Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Art Class Modeling.

For the last few years, Mister and I have picked up extra pocket money now & then by modeling for art classes at our friend Pat's studio. It's really amusing when I tell someone I'm going to model for an art class, because it's almost guaranteed that their first question has to do with whether I will be clothed or not - as if there are no paintings of clothed people, anywhere, in the history of the universe. Mister and I model for portrait classes, which means Clothes On, and we show up in a variety of costumes. I especially like to dig into my hat collection. This is what I wore to last Monday's class:

Black pillbox veiled hat with a feather boa. You can't see it in the picture, but the hat has a really interesting texture to it. Last week when I modeled, I wore a smart black spring cloche, made of paper (yes! paper!). I've also modeled in 19th century clothes, 18th century clothes, sometimes with knitting, sometimes with a violin, and sometimes in belly dance garb. And one time, Pat said, "Just come as yourself. I don't think you've done that yet."

Figure modeling is when the model shows up in his/her birthday suit. Personally, I don't have any aversion to this, since 1) they keep the door closed; 2) all the participants are over 18, and 3) it pays $20 an hour instead of $15. I told Pat if they ever needed a sub for a figure class she could call me, but she hasn't yet. Ah well.

Being prone to fidgeting and restlessness, I was unsure at first how this would work out. It's 20 minutes of sitting perfectly still with a 5-minute break, for about 4 hours. (The day class does break 30 minutes for lunch, and the night class takes a 15-minute break in the middle, so it's not as monotonous as it sounds.) Well, this is when all that yoga practice came in really handy. I discovered that sitting still for 20 minutes at a time is a lot like meditation. It's actually pretty relaxing. The trick is not to get so relaxed that you want to fall asleep, which is sometimes a challenge. Plus, staring at the same spot gets your contact lenses all foggy no matter how much you blink, but that's another story.

The most interesting thing, besides seeing if I can stay awake and still for 20 minutes at a stretch, is to see how different painters interpret me. They all have their own style, and I've come to recognize a few of them who have their work on display in the gallery there. Some of them are excellent portrait painters, others, not so much, but that's why they're there - to perfect their skills. Painting takes practice, after all, and it doesn't magically happen overnight.

One week, an artist painted me in all neon colors, while I was in 19th century dress. Last week, a woman did a black & white pastel rendering that was completely art deco, and I absolutely loved it. It didn't necessarily look like me, but it had a definite style about it, unlike anything anyone else in the class was doing. My favorite painting, though, is one Pat herself did of me a couple of years ago. It's a black & white oil portrait of me in 19th century clothing with my violin. Once she was finished displaying it in the gallery, Pat gave me the portrait, and I cherish it.

Monday night, one artist was having trouble getting my face the way she wanted it. The beauty of oil paints is that if you don't like something, you can scrub it out and start over, which she did - several times. On one of the breaks when she had me faceless, I said, "You know, there's days when I feel exactly that way." But by the end of the class, she had a fine portrait.

Sometimes that's how it is. We have to scrap our work and start over - and over, and over, and over. If Plan B doesn't work, we go on to Plan C, and if we've got the fortitude and determination, maybe we're on Plan Z before we get it just right. But that's okay. We owe it to ourselves to endeavor to persevere.

Till next time ---- anybody need a portrait model?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My first 24 hours of unemployment.

As of 5:00 last Friday, I officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. This is a strange feeling for me, because I have never once been unemployed in all my adult life. From the time I started working full-time at age 21, I've always had a job. And now I don't.

I didn't go home moping, however. Mister and I had already planned to meet a group of folks at Monell's for dinner. (Y'all who aren't Nashville folks, I'm so sorry you don't have a Monell's in your town.) I thought there was only going to be about 6 or 7 of us, but it turned out we had about twice that many. These are ladies I met on a message board several years ago, and since then have met many of them in person, but Friday night, I finally got to meet a few more. We had a rollicking good time and stuffed ourselves with fried chicken, corn pudding, green beans, turnip greens, catfish, hush puppies, ribs, and biscuits. Oh, and banana pudding. Unemployment works up an appetite, after all.

Saturday morning I met with a friend about writing a movie script on women's suffrage. Did you know (and I'm sure some of you did) that Tennessee cast the deciding vote on the ratification of women's suffrage? And that the young man who cast that vote was only 24 years old - the youngest person in the Tennessee legislature? And that his mother wrote him a famous letter urging him to cast that "Yea" vote? So, I have an interesting research & writing project to work on while I'm looking for that job.

After that, I went to a dance class. Not just any dance class, mind you - this was a burlesque tassel twirling class, and yes, it's exactly what you think. No, I don't plan on doing this in public anytime soon, or ever, for that matter, but it seemed like a fun thing to do, so I did it. (Maybe I should add tassel twirling to my resume to see if anyone's paying attention.) Then I came home and made some jewelry, which will be available for sale on my website as soon as I can get the photos up.

This past week, I've had the great fortune to be supported by people who have been in this position before, some of them more than once. My friend Pat, who owns an art studio with her husband, told me how she'd had a nice comfy desk job with a big factory operation in Nashville. It was a great company and she was happy with her job. But they ceased operations, and she was out of that comfy desk job. She said, "If that hadn't happened, I'd probably still be sitting there at my desk, and this studio wouldn't even be here." Yoshie, my movie producer friend, said almost exactly the same thing. She is a great inspiration because I have personally watched her reinvent herself more than once over the years when it became necessary.

Today, I have no idea what the future holds. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. So I guess now it's my turn to reinvent. To infinity, and beyond.

Till next time ---

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In which I am made redundant.

Last Thursday afternoon, my boss called me into his office to inform me that after nearly 15 years of service, my position was being eliminated effective April 15.

Oh, swell.

The prospect of looking for a new job doesn't exactly inspire me with confidence. Two years ago, when the agency was in serious financial trouble (like a lot of organizations at that time), I applied for at least a dozen jobs over the summer, to have only one interview - and that was a courtesy from someone who knew me. You'd think a company would want to hire someone with experience and education who's willing to work, but that wasn't the case. It's an understatement to say I was discouraged. Having survived that round of layoffs, though, I decided to just stay put.

And now? Well, there ain't no staying put no more. I've put in a few applications and have resolved that if no one calls me before Easter, I'll hop on over to the temp agency after the holiday and sign up. Mister and I already had a trip planned to visit his family, and I'll have enough money to keep the bills paid till then. Plus, it will be nice to have a few days off.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little scared. I'm also really pissed off, but there's no purpose in that. I'm sad too, because I've invested 15 years there. When I was growing up I was led to believe that company loyalty counted for something. Maybe it was true 30-something years ago, but in an uncertain economy, I suppose all bets are off. Oddly enough, though, I'm not freaked out. I'm strangely and cautiously hopeful. My mom said, "At your age, don't you think it's time to find the right job? You know, this might be a good thing, otherwise you'd have just stayed there forever." And she's probably right. It's a comfortable job, for the most part. (Honestly, Mom surprised me. I thought she would be the one to freak out.)

I also feel strangely liberated. The world is my oyster at this point. I don't know what's around the next corner but I'm excited to find out. In the meantime, I'll keep sending out that resume and working my contacts. I'll get my new jewelry website going and keep working on my knitting projects. I can do some more art modeling (clothes ON, people, get your minds out of the gutter), and if I need to pick up a few shifts waiting tables, I'll do that too.

So. Till next time ----- anyone need an office manager, fiddler, chick singer, belly dancer, or Jill of All Trades?