What an experience! I learned so much! Never having done this or been there before I wanted to be ready for anything. I brought my French easel in case there were no tables. I grabbed a camping chair too, just in case, cause you know community centres never have tables and chairs (she says with an ironic tone). The forecast was for sunshine and 30 deg Celsius In Fahrenheit, that means HOT! For once I didn't feel too guilty being indoors as gardening was out of the question. Always wanting to be prepared, I took along a painting shirt and dressed cool in case there was no A/C, and a hoodie in case there was lol! My carrying case has everything I could possibly need for sketching and painting with acrylics. In fact it's getting a bit on the heavy side which means, (ugh!) time to declutter. In the side pouch I've accumulated a couple of sketch pads form past sessions; one regular and one watercolour. And finally I brought a nice big 16"x20"canvas to do my nude on too! I was loaded for bear!
I envisioned we'd all be facing the same way using easels like you see on TV when someone is at an art class. I figured they would pose for a very long period in some sort of half laying down mode, you know, so they don't get tired. Ha! Was I ever wrong!
We were sitting in folding chairs (yup they had chairs duh!) in a circle of banquet tables (yes there were plenty ) around a raised platform for the model to pose on. Everyone was setting up. Some had easels, most had very large newspaper sketch pads. I spotted a lady who's in our guild. We said our hellos and then took our places. There was much hoopla about lighting and closing the curtains, and finding the right place to sit for the best view I'm guessing. The model was a female mid thirties, slim, dark hair, with a long torso and a hint of muscular build (I learned later she does yoga). She wore a thin housecoat and was discussing times with the guy in charge (who does spectacular charcoal sketches btw). I thought it was odd they we talking as if she changed positions every 10 or 15 minutes. "That can't be right?" I thought. How on earth am I supposed to finish a piece on my canvas? I figured I misheard things,..... that was until she started. She went into a pose, let's say standing arms up all graceful like, and everyone's heads go down onto their paper scratching furiously. Suddenly I hear 15 minutes later "ding!" as her timer goes off and she's on to another pose!
Yeah I had a bit of a hang up about nudity. Being brought up in a Catholic School system, when we went swimming in the local indoor pool, we became adept at covering ourselves with towels while we changed. Those who didn't were from Europe and deemed "non traditional" and immodest. Later growing up I saw that many didn't seem to care, we were all women after all. It's something I try to confront whenever the opportunity arises as part of my personal expansion. Not that I'm ready to go topless just yet! But I am gradually letting go of my old fashioned upbringing. After all it was all just in my head. At the life drawing session I was so busy getting up to speed with the others, there was no time to think or feel embarrassed. It didn't bother me as much as I had imagined it would. I relaxed quickly and got down to business.
Back inside we all returned to our seats and without missing a beat our model was striking her pose. Meanwhile I'm thinking "these guys don't fool around !". Despite the hectic pace, the silence gave me time to reflect on what I was doing. I came to deeply appreciate the graceful shadows, curves and even the imperfections of the human body. You become intimate with the subject I noticed and I caught myself wondering if she was getting enough sleep by the slight puffiness under her eyes. I wondered at what stage of her monthly cycle she was at as I drew the small curve of her "period pot" we affectionately call it. I wondered if she was self conscious about her large nipples or if that was just me transferring my insecurities onto her. I admired her brazen attitude as much as her curvaceous back and arms. I noticed the arm muscles were toned and was curious about her fitness level. "Did she do weights?" I saw the light tan lines which confused me when applying shading for shadows and imagined a winter model whose tan has faded would be even easier. Later in the afternoon she applied some skin lotion before the final poses and I felt that she was saving the best for last. The delicate shine made for a more interesting subject to study highlights as well as shadows. I too saved my best for last and realized I didn't have to do the entire body and focused on my favourite area, her backside. She didn't disappoint me and turned her back to me in a twisted pose that showed off her best features.