Nora Byrne


Arts, Arabic, Adventures


One of the best parts about the class that introduced me to working with another model is that it is an experimental drawing class. I appreciate that both the students and myself are made to work beyond our comfort zone, creating a group of people in the throes of new experience. This class fostered my my initiation into awkward situations of nakedness and continues to throw firsts in my direction. One day the professor had me do twenty minutes of "continual movement" poses, which made me feel utterly ridiculous, and made the students feel utterly stressed. However, there was real beauty in the resulting page of confused movement lines on the students' pages. This drawing was made over the gestures of my continuous movement poses; they're often encouraged to draw over other drawings.

My recent influx of modeling for classes and my experience living with a formally trained artist has increased the level to which I think about what skills are important to a blossoming artist. I'm beginning to recognize differences between the more well-known art schools: the businesslike SCAD, the intense theoretical contemplation of RISD, and the laissez-faire experimentation of MECA that seems to characterize a trend in many art programs. Having recently cut requirements for classical training, MECA looks to be following a trend of valuing creativity, imagination and specialization over well-rounded technical skill. As a graduate of a Liberal Arts school, I'm sure my immediate bias is obvious, but I encourage no one to take my comments as value judgements until I have time to work out the opinions still pupating in my brain cocoon. Of course these are all vague stereotypical impressions of each of these schools, but I find it interesting to compare them.

They also often draw on colored paper. I love the irreverence inherent in all of their exercises.

The Experimental Drawing class at USM is a great example of this sort of education. Most of the students in the class are seniors, with a base of artistic knowledge that they work from in the out-of-the-box exercises their professor gives them. They work a lot with complementary colors, and I hear discussions of "warms" and "cools," just as in the more formal classes I've modeled for. One exercise had them doing contours in one color, then negative space drawings on top of those in its compliment. The class seems organized to help the students play around with the theoretical concepts they've learned, seeing how they could use them in their own stylistic development.

Modeling for these classes is very fun. I feel like less of a person in those situations, as most of the students aren't trying to accurately capture my form. They are more interested in the combination of shapes and lines making up my body; they frequently use color, but it's rarely true to nature. As someone who takes modeling more seriously than a lot of art models (usually I feel like a huge nerd), I love being challenged in these ways. Since so much of modeling is staring at one spot for hours, it's exciting to be able to do quick poses, and the exercises the students work on give me a lot of food for thought while I am sitting for a long pose. However, more classical education styles aren't nearly devoid of inspiration. The atelier class I worked for recently gave me a great point of comparison that I'll expand on in my next post.

I can't write about USM without mentioning the current budget situation, which is on everyone's minds.

This article explains the situation, and the students' Facebook page gives more information on what's being done to get transparency and possibly re-think the changes being made.