Nora Byrne
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Words

Arts, Arabic, Adventures

Modeling Westside

When I first moved to Los Angeles, Simon Harling got me in contact with the artist Jon Swihart. He holds a monthly barbeque/potluck at his house, inviting artists and art-related folk in the area for food and an art-related presentation. I went one of the first weeks I was in LA, and ended up chatting with a woman named Kate Savage, who was from Northwood, New Hampshire. We exchanged info, and she promised to send mine to other artists she knew. Months passed, I fell into the exhausting food services cycle that kept me from pursuing other jobs. Luckily Jeremy Lipking ended up contacting me, and apparently was complimentary towards me to Kate. She booked me for a small class she was teaching over in Venice, CA.  On the appropriate day I borrowed the trusty Bunnicula (my friend's car) and stick-shifted all the way through rush hour to the beach.

I was early, which turned out to be a good thing as the studio where Kate was going to teach was insanely intriguing. It was the workspace of a few sculptors, one of whom worked with iron, making commissioned cabinets, TV stands, and props for his own fascinating photography. I had time to sit down, have a small glass of wine and snacks and talk with the artists about their work. The Venice art community's openness and dedication was very impressive. When the students arrived, it quickly became clear that most of them were friends or friends of friends of Kate's, and I knew the class was going to be as laid back and friendly as the city.

Most of the people in the class were drawing beginners, some abstract painters and sculptors, all with an interest in learning to draw. Only Kate exceeded their interest and enthusiasm as she jumped into gesture drawings, explaining the importance of finding the "movement" of the pose. She had told me before to keep the poses to simple contrapposto so the students could see weight shifting.

She would sketch examples in the margins
to demonstrate advice she was giving

She then walked around giving tips and pointing out elements that were less than successful. It was interesting to be on the other side of gesture poses; I kept wanting to leap off the model stand, push someone away from and easel and start sketching armatures.

Beyond that, the patience and passion that Kate put into her teaching was astonishing and admirable. She consistently would find something positive about everyone's work, even while they were bemoaning it's poor quality. She could instantly see what part of the exercise each person was getting and what part they weren't, then give them a different way to work more in line with their thought process. When it came to the long pose, I more than once was in so much pain I wanted to cry, but the thought of interrupting her eager conversations with her students seemed apocalyptic (Solution: timer). The constant refrain was "we'll find something that works for you." Prior to this I always had a little bit of a block between active artists and teachers, but this proved me wrong. Kate lending her knowledge and passion to others was inspiring; one of the best classes I'd ever seen. I remember finding out that the woman who taught me to draw was a practicing artist and being completely surprised, not because she wasn't good at both art and teaching, but because th concept had never occurred to me (I was also in high school). However, I am slowly learning artists have different skill sets, and clearly one of Kate's is teaching. What I loved was that she worked, not to train and foster artistic prodigies, but to spread appreciation and understanding of drawing and art.

Plus, there was cheese.