This week I caught up with a very good friend whom I haven’t spoken to in a while. We’ve shared a good part of our lives together and she is very special to me. As of late one of our favorite topics of conversation is our mutual love of art.
She mentioned how excited she is that she’s going to be taking a figure drawing class. As she spoke, all of my memories flooded back to that moment in my life when I changed it forever. This was unquestionably one of my favorite studio classes when I decided to go back to school to become a working artist and teacher over ten years ago.
I remember walking into the class for the first time; that uncomfortable second when I first saw a real human standing there in the nude. I recall trying to be very mature but secretly giggling in my head like a child. I remember the smell of charcoal, and working hours on end to capture texture, light (value) and of course, the human form.
Each week I’d go back to class with more comfort and confidence as I honed in on my skills and creativity. When I came home each evening, I’d blow my nose to find black charcoal coming out from the hours of work.
I drew many different models: some old, some young, some heavy and some thin. I came to appreciate and embrace them for all of their unique beauty. It wasn’t until then that I also came to appreciate my own figure for all of its flawed elegance. What I once was embarrassed and uncertain about seemed wonderfully different and attractive.
When it comes to our bodies we tend to judge ourselves (and others) so harshly. We are raised that it is shameful to show them and then we wonder why so many of us are uncomfortable with intimacy and sex. After taking my figure drawing class I walked away with a much deeper understanding of the human condition and a beautiful confidence in myself. Art has taught me so much about life, but from this particular class I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin.
Am I suggesting that everyone should take a nude figure drawing class to appreciate their own bodies and perhaps to be less judgmental of others? Well, maybe I am!
"...and the waves gently rocked the boat in a way that a mother rocks her baby to sleep."
As most artists, I create for the love of creating. To make a living from my artwork is a different story. During most of the year I am an art teacher (which is also awesome), and in the summer months I am fortunate to bartend with a small boat company that sails along the Chicago River and occasionally on Lake Michigan. This brings me to my story about the painting above.
There is this cute little lighthouse that rests near Navy Pier. It sits along a breakwall that by definition protects the coast from the large battering of waves. On rare occasions, the waves on Lake Michigan can get as high as 20 - 30 feet. However even two to three-foot waves can make a boat ride a bit rocky. That being said, when the waves get even a tiny bit ornery the captains tend to stay within the breakwall to make the sail more enjoyable.
For some reason I love this lighthouse. Maybe there's something about being on the water and seeing it so often that comforts me. I let go of everything that weighs heavily on my mind and just enjoy the view.
On this particular night we sailed very close to the lighthouse; closer than I’ve ever been. There we were in the twilight of a perfect summer evening calmly sailing along. Although the waves steadily rippled, rising and falling in a continuous pattern, the night was strangely quiet and perfect. The whitecaps glistened in the moonlight and the waves gently rocked the boat in a way that a mother rocks her baby to sleep. I went to my happy place and the whole evening was quite magical. So what do artists do when they come across a magical moment such as this? They paint it of course!
Please visit www.saatchiart.com/danielaart for info a pricing.
Stories about how art inspires and changes us.