BEHIND THE MASK

It was a 3 year hiatus and I decided it was time to go back to some unfinished business.  At the Art Students League in NYC, there was someone waiting for me, who would have a profound effect on my art.  Coming back to class on Saturday afternoon, after 3 years of being away, felt like just picking up from where I left off. Marie’s friendly high pitched voice, with her French accent, keeping time for the model’s poses, saying “5 minutes- models are posing everyone.”   The friendly atmosphere and comaraderie in the room, that always made me feel welcomed.  Our teacher Sherry, with a watchful and discerning eye going around the room in a friendly manner to help us out with her pointers.

Yes the 2 models were posing, but there was another model, quieter, a bit mysterious and with an intense stare that could go right through you if you gazed at him for a while. “Sam” was the perfect model who didn’t need any stretching breaks.  He didn’t mind being touched and you could go right up to him and stare at him right in the face (something you never would do to a New Yorker!).  I could learn a million lessons from Sam, as I called him, the class skeleton.  I had avoided him for a number of years and felt much more comfortable drawing the fabric of the models and the hair.  It was easier working on all the exterior and even drawing the figures, but “Sam” demanded your total attention, with that quiet still voice saying “So you think you know who I am?  Do you really think you can capture all that inner beauty that I hold? If I was ever to understand the workings of the human body, which in turn would affect how I draw my subways and landscapes, I was going to have to dig deeper and see the hidden works of the invisible structure that eluded the human eye. 

I learned from my teacher, that an animal’s eyes actually stretch further across their faces than a human beings.  They simply don’t have the capacity of turning their necks and seeing the way that we do.  We also have a space and bone structure on the sides of the eye that are protective and that animals don’t have.  I noticed that when I would go back to my model the following week, he would also look different.  I was seeing him differently and catching images that I didn’t see before.  People think that they see an image and get the full impact of the color and forms.  When you start drawing and coloring that landscape or human body, the colors, lights shadows and form come out even stronger and you see and feel it deeper.  You become engaged with that image and in any relationship, it’s that engagement that makes it all the richer and exciting to be a part of. The best writers and actors are master observers of life.  Listening to people and talking less, observing the subject matter allows you to fine tune and see all the layers lying underneath. 

Sam had a wealth of layers of understanding for me to explore.  Shadows and lights that I could never see beneath the human face, that resulted in that exterior image.  I wanted to learn things faster and the whole pace of living in NYC forces us to move on the subways, race down the steps, rushing out for appointments and even eating faster.   However, this required time and practice.  When I started learning yoga and body isometrics in exercising, it required patience with myself and my body.  I had to observe and practice those positions.  No rush or fast solutions. Sometimes you need to slow down and observe.  You need to learn the basic steps in order to move faster and go on to the more complicated.  It’s like people riding on the subway.  I see some of the same people in the train cars every day, but I don’t know that person sitting in that seat.  Behind that person are years of life experiences with layers of emotions that I can’t imagine. 

I have a long way to go with Sam, as I do with many other goals in my life.  Our insight and vision continues to expand, and get fine tuned, as we take the time to observe and look at things around us more carefully.  Fine tuning and observation, in any field of endeavor, is an art, that takes a life time and a decision to look behind the things and the many masks that appear before us.