During my first two years of ECA my classmates and I were all aware of the "Seniors Only" drawing class that involved nude models, but I don't think anything could have actually prepared us for it. To say it was awkward was a collosal understatement. On the first day there was a very uneasy feeling in the classroom. There were fifteen easels set up facing a wooden platform in the center of the room. Our teacher was covering the window of the door with some old newspaper as we awaited the model's arrival. As a class, we were usually loud and sarcastic, but today nobody was saying a word.
There was no extra budget from the school to pay models. The models who came were exactly the kind of people who would sit naked for free - the kind of people who you would not want to look at unless you had to. Some of them were friends of the teachers, others were just random people who probably replied to a flyer around town. It was an exercise in extremes. One man had a large gut, another woman was oddly tall and had very long arms and legs, the third model was a man with hair that went down to his waist. Every class consisted of a big, blank pad of paper and the models changing positions their position after about ten minutes. You could spend that time on one drawing or one hundred, there was no real structure. Each year was divided into four quarters, giving us ten straight weeks of these people.
The tall woman was affectionately known as the bird lady, because every time she moved her arms in a pose her shoulder blades would stick out very far. She also had a large, beak-like nose. My friend Kevin coined the name and drew a couple of sketches drawing out her bird features. Occasionally the models posed with objects and we all nearly lost it when she held a large feather for one class.
The man with the long hair had two large tattoos. He had a dove on his left shoulder and a large cattle skull on his chest. There were times where I would focus on drawing one of those instead of the body because it was frustrating staring at this man's ass all day long. Occasionally I would make the tattoos more cartoony, giving the cattle skull a voice bubble or making the dove into a drawing of Big Bird's head.
The only real freedom we had in class was that we could listen to our own music. Everyone would come in and put on their various CD or cassette player headphones. Nobody ever spoke during the class. Even though we were seniors, we were only seventeen or eighteen years old, and this was still kind of an uncomfortable situation.
There was one specific day with the Bird Lady posing on an old wooden chair. She would sit on the chair or stand with one leg on it. At one point, she put her hands on the seat of the chair and bent all the way over, practically touching her toes, with her long, flat ass aimed square in my direction. With Stone Temple Pilots blaring in my ears, I muttered "Oh, great" under my breath. Or so I thought. As it turns out my comment was more than audible to everyone in the class, including the Bird Lady. My outburst drew her ire, as she spent the next hour of class giving me poses that were either difficult to draw or look at. The bottom of her foot, the top of her head, and once she just pointed her finger at me and looked away.
When the ten weeks were up, our group moved on to a video production class and were back to our normal cynical selves. We never spoke of the nude models again.