Randy Cobbs let his blue robe fall to the floor, exposing the backside of his body.

The five artists surrounding him immediately began to draw while glancing up every few moments to focus on the nude figure in front of them. After looking at a timer, Gary Coombs, pencils still in hand, called out "change."

Cobbs, who traveled from Charleston, West Virginia to model in Athens, moved again to display another side of his body, which included a view of the tattoos on his upper arms. He reached his arm over his head and glanced down to the floor. The participants continued to draw.


A similar scene takes place every Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. at the ARTS/West’s Life Drawing sessions. Sessions cost $10 for walk-up participants without an ARTS/West membership. Those with a membership pay $8.

“I was incredibly nervous my very first time until my robe hit the floor,” Cobbs, who has been modeling for a few years, said. “Then I was like, ‘Hm, I can do this.’”

Throughout the session, the model, who varies per week, does several poses, including brief gestural poses and lengthier poses in a more comfortable position, according to Coombs, an organizer of the Life Drawing sessions. 

Many of Cobbs' ideas for poses came from studying Greek sculptures and art from the Renaissance on the Internet. Being on the other side of the brush, he said, has influenced his modeling poses. 

“I really have no idea why, but I get so much more nervous drawing someone else. Plus, I suck. I am really bad, but I see what (the artists) want to see,” Cobbs said. “I try to figure out what looks good, the movements that look good. I’ve had a bunch of people tell me they want to see movement in the pose, and that’s what I try to do.”

The sessions do not have any kind of instruction, Coombs said, which can allow for artistic expression and relaxation. He added that each person approaches the drawings differently.

“It’s really up to the individual what they want to try,” Coombs, a professor in the College of Business, said. “I think it’s also nice because you can go in there and try something different. No one is going to judge you. If it’s a bad night, no one else sees it but you.”

Ellen Haynes, a first-year graduate student studying clinical psychology, has been drawing figures since around the age of 14 and has been to two Life Drawing sessions at ARTS/West.

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Haynes said figure drawing is one of the fundamentals of fine arts and she wants to be able to capture the “essence of the pose” and the person’s body language through her drawings. She compared the sessions to a form of meditation.

“You’re responding to the environment. You’re not planning what you’re going to draw,” she said.  “I think it can be really relaxing as long as you don’t get frustrated by your drawing not looking like what you want it.”

During each session, Mark Ingram, an Athens resident who has been attending the session for about a year, said he tries to focus on proportions by holding his writing utensil in the air and focusing on the dimensions of the body.

“The big thing is I can’t cheat,” he said. “With a figure, you know when you got it wrong. When I draw it, I know because we’re both people and we know what a person is supposed to look like inherently. If you get the proportions wrong, you know you got the proportions wrong where as if you’re drawing flowers or fruit or a building, it could just look like that.”

Ingram said he focuses on the figure and later refines the drawing as the session continues. He said he typically begins with a soft pencil and then uses multi-colored pens to add detail to the drawing. 

Coombs has been drawing at the classes for three years now and said everything feels different. He added that the human figure is constantly a challenge to draw but he hopes to continue improving. 

“For me, still life is just boring,” he said.