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?

25 @ 25: My Serious Face

Today’s penultimate (nifty word, eh?) 25 @ 25 features my serious face.  It came about when I randomly made this face at my boyfriend and said, “This is my serious face!”  Because my mouth was scrunched up, it probably sounded more like, “Dis serus fish!”  He couldn’t stop laughing.  This story demonstrates the effectiveness of my serious face.  I think it also sums up my view on the 25 @ 25 project: sometimes serious, but mostly fun 🙂

Wondering what the 25 @ 25 project is all about?  Read the first post here!

25 @ 25: Fruit for Thought

For the longest time, I was self conscious about my teeth.  I never got braces and so two of my front teeth curve in.  To be honest, it’s not incredibly noticeable unless you really look.  Nevertheless, I didn’t like it.  But I recently noticed a nifty aspect of this.  Instead of the regular round pattern, the different formation of my teeth makes a pretty cool shape when I bite into an apple.  Take a look for yourself…it always makes me smile 🙂

Want to see the post that started this whole 25 @ 25 series?  Check out the first post here!

25 @ 25: Spring in My Hand

During this project, I’ve focused quite a bit on my legs because of my obsession with boots.  Today’s photo focuses on another body part: my hands.  Here is a photo with a bit of Spring in my hands:

Wondering what the 25 @ 25 project is all about?  Check out the first post here!

25 @ 25: The Lady in the Window

This story line 25 @ 25 happened by accident.  I was trying to get one shot by the window.  My camera was taking fuzzy photos for some reason, so I took quite a few in hopes of getting a photo that was clear.  The result is the following story board:




Curious to see how these 25 @ 25 shenanigans began?  Check out the first post here!

25 @ 25: Metallic Reflection

We’re in the home stretch!  It’s about T minus 3 weeks until I turn 26 with 15 pictures left to post.  So, I’ll be posting one shot a weekday until then 🙂

Here’s one where I look for my reflection in a spoon:

Want to see the post that started this project?  Check it out 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.