Graphite on paper, 8"x10"
I went to a life drawing session on Monday night for the first time in three months. It felt good to get the eye and hand moving again, and I wasn't quite as rusty as expected.
Our model was a very interesting woman. She has been fighting cancer for some time and her body shows it: scars, no hair, and lots of lumps and bumps. Although her body shows it, her spirit doesn't. She's a bright, active, and cheerful woman who is enjoying her life and beating cancer. She chatted away with us about pretty much anything that popped into mind.
This was Ann's first time as a model. Although she's an artist, she'd never been to a life-drawing session before, even as a participant, and didn't know what to expect. Her decision to model was apparently driven by several factors. It was a way to confront the disease, to say "here I am, here are my scars, this is what cancer has done to me, and I'm still here." I think this is a brave thing to do for anybody. Our popular culture is so concerned with physical perfection that to show one's own very "imperfect" body, particularly one that has been mangled, takes a lot of fortitude.
In addition to confronting the disease, modeling was also a way to become comfortable with her own body. I think it's a bit frightening for a first-time model to step up on the stand and remove his or her robe in front of a crowd of strangers. What will these people do? Will they run from the room screaming in terror? Will they laugh? Will they accept me? It's a very scary moment. Imagine yourself in that situation and you'll get an idea of what a first-time model goes through. Contrary to popular belief, very few models are exhibitionists, in my experience, so something like nude modeling does not come naturally. I've had a number of models tell me that it helped them become more confident and comfortable, not only with their bodies, but with who they were.
It occurred to me that Ann is experiencing the same sort of thing that our wounded veterans are. Through no choice of their own, her body has been severely damaged and will show the damage for the rest of her life. But like most of the wounded vets, she's accepted the challenge, is fighting back, and making the most of it. I've painted wounded vets before as a personal and political statement. On Monday, I met a "wounded vet" that I'd like to paint just to celebrate her own personal victory.
And this was just an ordinary life drawing session.