This may be a more controversial post, but I’m going to say what I have to say regardless. Since Brielle’s birth I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about my days as an art student. Artists generally have areas where they excel in, and subjects they generally excel in. I found my niche in figure drawing. For those of you who don’t know, figure drawing “is a drawing of the human form in any of its various shapes and postures using any of the drawing media.”
One of my classes spent quite a bit of time focusing on this. Nude models were brought in and we were taught how to see the human form for what it is. We saw it in shapes, colors, and shades. And we were taught the difference between nudity and nakedness. This is important, because it keeps the artist from seeing the subject as a sexual object or violating the subject’s personhood. Nudity is observing a subject as a form. Nakedness is seeing the person for who they are, exposing them and their inner self. Perhaps a good way to explain this is to think of when a doctor gives you an exam. There’s nothing sexual about that. You might be uncomfortable, but they are just doing their job.
A model would come in (we drew males and females of all shapes, sizes, and ages), pose and we would have minutes to draw the entire figure. We were taught to respect the model and their privacy and we did not speak to them or speak about them. Drawing in this way forced you to quickly take in the shape of the human form and put it to paper as fast as possible. Most times I rarely looked at my sketch pad. I needed to absorb the angles and lines before the moment was lost.
If I had to tell you what impacted me the most from my college education, I would say it’s what I learned in this class. This class taught me to see the human form as God made it. To see it in all of it’s perfection and imperfection. It wasn’t photo shopped or magazine perfect. It was loose, strong, real, beautiful. It taught me balance and respect for both sexes. The human form is incredibly balanced, but what makes it balanced is constant opposing lines and shapes. It’s a beautiful, constant play of angles and lines. Men, no matter their size, always maintain strong, hard lines. I found them harder to draw, because I had to feel and think in an edgier way to capture them correctly, it was harsher on the eye. But women felt like a natural subject to capture. They were all curves, again, no matter their size, they were absolutely beautiful. Their lines were easy, there was almost a laziness to the movement of their bodies. The female form encourages observation and is comforting to look at. As it should be, it creates and nurtures life. Together, both forms make a beautiful combination and are the perfect balance to each other.
I found myself observing the “imperfections” of these forms and finding beauty in them instead. These “imperfections” gave each person their character, it made them unique, special and beautiful. They were beautiful because they were just as they were supposed to be. No matter the imperfection, the form in my drawing pad always came out looking perfect. I remember drawing a female nude, much thinner than me, but noticing she had love handles similar to my own. I looked at the form on my pad and I saw it as beautiful and realized that I was entirely too hard on myself. I was comparing my body to something that wasn’t natural. This was natural and it was soft and beautiful. How could I look at this form and see it as beautiful, but not look at myself and think the same thing?
During my pregnancy, I found myself marveling at the strength of my body and how impressive it is that a woman can make a human. It’s amazing. I found myself being kinder to myself as I realized how incredible it was that I was making a life support system, then lungs, bones, blood vessels, skin, etc. Each week I excitedly checked to see what I would make for Brielle this week. And I would happily tell David what I would make. As my body became larger and larger from polyhydramnios, I found myself once again marveling at just how amazing the human body is. How strong my body was. And how hard it was working to give Brielle the best life she could have, as well as keep me healthy. I was two people all at once. I was and am so proud of myself and my body. And I’ve found a deep respect and love for my body.
However, even though my body was strong and incredible. It needed help. And this is what brings me back to figure drawing. This class taught me that there is always balance. My body is soft, nurturing, it is made to create. David’s body is strong, it has hard lines and angles. My body needed someone to literally pick it up, to support it, to care for it. I needed to nurture and create and he needed to support and protect. Instead of thinking, “I don’t need a man. I’m a woman. I got this.” Which I often do think, I found myself appreciating our differences and seeing the beauty in them.
Now that I’ve had Brielle and my body is going back to it’s new normal, I find myself looking for it’s beauty. There will be moments where I will think negatively about my sagging, stretched abdominal skin, but then I will think about why it’s sagging and stretched. My body just performed something incredible and that soft sagging skin would be a wonderful pillow for Brielle if she were here. My body is everything it needs to be. It tells a beautiful story and I am proud of that story. I’m proud of the work my body did to care for Brielle. And I’m not sure I’d be able to fully see how wonderful my body is if I hadn’t learned how to appreciate the human form and what a beautiful work of art we each are.
(These sketches were not made by me, I found them on Pinterest and used them as examples of the male and female form. If you all would like I can take pictures of some of my work, but it has a lot of frontal nudity that I didn’t think would be appropriate for everyone in this audience.)