the type of novel I normally read, but there are similarities to Life Models.  Both are told in first person and both involve (sort of) recently widowed spouses.  Infertility also plays a part in both stories.  When I received Life Drawing in the mail, I was surprised to find a full nine pages of quotes from reviews, which made it seem to me like the publisher was trying too hard to sell the book.

Ms. Black’s novel deals with an artist who is married to a writer.  The writer’s death is alluded to in the opening pages, but the rest of the novel deals with the two of them trying to maintain their marriage after a previous infidelity.  It is the type of family drama that I normally don’t enjoy, and I didn’t think I would like Life Drawing until late in the story, when the couple takes a trip to Cape Cod.  It was their exchange on the drive there that really sucked me into the story (finally).  When the writer’s death does come, it is shocking and jarring and would have been far too much if it hadn’t been alluded to in those first pages.  The story is, ultimately, a tragedy, but it is one that I did enjoy.  I’m glad the title prompted me to buy it, although there were no scenes in an actual life drawing class, nor were there any references to drawing the nude (in spite of the woman in what appears to be a robe on the cover).

I did notice that one of the review quotes in the opening pages of Life Drawing was from author Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones.  In 2007 Ms. Sebold did write and publish a novel called The Almost Moon which features an artist’s model as the central character.  I read it a number of years ago and had mixed feelings about it.  I do recommend it, however.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On Nudity

I did a three hour standing pose last night (with breaks at regular intervals, of course), and I valued the time to just be alone in my head, letting the thoughts run through my sometimes overactive mind.  Given my physical state at the time, I started thinking about nudity in our society and how my job as an art model is perceived by the general public.  Society trains us into equating nudity with sex and that, because of this, we have to keep our bodies covered at virtually all times.  And for most people, this is a self-fulfilling condition; the sight of a nude body does generate a sexual response but only because they so rarely see it and because they expect such a response.  I have modeled nude with quite a few other models over the years (although not that often since most schools and art groups can’t afford to pay two models for the same session).  In each instance, I have taken just a very brief moment to admire my fellow model’s form and beauty (because all bodies are beautiful) before getting to work myself.  I have never felt that that admiration and appreciation of the human body has ever been sexual.  I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years, and I’ve seen quite a few other nude models and works of art created from those models.  I’ve been seen countless times myself, and at 48 years old and with a few fat layers from my full-time job sitting at a desk and looking at computer monitors, I still marvel at drawings done of me.

I do think that there is an allure to nudity because we as a society hide and cover it so much.  When people succumb to that allure, they turn to “adult” entertainment which keeps perpetuating the lie that naked bodies are only to be used for sex.  But then again, pornography itself is a lie, with atypical bodies saying and doing atypical things.  I’ve often thought that if we as a society were more open to nudity in everyday life (especially nudity of the average body and not the idealized bodies that our media almost exclusively presents us) that pornographers’ incomes would come crashing down.  But instead, our society has prohibited simple nudity from the public arena.  When singer Erykah Badu got nude on the spot where JFK was assassinated for one of her music videos, authorities in Dallas launched an investigation to find someone who witnessed it and who could be convinced to file a complaint.  Once that person was found and the complaint filed, Erykah was charged with disorderly conduct and fined.  Why go to all that trouble for a “crime” that had no victims?  It just saddens me.