Sharing the Stand
A few weeks ago I had an interesting modeling first. I've been doing a good amount of work for the University of Southern Maine lately, and after one gig the professor took me aside to tell me next time I would be modeling with another person. I caught the bus to campus a week later determined to be professional and enthusiastic, reminding myself that any situation is only as awkward as you make it. Assuming all the other models at USM were middle aged ladies, as I'd heard they were at Wooster and Bowdoin, I pictured myself lying around with some friendly aging hippie for a few hours. I reached the drawing building early and was settling down on one of the benches to wait when a young man carrying a guitar walked into the room and introduced himself as the model. It dawned on me discomfort was going to be unavoidable. It soon became clear he had no idea there was going to be another model in the first place, and we were both adrift in the same weird boat.
I've modeled with other people before, but always clothed and with people I knew very well. Having a complete stranger on the modeling stand with me was disconcerting, however dedicated I was to the pretense of a completely normal situation. I found myself repeating poses, a little too scatterbrained to let anything come naturally. The professor was so intent on not pushing us outside our comfort zone that she let us take the lead on most of the poses, resulting in a series of drawings of two people looking away from each other.
Amazingly the artists didn't seem react to our discomfort at all. I'll be completely frank that I don't think our poses were that interesting, but with two figures to draw in so little time the students were not looking for anything complicated. Beyond this, some students even managed to work in some sort of Kate-ish ambiguous narrative.
It was fascinating to see how the artists adapted to the energy of the situation. Eileen was able to work with the awkward atmosphere of the pose and turn it into something interesting and edgy. There is a definite narrative to her second drawing, where it looks like both of us were thinking something other than "God, I hope I'm not too close..."
One of the wonderful parts about this new experience was the ability to meet another model. Jon ("naked boy" if you're Sarah) was the first figure model I've ever really talked to, and it was interesting to learn what other of people do this kind of niche job. Jon is a guitar major at USM, modeling as a work-study kind of situation, much like the models were at UNH. He'd never drawn from the figure, so I was able to reassure him ("Oh, you're barely a person to them") and get his perspective on the fun and less fun parts of the job. I spend a lot of time trapped thinking about these things in my head, and it was a relief to talk them out with someone who had the same experiences. Having another robed being walking around during breaks was also comforting. I often feel slightly lonely during drawing groups, not because I'm excluded in any way, but because I am always there for a different reason than everyone else. I find the idea of a modeling "coworker" both ridiculous and wonderful.
All drawings lifted from the blog of one of the students.