Why Are People Staring at Me? Or My Experience as a Portrait Model

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Oh, hey, it’s me!

I recently hung out with a friend who does improv and loves it. On our train ride into the city for a show, we got to talking about our summers. She told me more about her improv shows, and I told her about the activities (paper marbling, sketching, and copy editing, among others) I was making time for.  Her reaction was, “Wow, you do a lot!” But I never think I do. And then later that night I told her how I used to bartend and that I was also an honorary member of my alma mater’s theater department back in the day. OK, maybe I have done a lot…

This past weekend, I got to add one more experience to my ever-growing list: portrait drawing model. I’m a member of the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. I’ve taken a few classes there, but lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the open studio time.

During one of those studio sessions, I was asked if I’d like to be a model for portrait classes. I accepted, and this past weekend was my first gig!

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew there’d be pencils and that I’d have to sit still. But otherwise? No clue.

In reality, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience. In nitty-gritty reality, I sat still for about five hours (minus breaks and lunchtime), and my shoulders hurt somethin’ fierce by the time I drove home. In reminiscent reality, I actually learned so much. Yes, I had to sit perfectly still, but I also got to hear the teacher lecture. I got to walk around and see sketches during my breaks. It was a crash course in seeing myself how others see me, and it was…eye-opening? Thrilling? Scary? Pretty freaking cool? I can’t put one word on it.

The first half of the class was dedicated to getting a sketch of the model (me) that would be refined in the latter half of the five-hour course. The teacher showed the students a method of measuring the spaces between my features using a pencil and his thumb. When it was the students’ turn, I took all my strength not to giggle at all the thumbs and pencils I saw pointed in my direction. From a different perspective, here were eight students of all ages (literally high-school students to elders) who were practicing their craft side by side. It was heartwarming and inspiring.

During my breaks, I walked around to see half-drawn, rough sketches of myself. But they were distinctly me! This was the surreal part. I walked around, talking to the students and taking pictures, all the while thinking, “Woah, that’s my nose!” or “That’s totally the curve of my lower lip!” I’ve experienced the thrill of getting a feature just right when I draw, but to walk around and see a room full of “me” sketches was unreal.

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After lunch, we all convened again, and the students added more detail to their drawings, trying to make them appear three-dimensional. If I thought the drawings from the first half of the class were great, these were even more spectacular! It was so cool to see each student’s take on how to render my form. One student drew me as a graphic-novel-type heroine. In another, I thought I resembled Joan of Arc, with a very stately pose. Yet another drew me with very undefined lines, making me look almost like a watercolor painting. It was fascinating!

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The teacher and a student

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The teacher’s final rendering

 This experience made me recognize all of the little idiosyncrasies of my face that I don’t normally pay attention to. It also made me realize that I can sit stone still for a pretty long time. Being on the other side of the drawing pad was a great experience, and I met some really great people. One student even took a photo of me beside the drawing he made of me. Even though my face rested while I posed, I left the class smiling!

What experience with art or writing has left you with a smile?

The Weather’s Warm. Must be Time for Pictures!

Like most, I go into hibernation mode in winter. Now that the weather has decided to be cooperative and warm, I’m so excited to be out and be able to take pictures. Yesterday, I went out to a local park and snapped away.  Here are some of the shots I took. If you’d like to see the full set, check it out on Flickr here.

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Everyone has a favorite spring activity. Mine is photography. What’s yours?

Muddled with Color: Working with Pastels

After a studio art drought, I decided to jump back into that realm today.  I’ve been wanting to get my hands dirty with oil pastels for a while as well as use a new art book I got in Florida back in March.  So I broke out both today.

A few months ago, a Louisiana friend of mine uploaded the following photo of a sunrise:

The inspiration behind my piece

The inspiration behind my piece

This image has stayed with me ever since he uploaded it, and I wanted to try drawing it.  Since it was such a pretty day out, I decided to print out the picture (in black and white since my printer doesn’t do color) and head out to draw among the cool breeze.

The printed reference I worked from

The printed reference I worked from

I will admit, I was a little nervous about sketching from a black and white photo since the color in the original is so brilliant.  But as I began laying down the color, particularly for the sky, and smudging, I realized I had a new freedom in picking the colors I wanted the sky to be, rather than painstakingly trying to match the color to the photo.  All of the little nuances of color and quirks were mine, and I liked that.  I know artists can do that with a full color reference too, but it’s something I struggle with.  Working with a black and white image freed me from my inner art critic a bit more.

When I first started the piece, I didn’t really like how it was turning out (as per usual).  But the more I smudged and added and got my hands muddled with color, the more I liked my rendition of the original image.  I hope you do too!

Almost there!

Almost there!

Finished piece!

Finished piece!

What is your current art project (in any medium)?

25 @ 25: In Rainbows

A few years back, I bought a scarf from my friend Stephanie at a craft fair.  I wear this scarf every winter and I still get compliments on it.

To accentuate the brightness of this scarf, I decided to utilize color accents in this week’s 25 @ 25 photograph.

Want to know what this 25 @ 25 business is all about?  Check out the first post here.

25 @ 25: These Black Boots Were Made for Walkin’

I’ve been taking a photography class over the last 5 weeks at CCA Bedminster.  Tonight was the last class.  During the critique, the instructor pointed out that three of my self-portrait shots could be the start of a series. I’ve never done a photography series before, but the idea is exciting!  So, this week’s 25 @ 25 post includes three pictures that may become part of a larger project (I’m thinking the common thread will be the sassy black boots!)

Looking for the post that started this sassy 25 @ 25 project?  Check it out here.