Drawn Together

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Oh, THAT was the problem: I’d drawn her with six toes. See: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… oh. OH! She *had* 6 toes!


I’m just retired. Technical guy. Married for decades. Never artistic in the slightest. So how better to kick off retirement than doing all of those things I’ve never been able to do – like, for instance, sketching. Or drawing. Or… combining retirement with mid-life crisis, lemme try a Life Drawing class – where I get to ogle a NAKED lady! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

It was surprisingly easy to arrange. Who knew? Decades of having my nose buried in computer code and sub-micron photolithograpic effects – fantasizing about naked women – and, it seems, “artistic types” had been routinely staring at naked women the whole time. Boy, had I picked the wrong profession. Ironically, photolithography is, arguably, art: “painting” chips with X-ray beams, but the drawing was done by computer instead of simple pencils.

Anyway, again, it was easy to find a group who welcomed even total beginners, so I found myself helping the session leader/organizer to hang curtains in the front window of the storefront we would be using as a drawing studio – thereby confirming to my fevered mind – that there was something we needed to cover up.

Friendly group. Very informal. I claimed my spot at a table – between a serious-looking man to my left and an attractive female artist to my right – and laid out my vast collection of supplies: 4 pencils of varying softness plus one spiral-bound notebook. Yup. I was “fully prepared”.

To defend my preparation, I had Googled “How To Draw” 2 weeks earlier and had been reading how to overcome my technical thought process and draw what I saw – not what my mind said I was looking at – and I had produced one or two not-totally-awful practice sketches, so I felt justified in labeling myself an artist in training.

I doodled a moment with my supplies as the model threw a canvas over a small platform, then unceremoniously dropped her robe, climbed, nude, onto the platform, and created a work of art – using her body – right there in front of me.

Time kind of froze as my 2 brain modes fought with each other. My caveman brain mode tried to think “Holy Happiness, there’s an attractive woman NAKED right in front of me” – but my artistic brain mode instantly won out and, instead, I was just incapacitated – appreciating the sheer beauty of the image before me. She was lit with track lighting so there were many light sources coming from the ceiling and the interplay of those sources – with her curves: light, shadow, dark – on olive skin – highlighting, hiding, enticing – lovingly hugging her smooth skin, hair, hands, face – was just – well – even to a brain trained to be a geek for multiple decades – was just – “art”. And I just sat motionless, appreciating her as if she were a sculpture – while the experienced artists around me, in contast, furiously began sketching.

She looked mid-20’s, reasonably-attractive and slim, but not a girlie-magazine-style beauty. No surgically-“enhanced” breasts. Not perfect skin. Not a pose designed to emphasize Escort Bayan her sexual attributes. But I was pleased to realize a deep, deep, fundamental human appreciation of just how beautiful she was: beautiful because she was real. Not some air-brushed surgical fantasy.

I picked up my pencil and as I finally began to sketch, I remembered that I needed to draw what I saw – shapes, light and dark rather than “a naked woman” and my eyes played across her, studying smaller and smaller areas – appreciating her hair: how it curled and gave infinite range of contrast in the light – without varying the hue.

Her hands: graceful, thin fingers shaded light and dark. Her neck: just a smooth stretch of skin connecting her head to her shoulders – but then revealing a beauty in the curve and the gentle, gradual gradient of light playing from her chin down to her collar bone. Shoulders: bright in the light from above – challenging me to draw white with a black pencil. Breasts: real. Beautifully sagging a bit – presenting a whole world of challenges to try to capture properly: lines and highlight and shadow of aerolae and nipples, outline curve and constantly-curving surface.

And she moved! What? OK. I had been very impressed at her ability to HOLD her pose – dramatic and displaying muscle tension, but now, 2 minutes later, as I was just finally putting pencil to paper, she struck an entirely-different pose! I glanced at the artpads to my left and right and was stunned that they had captured the essence of the pose in just 2 minutes. I guess that’s why they were so quick to begin drawing. But also, they had the skill to do so while I was struggling to get 5 lines on my pad. I really hadn’t thought that it would be this difficult.

The leader said something about “Gestures” and I began to understand that there would be multiple quick “difficult to hold” poses – in rapid succession – so that I would have to try to capture essence instead of detail.

As the poses proceeded, I found my skill insufficient for me to capture any essence, so I began to specifically just choose a single feature and try to capture it: Hands. Hair. Shoulders. Vagina.

Yes. The caveman part of my brain was still very-much present and argued that if I was going to draw one something, that it might as well be the something which that part of my brain most-wanted to study and capture. Yes. Study.

An artist friend had given me the advice that “drawing is really studying your subject so that you understand how it works, how it is formed, what interacts with what – then drawing what you understand” – and I was amazed at how little I had ever actually looked at a vagina – in that way. After all of the time I had spent studying female anatomy, I had never looked with an artistic eye. And the model’s pose just happened to present me with a front-row seat to her vagina. Open. Well lit. Quietly, yet proudly looking straight at me from between her closed thighs since her pose had her on her side, legs bent, literally presenting her lips for study. Light. Shade. Dark. Curve connecting to curve. Texture contrasting with texture. Curly hair against smooth, dappled, skin. Skin tone dark and light interacting with shadow and highlight.

Intensely erotic.

And, simultaneously, not at all erotic because it was entirely artistic.


The poses proceeded and my sketches were dreadful: terribly out of proportion and badly shaded. Except for one where the model was standing and I was rather proud to have captured the curve of her belly and leg – down past the junction with her other leg – her pubic patch accentuating the juncture. That was the entire sketch. Actually rather artistic – to my eye.

Break was called and the assembled artists circulated, looking at each others’ work. I carefully closed my drawing pad to keep anyone from seeing how poor my drawings were, but I studied others’ work and I was surprised at the wide choice of styles and drawing materials. One young man was using broad splashes of color to abstractly suggest the model who had been before us.

Another was using brown paper and 3 solid-color markers to expertly capture the high-and-low-lights – eliminating fine detail while beautifully celebrating the essence. One was using soft charcoal to get deep, dark lines quickly and enticingly. The woman next to me was alternating between simple black pencil – and a collection of colored pencils.

It suddenly hit me that each artist had a different figure to draw. Simply because we were gathered in a rough circle around the model, every artist had a different perspective. Same pose. Different drawing. How wonderful!

Comparing my drawings, I was mortified at how amateur my work was and how beautiful the others’ was. It occurred to me that part of my problem was that I wasn’t even trying to be artistic – to abstract something from what I saw. Rather I was trying to accurately represent what was before me. On reflection, I decided that it was important to learn to be representative before trying to be artistic. And the group was very helpful and supportive. In contrast, I was quite surprised to find that all of the artists were VERY critical of their own work. Not false modesty at all: no artist was at all happy with the amazing artwork they had created. Perhaps it is like women evaluating their own bodies – naked – alone – in their mirror. No matter how aesthetic they actually are, they have been taught subtly since birth – to find something “imperfect” and strive to improve it – by buying something. I suppose that it is important to strive for better but sad when no satisfaction is ever experienced when something is so beautiful.


Break ended and we began the first long pose: 20 minutes instead of the rapid fire poses – which meant that the chosen pose had to be something which the model could hold for 20 minutes. She was astounding in her ability to remain unmoving – even – I noticed – breathing shallowly to minimize the swell and contraction of her diaphragm.

With the longer time, I got the opportunity to expand from single features – and try to capture her whole body, so I set about attempting to do so. Starting from the crown of her hair and slowly working my way down her right side – to her neck, shoulder, arm, bent leg, and, finally, foot – relaxed and fully presented to my view.

Again, trying to draw what I saw, as opposed to what my mind thought the curve of a woman “should” look like.

As I sketched positive and negative space, I dutifully outlined along her foot. Toe by toe. Then on around and up her leg.

Pulling my focus back for a moment, I found that one of my biggest failings was hands and feet. In drawing each digit individually, the hand / foot wound up being far too wide. Out of proportion. I glanced at the drawing pad to my right and saw that the woman next to me was leaving out all detail there: just drawing them as the general outline, but not detailing the digits. So maybe it was a more-advanced problem. Or perhaps digits just weren’t the artistic focus of her drawing. But I looked more closely at my own out-of-proportion drawing and realized:

Oh, THAT was the problem: I’d drawn her with six toes.

So I looked again at the model and counted. And counted again. And was amazed to realize that, yes, she really did have 6 toes per foot. Amazing on many levels. Amazing that I hadn’t previously noticed. I had been carefully studying this woman for over an hour and hadn’t noticed.

Amazing that – well – when I thought about it – that it somehow made her so-much-MORE artistic. Unique. Interesting. Self-confident enough to be a nude model with such a difference. Perhaps ironic that I would be surprised at the self-confidence of a woman who is comfortable being nude in front of a group. But in the hour that I had closely observed her, I hadn’t gotten the impression that she was self-confident. Very very good at what she was doing. Friendly and open. But deferential. “Confident” was NOT a word which sprang to mind. But sitting, quietly, unobtrusively studying her 6-toed feet, I was struck by how wonderful it would be if everyone could be so confident with their own bodies. So comfortable. So willing to be a “model of humanity”. With all of the “flaws” that any one of us could critically find in her body. “Flaws” which were beautiful and artistic and interesting. “Flaws” which added up to a person. An individual. Each of us one-of-a-kind-in-the-whole-world. How wonderful. How inspiring.

So at the next break, I found the organizer and pulled her aside. I asked if sessions ever used 2 models at once – and if the group would be interested in drawing someone who had never modeled before.

She considered. And understood. And smiled. And spoke privately and seriously to the woman who had been our model. Then she came back to me, nodded, lead me to a dressing room, and pointed to a robe hanging on a hook.

I emerged and when break ended, I left my pad and pencils on my table, and, instead, joined the model in the center of the circle.

We dropped our robes together and she helped me to settle into a “couples pose” with her. Both of us totally naked. Entwined. With all of our wonderful, beautiful flaws on display for the artists to capture in a delightful galaxy of individual styles.

And, perhaps, I began to have some small understanding of what “art” really is.

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