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?