Since discovering various Paint Apps on my ipad and dabbling with watercolour travel painting, I book a Life Drawing class to extend my skills. My initial concern is that I’ll miss the first two sessions while skiing in Japan, but then remind myself that this is ‘a first world problem’.
When I turn up, the previous class has left the room and easels are centred around a small raised platform. In the corner gazing intently at his iphone, is a tall, lean, thirty-something, bald man in a checked dressing gown looking as if he’s ready for bed. I realise that he’s our model for the day.
It appears we’re an informal group of about ten. As the latecomer and a novice to life drawing I feel like an imposter and have to remind myself the class description said ‘all levels’. I seek out Janine our tutor who invites me to sit down for her ten minute briefing on how to draw the human body. To capture the different angles she suggests we start drawing oval shapes for the torso, head and hips and this appeals to me.
Almost in passing she introduces us to our model Gabriel, and adds ‘You’ll have to draw fast as the first five sessions are in blocks of two minutes, there’s a break, then three sessions of five minutes followed by a final 20 minutes.’
The medium is charcoal and I select an easel that has me centre right of the model. Gabriel sets his alarm clock for the first two minutes and reveals a naked, buffed body. He takes up his first pose standing full frontal with one arm placed behind the nape of his neck.
For day one it’s a confronting stance that almost takes my breath away. I’m surprised by my reaction and make myself concentrate on the circular shapes that Janine suggests. The poses change so rapidly I rush to finish each sketch, change paper or fumble on the floor looking for my charcoal that’s fallen on the dark grey carpet.
During the breaks I wander around to get inspiration and am impressed by the various approaches. Gabriel has donned his gown but remains aloof, not interacting with the class or their drawings and then continues his puppet-like poses on cue for the class.
The afternoon passes quickly. I’m feeling relaxed, freer and more adventurous, but avoid detailing the face or private parts. Janine offers tips on shading and other subtleties and I’m eager for more.
Some three weeks later I encounter my first female nude model, Monique. Dressed in a blue and white yakata she walks around the room and engages with us as we set up for the class. It’s only when her gown is removed that her curvaceousness is revealed. Her manner is much more relaxed and I suspect there’s enjoyment in being a life model. She tells us about a Life Drawing exhibition in Ballarat that we must attend and during breaks, continues to stroll around talking and looking at our efforts.
As I leave I reflect on what it must be like to be a life drawing model as well as the challenges I’ve encountered with a shapely female body versus a lean, male body. Outside on the footpath in full leather regalia astride a Harley motorbike is Monique. I smile and wave and wonder whether she’s on her way to another modelling gig.