Sunday, October 14, 2012

Figure Drawing 101 Part 1: Idealization Reflective Essay

It's been an eye opening six weeks.
Each life anatomy drawing class at Sinclair Community College offers fascinating insight into the interior and exterior structures of figurative study- how bones and muscles operate together underneath the body's largest organ.
However, this class's purpose involves a much deeper analysis than making realistic, technically savvy art in traditionalist fashion and is considered an intrusive, very intimidating psychological awakening.
Each homework assignment must be from life and if a model is unavailable or unfounded, which in most cases they are, students must use themselves as composition and though allowed undergarments, it is imperative to showcase bones and muscles accurately to frame.
By using our personal bodies, it can at times create a conflict no one is prepared to tackle.
"Now we only have a few people in the class so there's no reason to be uncomfortable with revealing yourselves," said instructor, Mark Echtner. "In fact, I've had students in the past who have made discoveries that at first they were overly critical of, but eventually learned to accept those 'flaws' and highlight them in their drawings."
At first, I laughed at the notion, having drawn my form sans clothes several times and only revealing that art to a select few, but slowly pieces of my timid personality unraveled from using the mirror in ways never used.
Examples of course homework:
First assignment- drawing face with skeletal structure.
Second- draw face with a hand.
Third- arm and shoulder attachment.
Fourth- twisted torso.
Fifth- foreshortened torso view...
Now as the homework became more complicated and the mirror started focusing on depressing avenues,
inner questions rose on suppressed issues pertaining to aesthetics and perception.
What was considered a beautiful body and who has one?
Why do I always exclude myself as a part of the latter answer?
For years, I've been obsessively compulsive about media's representation, that rail thin phenomenon of the idealistic perfect figure: long straight hair, thin face, perky breasts, tightly muscled stomach, and long lean legs. My burning curiosity ventured as far as Google searching Hollywood actresses/models weight/measurement profiles and wondered why heavy amounts of excruciating exercise and healthy eating can't my overly trained body look the ideal, crying over not being thinner.
In this particular drawing class, addressing what the TV, the movies, high school peers, and strangers on the street have obviously taught, not only does the weekly female model represent coveted beauty so does the figures showcased in required book, Atlas Of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck and these weekly assignments forced confronting long hindered mental issues about that view.
The horror story of sitting naked alone in a dark room with charcoal, a large piece of paper, and a small lamp brightening imperfections brought about fear and enhanced that "ugly girl syndrome" mindset and gave realization that ethnicity and genetics factor into this extreme face and body hatred.
I am a black girl with thick, ethnic features and body programmed to dislike.
In the process of looking in the honest mirror without cringing and drawing down that miserable thick hourglass form, the mirror revealed the startling shapes lacking the waifish supermodel ideal, I cannot stop being judgmental. That gnawing, negative predictable hate eats away as charcoal smears the paper and I keep comparing myself to other women, who are not minorities, and ultimately seeing that abstract notions of unorthodox yearning are completely unbalanced.
As I continued searching my body for beauty, criticizing everything from head to toe, and disliking my teacher for making me dig deeper into this uncharted territory while still being in the artist role, it becomes easy to not be genuine, to create fictional marks, disheartened that no pleasure can be derived in the experience.
The dread rose to a feverish pitch at this week's next unveiled homework assignment- getting the entire figure down on the paper in a box format- head, feet, and everything in between.
Very, very frightening....
Since turning vegan, dropping an astonishing twenty-five pounds and taking ample note of scary mental image of a fit woman still desiring to be a little skinnier, when staring in the mirror, I feel utterly torn between disgust and claustrophobic in rectangular prison.
But that mindset pattern is slowly fading.
Each week, growing better accustomed to my body and the challenge a refreshing assignment presents, I am a motivational cheerleader- telling myself to stop being afraid, trash hateful criticism, and think like a good visual artist trying to master capturing the human body in creative prowess. 
An emerging presence comes to the forefront- focused, softened light revealing curve in brilliance and hiding shape in darkened shadow and seeing that beautiful encouragement 
A short time ago, I wouldn't even want to conduct a full body self-portrait drawing, especially nude.
"This is about seeing the structure and getting it down in a masterful, realistic manner so that it appears to a photo," Ecktner explains as students looked appalled. "But in reality drawing is just another way of creative abstraction."
Perhaps due to reaching a maturing, accepting stage, I'm finally learning to accept reflection and see that the teacher isn't the enemy.
That he was right all along.
This complex class isn't just about figurative anatomy, it allows opportunity to break free from shy, insecure box, appreciate unearthed uniqueness, value every inch of unclothed skin, and not cringe or wish to vanish into a darkened corner or smash formerly deceptive, villainous mirror into smithereens.
Shifted in unimaginable ways, my relationship with the rectangular glass is developing into a positive circumstance, giving this powerful bravery to move forward, shut off waging self-doubt, and close the mind to past vulnerability.
I feel radiant sometimes, even a bit happy at what the visage entails. 
So what if my coarse, nappy hair doesn't grow straight from scalp, my chest has these two large mounds of fleshy skin, no six pack emerges on the surface of my stomach, my thighs are thicker than most, and my chicken legs are short, muscled stomps?
I actually quite like my peculiar exterior.
No.
In fact, I'm almost in love, but promise not to be narcissistic, artificial, or conceited about it. 




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