Nora Byrne
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Words

Arts, Arabic, Adventures

Modeling in LA: Nora Gives In

It's 10:30 PM on a Tuesday, and I've just decided I have to get my own car.

I'm swearing under my breath and my hands have started shaking as I push in the clutch, try to get the car into reverse, and instantly stall out as I slide towards the curb. Without the time or patience to change the CD playing, the screaming vocals and roaring guitar solos of my friend's cousins' band are stressing me out even more. Once I finally manage to get close enough to the curb so she doesn't get a ticket, I stumble out of her car, shaking all over. I thought modeling was supposed to be meditative, calming even.

Not when you need the artist you're modeling to drive your car up the hill you parked on without thinking before you can leave, and continue to have to answer his well-meaning but ultimately embarrassing texts asking if you've managed to get home safe.

A few weeks ago an artist named Jeremy Lipking asked if I would be available to model for his painting class. After futzing around on his webpage for a while and consequently falling in love with his work, I said yes. That found me driving back from Agoura Hills (not a bus-adjacent location) in a stick shift I had driven three times before.

I love unfinished works - my legs just end,
and the glare in the photo is from wet paint

The modeling itself was great. There was a sweetheart of a gallery assistant/apprentice(?) that kept time, asked if I needed a heater (after January in New Hampshire - hah!), I got to wear a delightful floral patterned velvet robe that took all my effort not to steal and a mirror was set up across from the modeling stand so I was able to watch myself being painted. Watching seemingly random swatches of different colors transform into a figure under the tutelage of a talented artist was fascinating.

Working with new artists and groups is always a bit strange before you realize what their style is. I was so used to the "break when you feel like it" way of modeling that when I realized my sittings were to be timed it was a bit surprising. It took almost twenty minutes to find a pose, during which the assistant/apprentice girl was nice enough to assure me it always took this long and I was doing fine. I was surprised at how much I needed the encouragement. I felt much more like myself this time, not stressed out about whether or not I was doing it right.

I was nine when this was painted
and I'm still grumpy it's not me
Image from katherinedoyle.com

I also love the process of getting to know the space in which I'm working. Lipking's studio is stuffed with his work, which makes it extra interesting to model there. It was actually impossible to get bored there, surrounded by expressive portraits, ethereal nudes stepping into tide pools and even a small painting that could have been the artist himself in a canoe? The work is a little bit Sorolla in its calm, atmospheric feel merged with great technique and composition. I've started to judge artists by how much I'd like to model for them, and I definitely judged Lipking positively. Which is probably good, as I was modeling for him.

This is when I get into model jealousy. I had experienced it before with Kate, looking around her studio and seeing finished works with models that weren't me. It's this yearning to be one of those girls, to be eternally as beautiful as one of those paintings, or as lively, or as powerful. I hope someday to be in more than one finished piece. Just as I'm sure many artists wish to make a real difference to someone, so do I wish something I posed for (inspired if I'm lucky) to mean something to someone. Really it's the same instinct as when I look at great paintings from history, a desire to be part of something that affects a viewer.