He had no sharp angles. Every part of him offered curved lines. Every muscle had definition and volume.
The model was perfect for drawing cross-contour lines… the lines which we practiced in the exercise for today, my first class in figure drawing.
First, the “swoop” – the gesture line that describes the basic posture, following the spine and, depending on the pose, down into the leg.
Then the quick lines to place the shoulder angle, the head triangle, the hip box.
Then, without outlining the figure, the cross-contour lines.
The lines should zig-zag as they describe the visible half of the cylinders – the chest and limbs of a human body.
I find it hard to draw cross-contour, but it is a good way to reach for the sensation of feeling the volume of the model with your hand as you draw. Back and forth, as though running your palm over his body, pouring shape as though with a semi-fluid clay.
The model, somehow in keeping with his physical beauty and exquisite sense of how to mold his body into pleasing poses, was soft-spoken, unassuming. It may sound contradictory but I think it takes a certain modesty to be a nude model.
The good models – many of them are artists themselves – know that their body represents something far greater.
When I draw a human body, I am trying to capture the human spirit.
In art, we talk about how the size of the canvas can be viewed as a limitation, but it is exactly this limitation that solicits our creativity.
The body is the canvas, the spirit is the art.
It is so relaxing to simply observe a naked human body, letting your eyes sink into the shapes of calf and shoulder, or rest in the crook of a neck or arm. You can do that in an art class with none of the expectations that a bedroom viewing has.
You can also do it in Italy, where magnificent marble humans are standing around everywhere like weekday commuters.
We need more nude statues, in public places, that people could watch in the changing light, that people could study, that would be our models of spirit played out on the canvas of a body.
Today’s penny is a 2014, in honor of the year I went to Italy and sketched Michelangelo’s David for an entire afternoon.