To balance the angst of the previous post, let me just write a little further about the awesome shift I worked on that busy, angsty, social day.
First off, I was working at one of my favourite schools, for one of my favourite instructors. It was the first day of summer school, and the room was packed with probably fifty students – which I found intimidating when I first walked in, but then I remembered that it was their first day of school and they were probably pretty nervous. I’m betting a lot of them had never drawn a live model before. Once I realized all of this, the vibe in the room became empowering: my nakedness was something I was comfortable with and they were not, and I kind of enjoyed showing off (maybe I’m a teeny bit of an exhibitionist after all).
There’s something about posing naked for a group of people who are palpably thinking “OMG how can someone be naked in public like that? I could never do that. And she’s standing just a few feet away arrrrrgh what if I accidentally make eye contact?!?!” that I get a tremendous kick out of. I feel brave and powerful, especially since I’m doing this at forty years old, after having left behind a much more conventional life. I feel like a trailblazer.
At one point, the instructor had me strike a pose and then the rest of the class had to take that same pose. I’ve done this exercise before – it’s supposed to encourage the students to feel a pose in their own bodies and therefore draw the weight distribution and tension better. The thing is, a lot more students had signed up for summer school than anticipated, and the larger room we were supposed to have had been rented to someone else, or something. So the already too-small room was ringed with bulky easels, and for the students to have room to pose, they had to step in front of their easels.
The bottom line: I was naked in the middle of the room with a bunch of 18-22 year olds standing all the way around me, no more than three feet away. Watching me closely so they could do what I was doing. It was a tiny bit intimidating at first, but I reminded myself that they were nervous newbies and they were following my lead (“Dance, puppets, dance!”) and I rallied nicely. I think I chose good poses for them to emulate: lots of stretching and flexing so they could really feel it.
Most of the rest of the class was spent on five-second poses. Not five minutes – five seconds. This is not a typical practice; most classes start out with 30 second poses and then work upward to maybe a 20-30 minute one. I’m guessing the super-short poses were intended to loosen the students up and get them to work on capturing the feel of each pose rather than obsessing on fiddly little things like shading and proportions.
So, I spent around two hours (with occasional breaks) posing for just five seconds at a time, and it was so fun and freeing! First off, I could do tricky poses that I would never attempt in an average class where the poses start at thirty seconds. Secondly, I could do a bunch of poses in a row with my arms up or out without getting tired, because I was changing position so frequently. Thirdly, I was able to completely throw modesty and self-consciousness to the wind: with only five seconds to capture my entire pose, these kids had no time to stare at my genitals even if they were clearly visible.
So liberating! I was doing shit I’ve never done in class before – posing balanced on one leg; posing on all fours with one leg flung up and back as far as it would go; planking; at one point I did a fuckin’ shoulder stand/splits kind of thing, like this.
Normally, I feel like each of my poses should be dramatically different from the last, but since I had to come up with so many different ones (I was strutting my stuff for about 20 minutes at a time and then getting a little break, which means two hundred and forty poses in a row, several times over the course of the class) I started experimenting with being more subtle. I had the fairly obvious epiphany that I don’t have to go from jumping jacks to the foetal position in order to make two drastically different poses; just changing the angle of each of my limbs slightly is enough to give the artists a whole new challenge.
And so, to conserve energy and also because it looked cool, I started flowing my poses together sequentially – almost like tai chi. I’d strike one pose and then pivot and twist slightly into the next. I made sure to face all angles, use the entire surface of my mat, and move through all possible levels: standing, sitting, and lying down. And when I started feeling like I might be running out of ideas, I’d grab one of my props and get inspired all over again. For a while I engaged in an imaginary duel using my plastic sword. Later, I grabbed my long piece of ribbon and stretched it between my hands or wrapped it around me in different ways – that was good for a lot of interesting ideas.
I felt completely present in my body and completely badass, and it was awesome.
Also, a really cute boy came up and talked to me during one of the breaks. I’m pretty sure he approached me in order to look cool and brave in front of the other students, who were still kind of wall-eyed around me because omg I just saw her naked. Possibly he thought I was attractive, too. And I suspect he wouldn’t have spoken to me if he’d known I was twice his age – most young’uns who find out my age seem to assume we’ll have nothing in common, and don’t even attempt small talk with me. So it would appear that this kid saw me as a) such a trophy that he’d earn coolness points from his peers just for talking to me, and b) probably in my mid-twenties. That doesn’t suck. 😀
At the end of class, this same kid thanked me for my work and called me by name when he did it. A few other students shyly thanked me, too. D’awwwwww.
So that was my awesome shift.
Also, thanks to one of the instructors at that school giving me a lead, I now have a job lined up with a guy who runs a life drawing class out of his downtown condo – and it pays way more than anyplace else I’ve worked! Also, when I asked the dude if he’d like me to bring props, he got all excited and said nobody’s ever done that before. Oh I am gonna rock the shit outta this gig!!!