Thursday, May 5, 2011
Why so many all at once? To credit the model really, whose league doesn't get near as much attention here as it should. Suffice to say, in my world right now, life drawing models are right up there with good babysitters and emergency room doctors. They are the selfless providers, the unsung heroes, the ones who make life, by which I mean living, possible.
It is with utmost respect and gratitude, then, and a few years' experience now watching them at their work, that I offer the following observation spilling toward advice to anyone who has ever toyed with the idea of doing what these people do - what the genii seem instinctively to know that the novices should perhaps consider, and to which the several sketches here (all drawn last night in colored conte) bear witness.
Somewhere along the line, some teacher or instructor may lead you to believe that your purpose in modeling is to provide nice long lines. If they haven't told you this explicitly, you may infer it from the instructions they murmur as they roam the studio, easel to easel. "Look at the nice long line. Follow the line. Let it flow." That's not bad advice for artists, but to my way of thinking, lines aren’t something that models should be thinking about. God and perspective will provide the lines. If the model starts thinking about lines, he or she is likely to start posing, and we don't want you to pose. We just want you to be.
Granted, that's easier said than done, propped nude on a stool in the midst of fifteen rumpled strangers peering at you shamelessly, squinting scratching, craning to get a better look at your foot or your butt. That's the kind of peace of mind it takes several lifetimes and a lot of yoga to achieve and I certainly can’t speak to that, but I can suggest one simple technique to help get you started in a direction where you almost certain to succeed:
Tilt your head.
The difference between Posing and Being pretty much boils down to that. Poses, in addition to deriving from a wildly false sense of what's visually interesting (throwing a discus, aiming a javelin, extending a chalice to the lips of the glowing Goddess) are usually distinguished by a ramrod, downright crucifixious relationship between the model's head and shoulders, such that a brimming glass of water, placed atop, would not spill a drop. The model may, in fact, believe that he is performing some great feat in remaining so straight and still at the same time as he extends his two arms and his left leg. And in a way he is. But in another more important respect, he is defeating the purpose of most of the people in the room, for the simple reason that he is assuming a position that appears nowhere outside the confines of a lifedrawing studio. It doesn't refer to anything, and who needs that?...
(cont'd from above)
...What the artists are looking for - or let's just say what I am looking for - is not lines. It's attitude. It's your attitude, which turns out not to be that hard to affect if you can get past the spotlit nude thing. Human, personal attitude expresses itself visually as…attitude. Angle. Counterbalance. And what's the simplest way of affecting that? Tilt your head. Just a half inch one way or the other will set off a chain reaction of small but telling compensations throughout your entire frame, the sum of which - once you have found a balance you can maintain for two-and-a-half, five, ten, or twenty minutes -- will be an apt expression of you being you, and not the mannequin with the glass of water on his or her head. And that is all we ask. Honestly. Read a book. Just remember to tilt your head when you do it, and magically the image will become one of you reading a book you like. All because of attitude.
Case in point, the model above, featured here in poses of several durations. Granted, she possesses a natural curvature and hyperextension that make her lines manna to my ilk, even if all she is doing is inspecting a gum wrapper, but that's the point. Whether she is inspecting a gum wrapper, or her toes, or merely standing, she does so with stunning attitude, both literally and figuratively (which in this context, mean the exact same thing). She was able simply and expressively to Be, and the proof was everywhere in evidence around the studio. In other words, I'm not the only one who had a good night last night. One artist after another was remarking the strange ease with which the images seemed to be coming - or the lines, if you will. And the reason for that was as clear as it was self-fulfilling: Not a single person in the room was posing.