Figure Drawing: The art of being nude
MANAGING MOSAIC EDITOR
As artists file into the classroom on a Wednesday evening, setting up paints, pencils and easels, they do not think twice about the model undressing before them. The completely bare woman assumes a position in front of the class that she will hold for the next three hours, and the surrounding artists silently get to work.
For several decades, people have been gathering together every Wednesday night with one thing in common – a passion for nude figure drawing.
With ages ranging from 16 to 80, the artists gather on the second floor of Taylor Hall to portray their model in the artistic medium of their choosing. While the class is open to local artists in the area, the members also encourage art students from the university to participate.
The artists normally choose a pose for the model that portrays an image from Western art. Paintings from that era have been the inspiration for many of the nude poses. The poses are usually simplistic, to make it easier for the model to remain in the same position for the three-hour period.
Rachel Ruck, 24, was the nude model for the most recent figure-drawing meeting. The Landenberg, Pa. resident expressed her nervousness about staying in one position for the entire class. While she could take periodic breaks, she had been more accustomed to choosing several poses to hold for a shorter amount of time.
Ruck has posed as a nude model for several other classes before. Having taken figure-drawing classes throughout her college years, she says she felt comfortable being a model because she had become familiar with the environment of such classes.
“I’ve found that everyone’s usually really respectful,” Ruck says. “I feel l like I have control of the room basically because I’m the one in control of what they are doing.”
Ernie Saniga, a professor of business information systems at the university, explained that the group has a very structured protocol to ensure there is no discomfort for the model, including same-sex assistants posing the nude model.
“There is nothing uncomfortable about art,” Saniga says.
Saniga, although a professor in the business school, spends his spare time creating art in his studio at home. He has been coming to the Wednesday figure drawing classes since the 1980s.
“You just need the discipline of drawing,” Saniga says. “It’s almost like: a golfer has to hit golf balls and a painter has to draw. Once you learn how to draw, it can lead you. You have to practice all the time.”
The artists have been practicing regularly for quite some time. In fact, the group loosely began in the 1980s when several people would draw in professor Stephen Tanis’ art class. The group was more formalized in the 1990s, and has been figure drawing every Wednesday night since.
“It’s very meditative,” says Lisa Bartolozzi, a local artist and regular attendee of the group meetings. “It’s always a challenge to draw something alive.”
Bartolozzi has been coming to the weekly figure drawing group since the early 1990s.
Saniga explained that the nude models for the group are all volunteers, found solely through word of mouth. Being a figure model for a class, especially one of three-hour length, is a tough job, Saniga says.
Oftentimes a model will have a limb become numb from sitting in one position for a long period of time. Some figure models even become faint. Yet all agree that these figure-drawing classes provide a great experience for both artists and model alike.
“I get to see how people perceive me,” Ruck says. “It’s interesting to see how some people actually look at you.”
Ruck says she hopes people enjoy her poses and she can encourage artists to continue drawing.
“There’s a relief in not having a class – it’s just something fun to do,” Bartolozzi says. “Everybody is still trying to just face that white piece of paper over and over again and have it work out – have it present something beautiful.”