After four weeks of snow-related cancellations, a small group of us finally made it to the lunchroom of a nearby deli that imports, among other things, olive oil from my mother\’s village in Catalonia.
We were there in the early morning to draw the human figure, the clothed figure as opposed to the more usual–in drawing circles–unclothed kind . But you can\’t put a nude model in a public lunchroom. Also, given the surprising but real prejudice against nudes on the part of (some) of the buying public (don\’t rich art lovers go to museums?), it seemed useful to learn to draw clothes–the fall and weight of fabric, the convolutions of folds.
On arrival we, the painters/drawers, moved aside tables, folded table cloths, arranged chairs. Then the model came, a wiry young man, a farmer who had \”only been up once\” with his six-month-old baby the night before. He wore good clothes for drawing–an appropriately peasantish shirt, heavy pants, thick Van Goghish shoes. He was amiable and at ease, and the morning light was ricocheting off the snow into the room. We got to work.
Figure drawing sessions usually start with ten one-minute poses designed as warm ups. This is my favorite part of the session. There is no room for self-doubt or second thoughts. You\’re like a camera taking snap-shots, reduced to hand and eye. You dive onto the sheet and thrash about, trying to keep your head above water, and next thing you know, you\’re into the next pose.
After this come the ten-minute poses, then the twenty- and thirty-minute ones. Since the model is a live human, the longer poses are less extreme and, to me, less interesting. But throughout the session, I love the peculiar, almost devotional silence that comes over us as we peer at the form before us and make marks on the paper, and are transported into a universe where the eye and the hand, bypassing the mouth and tongue, do their thing together.
When the time is up, I raise my head, blink, and look around. I smile at the model, put away my charcoal stick, wipe the black off my fingers. I stand up and stretch, put on my coat and drive home through the snow-covered valley, thinking how much life drawing resembles sitting zazen.