Tuesday, January 15, 2013

flu 1; modelling 0

...Make that I couldn't see myself rendered as a coughing, hacking, sniffling geezer. That would just be pathetic.

I came down with the flu, yup, the one that's running rampant throughout North America, on Fri the 4th. I was fighting it a few days prior and thought that I'd won the battle. I felt fabulous that morning and then WHAM I got blindsided that evening. 12 days later it's taking its own sweet time vacating the premises.

I was booked from 7  - 10p.m. for 4 Thursdays in a row for a sculpture class at the local art centre. I would be working with a fine instructor who I worked for regularly back in the day. Just to make sure I wouldn't get myself into a pose that I couldn't maintain, I've been exploring poses and transitions; checking stability, stress points, natural, dramatic and expressive movements.

I'd gotten myself psyched up for it.

I was sooo sure that I'd be clear by the 10th for my first modelling session in 15 years. But, willing didn't make it so. I cancelled at the last possible moment, a few days before the class, so that another model could be found. I've made it a rule NEVER to cancel unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. It felt like I was chickening out, until modelling night found me hacking up a lung, wrapped up in my blankie in my nice, cosy home. This was, in a weird way, some consolation, confirmation that I couldn't have done it.

But, I truly was disappointed.
Nance Thacker © 1984
Rule #1 - don't intimidate the artists
A model on the podium needs to project so that the artists can be moved by what they see and put that into their work. They want to be inspired and challenged. Each model moves and expresses the energy of their particular body type. I'm a small, compact mesomorph; my sessions are full of movement, energy and expression. Since there's no reference point for a body standing, sitting or lying on a podium and, since the artist's attention is focused on the model, the model seems larger than s/he really is. When I step away from the podium I'm always amused by the surprised looks I get when the artists realize I'm only 4'10" tall.

Though it isn't a requirement for an artists' model it is an asset that I can imagine a 360 degree view of each pose which assures that there are good angles and shapes for each artist. This ability to step outside one's body and view it remotely is a skill, a body awareness technique I learned from one of the instructional yoga books I used to teach myself yoga 43 years ago.

A variety of poses are done over the course of a session. Usually we begin short poses from 1 - 5 minutes long, poses which capture gesture. These I find the most fun as I move from pose to pose in one continuous moment isolated in freeze-frame time. Longer poses of 10 and 20 minutes follow which challenge the model to keep the energy up for the duration. When we settle into longer pose, relative comfort, balancing between the body's tendency to relax into the pose vs the desire to self-adjust into more comfort when the going gets tough, becomes an issue.

Sustained poses are broken up into 20 minute sessions with 5 to 10 minute breaks so that the artists can step away from the work and come back with fresh eyes and the model can get the circulation moving again and refresh. Before the model breaks the pose, key areas of contact - the heel of the foot and its angle, the placement of a hand - are marked with chalk on the podium, chair or whatever as reference points for  the model to find their place again. Getting back into the pose feels like slipping into a glove. I know I'm back in it when I've filled in the invisible energetic imprint that was left behind; it just "fits".

Modelling provides me with the opportunity to "sit in" on classes and to learn more about art and techniques. During a session music usually plays softly in the background and the atmosphere is pervaded with an undertone of peace that one gets when they are "in the zone" multiplied by the number of artists absorbed in their work.

I listen, I soak it in, I drift and dream and I monitor the energy flows coursing throughout my body to maintain a consistent level during each 20 minute segment. Modelling is a form of meditation; meditation in stillness and meditation in movement.

Prior to becoming a therapist, of all the jobs I'd had in my life at no time did I ever feel so appreciated for my work as when I modelled.

Oh well, that was 15 years ago. Whether an opportunity will come up again or not, time will tell. Til then I'll spend some time on the other side of the easel as I attend my first open life drawing sessions this coming Wednesday after a lengthy absence from the studio. And, I can assure you there will be no more appreciative artist than this former model.

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