Last week I had my first day of class at the Arts Student League. I haven’t taken an art class in about ten years so my first visit back into the classroom was exciting but I was admittedly a little nervous. Afterall, I was taking classes at the same place that my favorite Georgia O’Keeffe studied, as well as Jacob Lawrence, but a lot of that went out the window when I visited the school to pick up my supply list. The school has been around for nearly 130 years and is designed to offer low-cost art classes to people of all background, both financial and technical, pretentiousness aside. Talk about a real gem in New York!
Anyway, the day of class, I showed up, over zealously prepared with my huge portfolio to hold massive my big old sheets of watercolor paper, EVERY watercolor brush I’ve collected over the years, a smaller set of watercolor arches, a brand new set of paints and a lot of other supplies I probably didn’t need but I was determined not to be unprepared. Once the class monitor got me straightened out, I finally settled in and tried to figure out what I wanted to paint. The students have a choice between painting a still-life of a vase full of flowers or a nude model. I figured I would try to paint the nude model since I have painted my share of flowers and needed to challenge myself. I have NEVER painted a nude before and it’s been a minute since I’ve done figure drawing. It was time to try something new.
At the risk of sounding like a prude, it took a minute for me to get used to the idea of a naked woman standing unabashedly in the buff in various poses in front of a class of people, but I quickly got over it. The way the class is structured, everyone does quick, five minute sketch-paintings of the figure with a little bit of a break in between. After that, you get two ten minute sessions and then towards the end of class, you get a full hour. I was actually spending more time trying to wrap my head around the idea of trying to crank out a human form in something as little as five minutes, but as the class monitor casually told me: You get better at it with time.
The great thing about making art is that when you are in process of creating, you really get lost in what you’re doing and every random stray thought, distraction is blocked out. It’s one of the few times I feel totally immersed in the moment. This is precisely how I felt when I was whipping through those five minute sketches. As it turned out, I was pretty happy what I was able to pull out in my first attempts:
Surprisingly, I liked my five-minute sketches more than the ones that we had to work on for an hour. I think it’s because I work more loosely and don’t have to worry (or have the time) to overwork each piece. It makes me want to paint random people more spontaneously, so if you happen to see me sitting across from you at a park bench, staring intently at you as I seem to frantically move a paintbrush across a piece of paper, pay me no mind…just another crazy New Yorker trying to get her art hustle together.
So I suppose it’s safe to say that I really dug my first class and can’t wait to go to the next one. Art Students League rocks!