I’ll be blunt. Art was not my favourite subject in school. I loathed cleaning the paint trays at the beginning of every painting session, and the vicious weekly scrum to grab the best brush, clay knife, or whatever other piece of equipment was necessary for the assignment. Or, at the very least, not get left with the brush with only three remaining bristles. However, now that I’m an adult and presumably no longer have to battle for supplies, I’ve decided to give art another shot. This week, I went life drawing.
Together with my friend Assumpta, I went to one of the drop-in sessions offered by Basic Inquiry on Main Street. By the time we arrived, most people were busy setting up, and we appeared to be the only ones there that didn’t know what we were doing. After some basic inquiry (get it?), we were pointed in the direction of the session’s organiser, who was deep in conversation with one of the regulars. He waved us towards the easels and newsprint and left us to get set up. It was all very relaxed.
Now I had been meaning to get some proper art supplies earlier in the week, however painful blocked sinuses had rendered me fairly useless, so on the morning of the session I had to grab whatever I had to hand. Two HB pencils and a biro. Somewhere, across the Atlantic ocean, my old art teacher was pursing her lips in disapproval. The model slipped off his robe and we began. Unfortunately I forgot to get his name, so, in honour of his incredibly precise bowl haircut, from this point on I’ll call him Duane.
We started with some short, 30 second poses. Having not drawn anything for approximately fifteen years, my first couple of scribbles were… Less than impressive.
I also faced another problem. Although I knew logically that the model would be naked, knowing something and being confronted with a strange man in the altogether are two different things. My first instinct, which thankfully I was able to quash, was to turn away out of politeness. I say thankfully because presumably it would be bad form to turn away from a model at a life drawing class whilst he was posing. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt Duane’s feelings, or make him feel that his modelling was anything less than exemplary. On the other hand, I didn’t want to come across as a creepy ogler either. I decided the best approach was to focus on other aspects of the human form first, and worry about his genitals when I got to them. Unfortunately this approach had limited use against some poses.
Soon though my inhibitions faded away, and, as I got hard to work making art, I barely noticed that Duane was naked. The poses gradually got longer and longer, and my confidence stated to improve with each stroke of the pencil.
During one of the breaks, I glanced around surreptitiously at some of the other pieces whilst Assumpta was out putting more money in the parking meter. Assumpta was using charcoal to great effect, but a whole range of mediums were being used around the room, and I was especially impressed with one lady’s watercolour. As we came up to the first of two 45 minute poses, I decided it was time to break out the big guns and bring my biro into play.
The first 45 minute pose was fun. Duane lay recumbent on the stage, graciously facing away from Assumpta and I so that we beginners didn’t have to deal with the complexities of capturing his expression. I sketched a brief outline in pencil, then went over some of the lines in pen. Unfortunately I made the classic mistake of not putting the pen down once I was finished, and, as I still had five minutes to go, proceeded to make a hash of shading underneath the figure. My art teacher often used to tell us that a picture is never truly finished, and can always be improved on. I didn’t believe her then, and I don’t believe her now. I should have quit drawing whilst I was ahead.
Oh well. Time for a break before starting the next 45 minute pose. I was unfeasibly thirsty by this point, so I went to purchase a drink from the refrigerator, and was surprised to find that you could buy wine for $2 a glass. It was too early for any right then, but definitely a nice touch for the evening sessions.
Onward to the next session, and I was starting to tire. Duane was standing with his back towards us, and frankly it didn’t make for a particularly exciting pose. My proportions were even more off kilter than normal, and I started to get frustrated. Also I was getting really hungry and, for reasons not quite known, I’d given Duane a flat head.
With the session at a close, Assumpta and I packed up our artworks and went to get tacos. Here is a selection of some of my work;
VERDICT: Whilst I enjoyed my time at Basic Inquiry, drawing is still not a passion of mine, so I doubt I will go again. However, if you enjoy life drawing then this is definitely the place to go, and memberships can be purchased for keen artist.
I would like to say a big thank you to Duane, and mention how impressed I am that anyone could stay so still for such a length of time.