Thursday, December 6, 2007

7 Random things

broken up into 7 random posts.
(and not in numerical order)

4. Art school- the nude.

For some reason last week, out of the blue, I was thinking about art school, and figure drawing class. Freshman year, fresh out of high school, there we were, day after day drawing nude women and men. We had names and descriptions for the models. There was the greek god model, he was small of frame but perfectly formed. Pixie looked like a pixie. Hoagie girl, had green hair and smelled like a hoagie. Santa Claus freaked us out a bit, because you know we were drawing this old guy who looked just like santa, only completely naked. There was this african american woman who always had her period when she modeled, as in, we always saw the white string. There were plenty of others, but the time I remember most was the "sorta excited" guy. I went to an all girls college, so there we were a group of 17-18 year old girls (probably about 17-18 of us), drawing this male nude model, and for some reason the teacher kept wandering about out of the room. And the model's um....private part would suddenly rise to full attention, then go back down again. He was constantly giving into it, then fighting it, up and down, up and down, then a little up, and a little down.
Later the teacher commented on our unfinished drawings and we all snickered, (we had all been too busy watching him try to master his domain, to focus on our drawings), we tried to explain to our male teacher what had happened, but we used words like "he really seemed too into posing for us", which our teacher seemed to not understand as being a bad thing, and none of us were able/willing to articulate it better.

As the year went on we got repremanded as a group for not drawing all the parts, for having shady dark areas where genitalia where supposed to be. He said we did fine with breasts, and woman parts, but "where were the penises?", if it is there it should be in your drawing. We did try harder, we did more shadows that suggested form, but still we felt uncomfortable staring at one and representing it fully in our drawings, all of us except for one girl, who boldly and exuberantly took on the task. She made the penis her center piece, leaving the rest of the body behind, she drew giant page filling penises. This made our teacher very happy, and he held up her work and said, see you can do this too. But still we didn't. We were pleased that he was pleased, and she was pleased, but still we were pleased with our shadowy vague parts.

Over Christmas break we were to draw ourselves nude, life size. Different people of course approached this different ways. I can't recall them now, but you know there are plenty of ways to not show parts, and that is pretty much what happened with all of us. I spent hours on mine, drawing myself seated in a rocking chair. The picture was from the side, so the arm would hide my one breast, and the postion I chose hid the other. Anyway I worked on mine day after day, plenty of lines, plenty of detail. The teacher was not at all impressed saying "illustrative. Too illustrative!", and some other girl, Susan, who spent a half an hour on hers, fast drawn shadowy areas ( I don't even recall her's creating form other than black silhouette), oh how he loved her drawing. Which clearly shocked her, as she admitted to working quickly and just trying to get the project over with. I ran into her two years ago, and she didn't remember that critique, but I always will. I learned from that, it doesn't matter how much time you spend working on something, it only matters whether or not it sucks. And also it doesn't matter what you think of the work, your grade will reflect whether or not your teachers think the work sucks.
I still have a tendency toward line over form, but oil painting does help me break free a bit from this. Thank goodness, because when I switched over to oil painting (from water color with pen and ink) start of junior year, my teachers suddenly liked my work a lot more.

As Christmas approaches, I wonder if they still do that, send the girls off for Christmas break with that assignment? I'll have to ask Karen if all the classes had that assignment, or if just that one teacher gave it to his students? I think only he did, because I have a vague memory of asking her this question sophmore year, and of her reacting like "oh my God, what a perv!".


Anonymous said...

This made me laugh. It is quite a visual you write of here, from a naked Santa to a room full of giggling artists. Sounds like a great scene in a novel (hint, hint).

The professor may have very well been a perv but I think having young artists paint, draw themselves nude is pretty common. (Perhaps there are lots of pervs out there.)

gayƩ said...

I have not studied art but I assume that drawing nudes (self and others) would be an essential part of it.
I have no innate drawing / painting skills whatsoever, so I sooooooooooo admire those who can. The closest I have ever gotten to creating artwork was my abstract acrylic paintings (not that I'd call them that: "paintings")
You have described it so well, I, too, giggled and laughed along the way. It also made me wonder a little about another profession where people are nude all the time and have to be looking excited rather than suppress it!!!!!!!!!

sognatrice said...

Fantastic post. Humorous, thought-provoking as always, and just plain fun to read. Do you still have any of those drawings of shadowy parts?

Taffiny said...


I am glad you laughed. :)

Yes I am sure it is quite common too, artists need to study human form, and what form is more readily available than their own? Most of our assignments where of a concept (show passage of time) or hands, or mouth, or just more general form. We drew different parts of ourselves, and of each other, a lot. There was just something about the full size self portrait nude assignment that seemed a bit different. ( I imagine it only could have been more embarrassing at a coed school)


Yeah, artists have to draw the nude.
I just think it is funny that our parents probably thought they were sending us off to the shelter of an all girls college, and there we were first day drawing nude men during class, and thereafter bringing in nude drawings of ourselves from homework assignments, to present for critique to our predominately male teachers.

Of course I do think the nude is beautiful and depictions not necessarily sexual, not at all limited to being viewed in that way.

It was just the notion at 18yrs of age, of drawing oneself naked, and then tacking it to the wall, in front of all my classmates, who knew this was my drawing of myself nude, and then all critiquing it. (there was the vulnerability of physical nakedness, plus that of showing others how you view and think of yourself naked. Did you make your hips and breasts the exact size they are, or bigger, or smaller? Did you present yourself as prettier than you are, or uglier, or just as you are? And also of course your drawing abilities themselves and lack there of are exposed.)
And when drawing men, also of being that age, and making it known (again with that tack and wall) to all the other girls, and to the male model (they often lingered for critiques), that I had stood there and spent a considerable amount of time staring at and drawing that man's penis. I wasn't that professional/serious, not that mature, nope, I would rather pretend it wasn't there than draw it well).

I am glad you enjoy abstract painting. (I am really bad at that. Oh I have tried several times over the years, I am awful).

Hmmm...I wonder if that is hard (no pun intended), having a job, where one has to be, or appear to be, excited all the time. (I guess if male you really would have to be, to appear to be. ?)

:) Pleased you liked my post.

I don't know, I assume I do at least have some (do not inspire me to go wandering about in my basement), I used to, but I am not sure how stuff held up in different relatives storage spaces, over the years.

Last night I was thinking about those shadowy parts, and wondering if it is different now, you know, with people taking to really trimming, and shaving down there. I mean back when I went to school you could do dark shadowy areas and get some credit toward depicting pubic hair, but what if now there isn't any down there?! What do those poor girls do?
(I guess depending on how the models are lit they can do shadow shading. Or of course, they could be not as immature as I was and actually depict form).

Now I assume I would be much better, parts are parts, nose, finger, toe, penis, whatever, but back then, at 17 and 18, there was no way, I thought of parts as just parts. No way.
I think now, if for some reason I needed to draw such male parts, I would draw them a bit larger than they appear, this would suit the male model, and doing it carefully so it wouldn't be too exaggerated, not disproportionate, would take delicate focus, this would amuse me, and probably make my art teacher wonder what was going on in my head, which nowadays, wouldn't bother me at all.

(to be clear, I have no such plans :) )

wow, am I typey today.

Vesper said...

Wonderful memory, Taff, a pleasure to read it all the way. You are very talented - your words flow in beautiful ways.

Taffiny said...


Thanks. Such a wonderful compliment on such an odd topic. Are you sure you aren't making fun of me? I am fairly certain I prattled on rather randomly.

Vesper said...

I'm not making fun of you, not at all!!! Funny you should say that... :-) :-) :-)