Respect is Coupled With Distance

Over the past 12 months, I’ve begun to appreciate how seeing another human being as they exist in their own body can affect change in other people. Me being one of those.

I’m pretty new to this but I’ve come to see that, speaking superficially, for many participants the relationship between a life drawing model and an artist is most often a transactional experience, a collaborative co-conspiracy of consensual objectification. The artist attempts to capture the model much as they would attempt to render a still life with flowers or a bowl of fruit. It’s an experience artist pays for.
I can’t deny that this is fairly accurate description of what happens. I’d very much like to say that there’s more of a connection, but professional boundaries don’t encourage friendships in this setting.

A more pointed side note: all of the drawings in this post are of the wonderful Miss Brie. She’s a model that I quietly hold in special reverence precisely because when the time came for someone to hold up her hand and step onto the plinth, she said “yes”. Watching her step into her role as a model has been fundamental to appreciating the effort and work that goes into that endeavor. It’s not just the obvious task of holding a pose (which is difficult as hell), but it’s learning that being dependable is truly a piece of a persons character that should never taken for granted.

The entire endeavor of our life drawing sessions is predicated on the collaboration of our models. Without them, we have no sessions. Brie drives to Stockton and back from Sacramento for each session. No small trip. She’s a personable character, very quick with a smile and makes new participants feel at ease.

After a year of working with Miss Brie, I can easily say that she’s one of my favorite models to draw. My experience as one of the people that finds themselves on the end that’s holding the stub of charcoal, my eyes are as familiar with her body as my own wife’s, probably more so. I very much enjoy drawing her again and again, the curves leading into curves leading into curves… as I said, all have become familiar and it leads me to a sense of intimate familiarity.

Up to this point, it’s a relationship type that’s unlike any other that I’ve experienced before, it’s something I’m still coming to grips with, it’s a transactional relationship. So much of who I am feels that it’s necessary to deepen my relationships when they show up. This one comes with professional boundaries that need to be respected if what we really asking for is for everyone to show up next time. Like I said, it’s a new situation. I’m not just learning how to draw better, I’m learning new ways to relate.

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