In life drawing class, one of the required courses for a bachelor of fine arts degree, students learn to draw the human physique by sketching undressed models during class.
According to Pam Allen, the chair of the art department, this is the most important class for art students, as they learn to draw what they see as accurately as possible.
“It’s not an easy skill,” Allen said. “It takes practice, sometimes years.” She said working with a live model gives a unique perspective to the artist, which is far better than working from a photograph.
“The human form is the best way to learn your own style,” Allen said.
The class is set up with a model posed in the middle of the classroom, with students gathered around him or her in a circle. The models are often students, but the position is open to anyone.
Ivey Vinson, a senior fine arts major from Clanton, took the class in a previous semester. “As far as drawing goes, this is the only class we have that uses real-life, flesh-and-blood models who are usually Troy students, who are posing for us,” Vinson said. “It’s really interesting, really cool to be able to be able to draw all different kinds of people, all different kinds of body types.”
Vinson said the models typically have athletic and strong body types, but she wishes there were more diversity, so they could learn to draw various shapes and sizes.
She said she prefers drawing from a photograph but sees the value in drawing real people.
“I think it is preferred to have a live model because there are just certain things that a camera can’t capture,” Vinson said. “I don’t know. It’s like asking a medical student, ‘Why can’t you just practice on dummies?’ like you have to practice on real people in order to see how the human body works the way that it does.”
She said the professor, Russell Everett, taught the students to draw people the same way they draw a rock, focusing on shading and skill rather than the intimacy of it.
“When a naked person walks in there, you are literally supposed to objectify them,” Vinson said. “Not in a sexual sense, but you are supposed to sit there and think, ‘Huh, that’s a cool plane. Shade shade shade. Oh, that’s a cool line there.”
The class is set up professionally with strict regulations and guidelines to protect models and artists. Vinson said while the artists in her class handled things professionally, it was sometimes uncomfortable seeing the models on campus and occasionally hearing their jokes about posing for her.
“I love the relationships with the models,” Vinson said. “I did not realize when I went into this class that I would know so many of the people that were modeling. And I knew about six or seven of them … of maybe 10.”
She said her favorite things to draw on the human body are the eyes, as they can create a deeper connection with the piece for the viewer.
“Even if it’s a full body shot, I love focusing on their face and trying to get their eyes … so that when you look at the drawing I did, no one is going to notice so much if the arm is a little bit off.”
One of the models, who asked to remain anonymous, said he wanted to make money and help the class out.
“I was an athlete in high school, and I was used to being around others while not having on full clothing, so it wasn’t that big of a jump for me,” the model said.
He said his first couple of classes he wore underwear to ease into it and thinks this helped the artists feel more comfortable as well.
“It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, here’s a naked dude in front of you.’ It was a gradual progression.”
His favorite part about the class was seeing the drawings on paper.
“I always made a point to look at their drawings after class. Some people got really creative. One guy even drew antlers on me.”
He also said it was sometimes difficult to sit still in a wide variety of poses. He once held a hammer over his head for the duration of the class, with short breaks in between.
Other poses were easier to hold, where he simply had to sit in a chair and prop his feet up.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to stay perfectly still, especially if you’re normally a fidgeter.”
The job pays minimum wage for models who are clothed in a camisole and bike shorts, and pays $14 per hour for those willing to fully disrobe.