Figure drawings of a nude model in 2D art
Charcoal figure drawings of one of the nude models from our 2D art class.

Have you ever walked into a classroom expecting to take a quiz, only to realize that your quiz has been replaced by a naked middle-aged man?

Me neither. Well, not until a few days ago.

What does this mean? It was figure drawing week in my two-dimensional art class! This came as quite the surprise, since we had totally different plans for that class.

It only took a few seconds for faces to light up in shock as my classmates started walking into the classroom. Our professor, however, was, appropriately, very nonchalant about the whole thing, particularly since she has more experience with figure drawing. I won't lie, it was pretty uncomfortable at first. I was not alone; there were many glances of discomfort exchanged around the room. Once in the drawing process, though, we became more accustomed to the situation. In order to draw something, you have to visually break up the form into shapes. Instead of drawing a figure, it was more like we were drawing shapes that happened to connect into a figure. That helped lessen the awkward tension in the room.

Despite the initial unease, one has to appreciate the opportunity to be able to draw nude models. In high school, we did figure drawing, but we used clothed models. This can highly distort the perception of human anatomy. That's an unfortunate reality for artists, since proportions are so important. Working with nude models is also helpful for creating shading and forms, because the model is, of course, three-dimensional. If you use something two-dimensional, like a photograph, you'll never develop the skills to be able to transform a 3D form onto your 2D paper. It was helpful to have the model in the classroom, and our progress was very quick and very noticable.

One word of advice I'll give you from this experience: avoid eye contact with the nude model at all costs, because if you're not careful, it will happen and you will feel awkward about it.