This week I attended an astounding life-drawing session. I have drawn nudes before, but because they were young, in their twenties, thirties, I’ve related to them as sculptural forms to capture with my pencil. You see, there’s no interaction. They appear from nowhere, sit, stand, lie, and melt away at the end to become mere marks left on your paper.
But this woman was different. She swanned in wearing a short, striking raspberry pink faux feather jacket designed to show off her perfect bottom and legs. And she looked you in the eye, determined to create a relationship from the start. Having in the past almost married a Swedish actress, I knew from the start that this model was an ex-dancer, an actress, somebody aware of the image she projects on to other people’s retinas.
We sat. A minute later she emerged from the toilet wrapped in a black silk dressing gown and stood perfectly poised, looking at specific pages in a set of books she had laid open upon the broad window sill. The teacher, an accomplished artist, discussed with her the poses famous artists had drawn. She flipped off her robe, revealing the archetypical female body - slim but not thin, rounded but firm, perfect breasts with pert nipples, long hair tussled loosely at the top of her head.
It felt too intimate, as if I were prying on her private existence, something I had no intention of doing. She had lost the anonymity of the model and as I drew, I wondered why. Ha! Because right from the start she demanded you felt her as a personality, not saw her as flesh. A boundary had been crossed and once over it, it was hard to still the emotions.
That she was closer in age to mine also made it hard. Her beauty, aged as it was, frightened me. I wondered if I’d be able to catch her form in honest simplicity without the natural twang of male reaction. We are after all animals programmed to react to one another and here naked before me was an utter dream. I was surprised. I never look at women this way and had to concentrate on the lines my pencil made. The two rapid drawings I did in the first three-minute slot were no good.
At the start of our second three minute slot, concentration was instant and she became a model. Later, when we stopped for coffee, she was there, standing before me wrapped in silk and looking directly at me. I decided to engage in conversation and was pleased none of the emotional muddle of those first three minutes flickered into my consciousness.
I discovered she did indeed demand a relationship with her artists. “It makes people take me on my terms, see me as me rather than a body.”
I said it was disturbing at first for we do this to perfect our drawing technique and she laughed. “I do it to challenge artists.”
She told me she modelled 25 hours a week and often went into secondary schools. “Adolescent boys can be tough to sit for. They laugh, make rude remarks, titter, desire me openly. At first it hurt me, after all, I’ve teenage sons.” She sometimes wants to run away, wondering what she’s doing, but persists.
I said the young are familiar with porn on the internet. They must gawp at her physical attributes, knowing well she has what is seedily sought after. Fixing me with her powerful gaze, she said, “I work hard on forging a contact which has meaning, leading them to see me as having similar feelings to theirs, although with a female take.”
She went on to say that it works. That after a few sessions they respect her. “I’m sure it leads them to see females are not sex toys, but characters to be liked, understood and who are on an equal footing.”
When we started the longer sessions, thirty minutes, I began drawing her with detachment but when I felt I’d caught her shape, I added in some character, but I needed more time. The poses she had chosen were tough, the sort great artists of the past liked. Next time we have a model, I will be content to have them sit or stand in a natural stances, but I’m so glad I talked to this remarkable model, perhaps more work by such women is needed to encourage young lads to respect females as equals, as unique individuals, not as objects to use.