Being on the Other Side of the Painting Experience, Part 2
October 17, 2012
Continued from Part 1, posted on September 25th
One of the first things that occurred to me after I made the commitment to pose for this painting group was, “geez, if I could only lose a few pounds before this!” When I shared this with Connie on the phone a few days later, and she replied, “Oh no! Mom wants you for how you look now!” For a woman of size, that’s some statement, and rarely heard. But I got it, it was actually really sweet. And I remembered from my days as an art undergrad that full-figured women were usually great subjects in my figure drawing and painting classes, their shapes are so, well, round and fleshy. So I put aside my knee-jerk vanity reaction, and got more into the mindset of the Venus of Willendorf.
I was now going to be the figure being drawn or painted, after years of being the artist/observer in a figure drawing class. These artists were going to be looking at me, concentrating my pose. Now, I have a pretty good idea of what to do as a model from all my experience in figure painting classes. And Pat had told me how she wanted me to pose, so there was no guesswork, really.
When I was in those painting classes, working out the my composition, where to place the figure, getting the gesture the model presented onto my canvas or paper, in the back of my mind, I always sort of wondered what the models were doing or thinking about while holding a long pose. Were they planning that night’s dinner? Reflecting on a recent conversation, or a book they’d read? All the while, they’d keep physically still, and hope that their leg or arm didn’t go to sleep. Being zen enough to be able to empty my mind and meditate is certainly a goal, and would’ve been a great thing to have perfected for this workshop. I would do my level best.
So there I was, watching artists paint. I started feeling a little envious, actually, I hadn’t painted the figure in ages, and here I was, in a painting studio, with a model. I suddenly realized I knew exactly what these artists were doing and what they were going through in their minds as they started working out their compositions. They were looking at their subject, then back to their canvases or pieces of paper, then back at the model and gradually forming their composition. Where will I put her on the canvas? How will I incorporate those paintings she did that are up behind her on the wall? Will I keep the scarf she’s wearing on her? I was watching them looking at me, at my pose, and at the whole setting as all this was going on in their minds. I started to really enjoy watching them paint me.
One artist contemplating his painting, stepping back to get a longer view of it…
Another artist concentrating on her drawing. See how she holds herself while she draws.
I realized that I have this sense memory of the postures I saw each artist in. They are suddenly posing for me, in a way. And each pose telegraphs to me ways I’ve felt in their places. I’m sure I’ve sat or stood those ways countless times. I identify with them: the step back to get some perspective on the work in progress, with maybe something to lean back on which temporarily counters the muscle tension of the normal lean-in toward the artwork while working on it. Or the hunch forward in concentration, elbows on the table holding the rest of the body still, toes pointing in. And when working so delicately, that ones body moves into delicate positions, even almost on tip toes. I would sometimes get to the end of a 3 hour session and find that my neck ached, or some part of my body was incredibly tense because I’d been holding myself oddly as I was getting something onto the painting just so. So even though I’m not painting on this day, I’m having a glorious time with these painters. And hopefully they did with me.
Part three coming very soon!