When I was in art school, there was no such thing as “too much nudity” in drawing class–heck in any class. We considered ourselves privileged to even have access to nude models and we used our own bodies when we didn’t, especially in homework. We were warned in beginner classes that, should we decide to use the drawing studios late at night (they were open 24/7, so we had no excuse to scrimp on homework), we shouldn’t be surprised or ashamed to find other students there in various states of undress.
College campus rape alarm bells are going off, right? I know. But I’m not kidding. Art school was different.
The thing is, all the drapery, color, and texture found in clothing is much more difficult to represent than flesh, in charcoal on paper, or paint on canvas. We sought perfection in depicting the human form, and we were encouraged to get every last detail correct. Every wart, every wrinkle. It needn’t be pretty, decidedly not. And the best way to investigate the human body in all its forms, glorious or otherwise, is in the nude.
Some models were old, some were overweight. My first wasn’t. John.
I remember my first figure drawing class vividly. We were to use nothing but charcoal and paper, but our supply list was extensive. Pressed charcoal, vine charcoal, charcoal pencils, ad nauseam. And the paper. My god is that stuff expensive. I was a good girl and brought every item on the list to class, set up my drawing station, and waited.
I had seen an older, attractive man, dressed in business slacks and a white dress shirt, talking with the instructor before class. He hadn’t appeared to be one of the other students. To my horror, that same man then walked in, dressed in a robe. He dropped his robe, and took his place in a central position–a strange, stage-like gathering of old wooden and metal school chairs, crusty drop cloths, and one or two cow skulls (for the adventurous), with spotlights pointed advantageously. Students were arranged, ringing him around the room, each with a sturdy metal easel and maybe a stool drawn over to set an art utensil box on. No sitting for us.
John was finely made, with a tattoo and a nipple ring.
As I fumbled with my materials, averting my eyes and trying to hide my blush, my instructor walked past and jammed his face into mine.
“What are you doing? Don’t waste time! Get to work! Go go go.”
He even clapped his hands together as he resumed his patrol, frightening the rest of the students out of any natural embarrassment at the sight of nudity. No, I’m going to be more honest than that. Penis. Right there. In a spotlight.
It didn’t take long for all those normal inclinations–what most people would and should feel when confronted with genitals early in the morning in a school classroom–to subside.
Penis in a spotlight? Whatever.
I remember stalling for maybe a few seconds once, while considering my next stroke, in that drawing class on another day.
“Draw, don’t think,” my instructor hollered in my face.
Then, he actually ripped my charcoal out of my hand, tore away the newsprint on which I had been working, then attacked the new page. One hand held the charcoal in a fist, chiseling out the form, while the other gripped the easel as if we were in the midst of a World Wrestling Federation live broadcast.
“Get it down and get it down NOW!”
At that particular juncture within the class schedule, the model was to move from one pose to another in 10-second intervals, and we were to draw as much as we could in a series of “gestures.”
“See? You missed it.”
The model had already moved on.
Instructor dropped the charcoal on my shoe, then banged my newsprint board with animal intensity. Growling.
Nudity was not sexual in the slightest in art school. To even have imaged so would have been the height of uncool–even worse, amateurish.
So, when I selected one of my old art school paintings as part of my cover for Wicked Lover, “too much nudity” never crossed my mind. At first. As I continue working on the imagery, adding graphics and text, I’m starting to wonder. The nude form–I think her name was Christy–is becoming something very different than what it–she–was in that painting class ten years ago. I’m not sure if the reason for my squeamishness is that I have been seeing so many book covers for romance novels or erotica that don’t show as much fanny, or if I feel guilty putting Christy on display in an international arena.
I’m still going to do it, though.
Look for the Wicked Lover in November.
(Names have been changed, to protect privacy.)