Recently I joined the Quinlan Arts Center in Gainesville as well as the Georgia Art League that meets there. One Friday a month they have an undraped model and as I perused their website earlier this month I was excited to see that a session fell on my birthday. I marked it on my calendar and planned to ask to take a long lunch to give my self the treat of drawing from life. It had been four years since the last time I had the chance to join a figure drawing session and for weeks I let myself look more and more forward to it.
The fact that it was my fortieth birthday and I have been feeling the need to more strongly stake a claim for the artist part of myself surely contributed to how important it felt. When I realized that my coworker was going to be out of town and I would have to stay in the office to answer any calls, emails or tickets that came in I was crushed. I tried to tell myself I could make the next one, that it wasn’t a big deal, but it was. I prayed a string of self-centered prayers asking for my boss to change his mind, but didn’t beg or plead. I mentioned on Thursday I was disappointed not to be able to go out on my birthday but he was noncommittal. On Friday I considered calling in sick, but was uncomfortable with how obvious my lie would be. So I didn’t even pack my sketching supplies and headed to work feeling gloomy.
The morning turned out to be a better one than expected. The DotNet team of developers and I were able to make big strides on a large group of tickets we hope to deploy next week and my sister had a gorgeous bouquet of flowers delivered to the office. I was almost over not being able to go draw when my boss asked me why I hadn’t left for my “appointment” yet. I don’t think he has ever seen me smile so broadly or move so fast. I dashed out of the office and rushed to Target where I found no art supply aisle at all. I ended up buying a child’s pad with a carrying handle awkwardly carved out of every page, a box of crayons and some #2 pencils. I was in such a hurry I left the sketch book at the checkout and didn’t realize until I got back to the car.
But despite the trip back into the store and catching every red light and the gas light on my car coming on I made it to the session on time, got a good seat and even had a bit of friendly chat with a couple of the other artists. The session was meeting in a smaller room than normal as a workshop was using the large studio with easels, but everyone managed to find a place around the tables and a few easels brought in from other rooms. There were at least a dozen, maybe even 15, artists there, and it was a bit cramped. The armchair had a wretched pattern and the lights were set in a way that I worried would block my view but I was just so happy to have made it there nothing else mattered. Every bit of it felt like such a gift.
And it was a gift. Even though I had been anxiously awaiting the chance to attend the session I had not completely remembered how much I love to draw from life. I do not think there are many other activities that give me such happiness. For an hour and a half I totally lost myself in the pleasure of rediscovering it. The softly smirking model, her wavy hair, disappearing neck, and perky breasts and my eyes and hands working together to see how much of her pose, her attitude, how much of her could be captured in a two or five minute pose. Then with the longer poses the discipline of trying to slow myself down, keep the marks light while I tried to find the shapes, not lose the proportions or blow the composition. It was pure joy. I do not even know how to explain it. I think they used to call it getting “in the zone” but I do not think I am exaggerating to say I was ecstatic.
The drawings themselves are not excellent. It is obvious that in places it took me 5 tries to find the line, there are odd proportions and a torso that is incredibly improbable even with all the fore-shortening, but I am so grateful to have had the chance to make them that I just have to share them anyway. I enjoyed my career as a graphic designer, being a line cook fed parts of me that I didn’t even knew existed, and the daily challenge of my current job keeps me interested, but I love to draw. There is something deep in my core that knows that when I am in the studio with a pencil or crayon in my hand trying to give shape to what my eyes (or mind) see that I am where I am supposed to be. In that moment I am most me.
I would have thought that by the time I was forty I would have acquired more wisdom than has yet to come my way. It seems like all I have figured out is that things cannot be figured out and that we have far less control over anything than we like to think. I do not know what is in store for me. I do not know what will happen tomorrow. But I hope and I pray that no matter what path my life leads me down in the short or distance future I will not let myself to forget to keep drawing.