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Washington, D.C.

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Models

Mr. Beaseley was an Irish wolfhound, with wonderful conformation. Our professor in Fundamentals of Drawing, Jewett Campbell, brought Beaseley to pose for our class. He would get up on the model stand and patiently assume a sitting pose, or one lying down, or another standing up. Mr. Campbell would say "Change," and Mr. Beaseley would change his pose, which for longer studies took about twenty minutes. Everyone seemed to get good results when Mr. Beaseley was posing. He lent himself especially to charcoal drawings and to those using graphite sticks. Mr. Beasely would take a break with the rest of us, out in the hallway.

Miss Henshaw was a large woman, but not tall. Her broad back was a flawless expanse of white that reminded us of the women in Ingres. My studio friend Joann and I were interested in the monumental figure. Our drawings from Miss Henshaw were over life-size, using carpenter's pencils. We relished these huge modelled drawings using line, built up to make volumetric forms. By the end of a pose, the paper was usually torn, but the generous sculptural effect was memorable. It was a high-energy process and it gave us energy.

One day Miss Henshaw came to class and it was obvious that something was wrong with the shape of her face. She had broken her bridge, and without teeth her cheeks had become concave. We knew that she lived over in Oregon Hill, a poor neighborhood near the art school, and came to the conclusion that she would not be able to afford the necessary dental work. So all of the drawing classes took up a collection to pay the cost and presented her with the money.

She more than returned the gift weeks later when she stepped up onto the model stand and gave us a bright new smile. The class applauded.

There was an Adonis in the drama program who needed some extra money and started to model for us in the spring. He discovered that we liked heroic poses, full of gesture and tension. He would use the still-life drapery to hang himself from the back of the model stand. Sometimes he looked like he was flying, or pulling the wall down, or launching himself into the air. Having seen Michelangelo's figures, he turned and twisted his body to achieve contraposto. He could hold a pose forever and return to it later.

At rest, sitting on the model stand, his very fine facial planes were perfect to study in conte crayon. We did our best portraits from him. His beautiful girlfriend visited class sometimes, but we could never persuade her to pose for us.

Largely as a result of my experience in that first Fundamentals of Drawing class, I believed that I would always have meaningful work. Today, more than forty years later, I am in the studio on West 38 Street, making a large cartoon. This cartoon is the result of many ink studies and one drawing-of-record in my sketchbook. The sheet of paper on the wall is seven feet wide by ten feet high. During the next few days, it will be covered with the pencil lines of a hexagonal grid, and the configuration for a new painting.

– January 2004

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