People who reflect on what makes a figure model excellent can easily see that the work has high requirements. Excellent modeling requires management, ethical sensitivity, human relations, self-appreciation, and performance skills. The performance skills include athletic abilities (along with recognition of personal limits within those abilities), powers of invention, and creativity. Required, too, are common sense, proper use of time and space limitations (what is the studio like in shape, size, and appearance: how much time have we used in this pose –
In life-drawing workshops, we typically place models on a stand. The practice may be more fitting, and hold more meaning for us as artists, than we realize. This essay is an attempt to show ways in which visual perspective affects perception; ways in which traditional approaches to visual perspective discriminate against women; and ways in which artists and models together can work to alter both perspective and perception.
At first thought, it seems surprising that a model usually poses on a place somewhat higher than the people drawing are placed.
Western art typically distinguishes between portraiture and figure drawing. The model-artist relationship would benefit greatly – for justice, for purity, for respect, for human understanding, for common sense, and for better art – by being brought closer to the artist-sitter relationship, or better, by being fundamentally a human relationship which has production of art work together as part of its goal.
- “Beauty Rules,” from a Lord & Taylor ad in the NY Times. I think that beauty knows better than to rule, because in ruling it ceases being beauty.
- “There is a lot of anger in love sometimes.” Garrison Keillor, Liberty: A Novel of Lake Wobegon, p. 181.
- When is an addition a subtraction? When you put clothes on a good-looking person.
When I first started modeling, I did it in
answer to a dare from models and artists in my Hoboken (NJ) drawing
group that I would find it too embarrassing. I shared this worry, but I
also recognized, with others in the group, that it didn’t make sense
for me to expect other people to do something that—because of
embarrassment—I wasn’t willing to do myself. As soon as I opened myself
to public nudity,
Figure drawing is drawing people as people are; portraiture is drawing this person as this person is. Figure drawing specializes in what is generic, portraiture in what is specific. Portraiture’s excess is caricature, where individualism moves beyond reality by stressing the “unusual.” We think of Titian’s last drawn self portrait, or Rembrandt’s last painted self portrait, or Bach’s, Bist du bei mir ( “If you are with me, I will go gladly to my death”) included in the collection he compiled for his wife,
Many people are concerned about modeling and sexual expression. For
many years I worried about this, even after I started modeling, and I
still recognize it, in myself and in others, as a disturbing event.
Where sexual interest becomes evident in a modeling situation, it can be
difficult to temper so that it does not interrupt the artistic
environment. In every culture since humanity began, our two chief
interests in other individuals has been loving them or fighting them:
In the last article, I wrote that “fondness is key.” To some people we are attracted immediately; with others, fondness—even intense fondness—develops, but only over time. Initially, it is respect and openness that is needed if an immediate fondness is not there. Find leads to found leads to fond.
One of the things I have felt since I first began drawing people, and then modeling for them, is that I do best when I am fond of the people I am working with. I want to be able to admire them, look up to them, and find them marvelous, so that my work with them can be my best. Only my best will be good enough for them: good enough for them to be their best for me.