Life Drawing

Written By: Terry  Staverman


By Terry Staverman

Although it’s been many years since the last time I’ve mixed up a palette of paint, taken up a brush and tried to create something worthwhile, to my mind, on a canvas structure, I have kept up with the creative arts in one form or another.  Back then, during the period when I was actively painting I was delighted to discover the Southampton Artists Association and joined not long after it was established in 1989.  Soon after I became a member the organization was invited to exhibit their members’ work at a major charity event in Water Mill, where to my amazement, I sold my first painting – at my first showing.  There have been few-and-far-between sales since then but I remain a member to this day, and occasionally join in their group exhibitions of which there are about four annually at theSouthamptonCulturalCenteronPond Lane, just across fromAgawamPark.

In much of my interactions with artists I have come to observe that generally, most of them are an especially broad-minded bunch.  I can offer no explanation for this characteristic but it always makes me very comfortable whenever I find myself among them.  Many, many years ago I had the most memorable experience in their company during a life drawing workshop.  The SAA began this workshop almost from the outset, and it occurs twice a week – once on Monday evening and once on Tuesday morning – and continues to the present.

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It was a Monday evening in the Summer of that year and I wanted to attend the life drawing workshop, but my daughter, who was about twelve years of age at that time – and too old for a sitter, and too young to be left alone in a house – presented an uneasy dilemma.   So, I thought to invite her to come along with me.  I explained that the workshop involved sketching nude models.  The woman would be totally naked with everything hanging out there.  Occasionally they might drape a robe or shawl around themselves but for the most part she would be butt naked.

Why I had no reservations about asking my young daughter to join me in what is probably an unconventional mother/daughter outing (you might be wondering), is for the singular fact that I, at about her age and in my freshman year of high school, was sketching live, nude models at the top floor ateliers of the Brooklyn Museum of Art – four periods a day.  In retrospect an academic art program clearly on a par with the academia training of the nascent old masters and, sadly, long removed from the public school system anywhere in theUSA.

To my delight she agreed and we dug up another sketch book and a few pencils for her use.  We arrived at the workshop – were granted permission for her to attend and I paid the fee for both of us.   We set up at one of the tables and waited for the model.

Many of those already present turned to us and smiled.  I smiled in return.  Tugs of unease with the attention we were drawing began to give me second thoughts while, simultaneously, I felt like a celebrity who just happened to drop by a local community workshop to brush up her skills.  We were sitting a short distance from the rest of the

LIFE DRAWING                                                                                                                    P3 assembled group when I began to notice a small clutch of men and women talking amongst themselves and occasionally glancing over at us.  With rising paranoia over the attention coupled with misgiving thoughts about engaging my daughter in something a bit out of the ordinary, I began to suspect that they might be annoyed with me for having brought such a young girl to this type of event, and were tittering and making their displeasure obvious to me.  It was then that a man and a woman broke away from the group and began to walk in our direction.  OK, here it comes, I thought, they are going to ask us to leave – but they had better refund me the fees!

The man spoke first although haltingly for a few seconds as if to find the words.  When he finally did gather them – and this is not verbatim but only through unreliable memory – he said, “We’ve discussed the matter and agreed that you should know beforehand, um … that the model this evening will be a male, um … in case this presents a problem for your daughter”.  This was indeed astonishing news as a male model is a rare occurrence.  We all just stood mutely for a few awkward seconds.  I had the feeling the entire room was silent.  I thanked the couple for their consideration and assured them it was the responsible action.  Then I turned to my daughter, who no doubt heard every word but I felt the situation needed further explanation.  The man would be naked, I said, just like my prior explanation of the woman model.  His private parts would be visible.  Would she be uncomfortable with this? Would she want to go home?  I assured her that leaving would be perfectly understandable and that I would not, in the least, be upset with her …