The shapes, shades and contours of the human body are captured by Athens residents and Ohio University students alike at figure drawing sessions held at The Dairy Barn Arts Center.
Every Tuesday night, the Dairy Barn, 8000 Dairy Lane, holds two-hour figure drawing sessions where the general public brings their own drawing utensils, prepared to illustrate the live nude model’s poses effectively.
The sessions start with two-minute gestural poses, which are seen as more dramatic movements so the artists get a general sense of the model’s body. As time goes on, the model moves to 10-minute standing or sitting poses, eventually relaxing into a half hour reclined pose for the artists to really start capturing all the different elements of the human body.
Victoria Taylor has been interested in figure drawing since college, so when she found out there were sessions held at The Dairy Barn, she was thrilled and has been drawing with the group for several years since.
“I’m more into line drawing as a sketch. I know some people are more into charcoal and shadows, but I’m more interested in doing the lines and shapes and contours,” Taylor said. “In theory, I take my sketches home and continue to work on them.”
Taylor is currently working on a series called “Beautiful Dreamers,” where she continues to work on the reclining pose sketches by adding to the environment around her drawing of the body. She doesn’t spend more than a couple hours outside of the sessions working on them, but it’s something she can do in her free time.
Taylor has enjoyed attending the figure drawing sessions and setting aside time to focus on the model, not letting life’s distractions get in the way of her drawing.
“With the model doing a pose, you know you just have those minutes to capture, unlike having an apple on your table at home where you can take your time,” Taylor said. “Having both a start and a finish really gives me the time to focus and put my attention into what I’m doing right there in the moment. It’s a form of meditation where you’re fully engaged with what you’re doing.”
Lydia Seiter has always been interested in art, and live modeling was something she knew she wanted to try that would also be a good way to get out of her comfort zone. She now occasionally models at The Dairy Barn for the figure drawing sessions.
“I think a lot of people could think it’s boring or frustrating because you have to stay very still in one position for a long time, but I actually think it’s really relaxing,” Seiter, a junior studying chemical engineering, said. “I also think it’s a good exercise in patience and self-discipline. It’s a very peaceful activity for me, and I really love seeing what kind of art the artists make of me, it’s really empowering and beautiful.”
In the beginning, Seiter was nervous to try something so different from anything she had ever done before, but as time went on, she became more comfortable with not only modeling, but her body itself.
“It’s really not a sexual thing at all, even though it is nude,” Seiter said. “It’s more so like anatomy, just looking at the human body, reducing it into shapes.”
By other people seeing Seiter’s body as art, it has helped her see it as art, because it’s impossible for art not to be beautiful, Seiter said.
“To see a painting or sketch of your body as lines and shapes and shadows absolutely makes me more body positive, comfortable and more confident and empowered in the way I see myself,” Seiter said.
Ashley Eastman, another model who makes occasional appearances at the figure drawing sessions, has been modeling for 14 years and has gained significant body confidence through the art.
“Modeling and dance training have given me this strange skill that allows me to be nude in front of a group staring at me and still be completely comfortable,” Eastman said. “I do wonder if I had someone else's body, if I would've had the courage to model for drawing classes in the first place.”
Eastman has always been curious if the artists ever get tired of drawing the same body type day after day, but after years of being around people who figure draw, Eastman has realized the artists don’t really care how the body looks.
“The artists are way more interested in drawing the shadows that light creates on the body than whether your gut is a little bigger since the last time they drew you,” Eastman said. “As a matter of fact, if your gut is creating a better shadow, all the better.”
The neutrality of the way an artist sees a model has also helped with Eastman’s body positivity. Another element that contributes to her comfort level in a figure drawing class is the professionalism of the drawers.
“I am very lucky that all of the OU classes, other offshoot groups I've modeled for, never ever make any comments about what my body looks like,” Eastman said.
That being said, Eastman really enjoys the engagement she has with the artists. She has never drawn anything serious before, but she’s learned so much about drawing from modeling, and enjoys being part of a project with artists.
“The dancer part of me enjoys finding an interesting pose or creating an interesting shape for the artists to draw,” Eastman said. “And the athlete part of my dancer part enjoys the challenge of holding those interesting shapes.”