This week we have a letter from a very young artist who makes an excellent point about artistic and personal integrity. It is my own belief that these are perhaps the most important things to a human, both for the person himself and for humanity. I think that at least 90% of all humans ills only come about because a lot of people allow them to happen. They compromise with what they know is right.
Letter of the week, from Reg
Once, a teacher gave me gift. This woman was crowned one of my favorite teachers the moment she presented me with this gift that would prove to be treasured for a long time to come. The gift was a package of two sketchbooks of excellent quality, plus a bonus trace pad with oiled sheets.
At this time, I was thirteen years old, being the most widely known and acclaimed artist in the whole middle school. This teacher was one who was especially fond of my work and desired to encourage me further by giving me this package. Of course, I showed my gratitude by thanking her dearly.
We began to get into a conversation about her experiences in a college art class. Of all the things she mentioned and the things we discussed, one thing in particular proved to be notoriously memorable after I left. She told me that in her class, her teacher would regularly bring nude models in the classroom for them to draw. She encouraged me, also, to take up this area of art. Being thoroughly uneducated about the whole thing, I thought, "What? Nudes in my book? No way! That's nasty!" I tactfully implied these thoughts of mine to her, and she took them politely.
I went on for a while in strong disbelief that I would ever draw or even look at a naked body. Of course, I thought, as many others do, that nudity equals pornography. And thinking that pornography is bad, I had no interest in the area of nude art.
During the summer after graduating the eighth grade, I visited my cousin who is also in artist. We browsed his collection of half-painted canvases of oil, which featured some unfinished but impressive portraits of celebrities and friends. But what I saw that there gave me biggest impression in any painting I've seen in a long time. It was the impressive display of contour, color, and grace, that was showed in a painting of his girlfriend. I was shocked to see such life like quality and beauty showed in this painting of the woman, all right before my eyes!
I left feeling inspired as an artist. I felt like this painting I saw stirred too much emotion, to much inspiration, too much too keep in. I felt like I had to some how, some way, do something with it. So, I immediately starting to conduct the necessary research online to put into practice what I saw. On the way, I learned many things. Included is that I learned that what he did was called "figure painting," and my application of this would be "figure drawing." But there was one major aspect about the whole thing that was very hard for me to accept. It was the fact that to be able to do this whole figure drawing thing, you must study and learn to draw the nude body.
"What? Nudes in my sketchbook? NO WAY!" I thought. "There must be some other way." So, after searching and searching, I found that it was impossible to get any good at figure drawing without studying the nude, as this provides the basis for the artist to identify parts, shapes, and other characteristics of all the areas human body. The only issue then is whether or not looking at the nude body was a moral thing. I thought of any nude image to be pornography, and from what I knew about the effects of pornography on people (which would be a whole other article), I was very reluctant to do this.
I felt this way until I came across many articles as the ones seen on the DOMAI site. I learned gradually that only nude or non-nude images with the sole purpose to arouse and that display sex is pornography, not the subject being nude itself. With this in mind, I was able to continue my research in figure drawing.
The irony in this dates back to the when I was given the gift by my teacher. The same sketchbook I held in my hand while despising nudity and nude art is the same sketchbook I, many months later, used in which to get serious with nude figure drawing.
For years I liked to walk around with my sketchbook to draw things around me, or carry it just to draw attention to my art. When someone noticed my drawing, they would usually approach, look, and compliment whatever it is I'm doing. I would, almost all the time, follow their compliment by asking them if they would like to see my work. They would browse in awe of the book and return it. This sort of display routine made me feel proud of myself, as many people love what they see, but was getting a little repetitive. However, the routine changed pretty much when I started drawing nudes.
I remember the first few times I displayed the sketchbook with my first nudes in it to people. The reactions were totally different from when I only drew cartoons and still lives. Of these reactions would be some dirty looks at me from the viewer. Some would jump back in shock and surprise, then ask me questions like "Why are you drawing these?!" There were even some who returned the sketchbook immediately with a disgusted expression. Reactions like these made me feel pretty embarrassed. I was discouraged to continue figure drawing at all, because all I was getting were bad reactions. Things were was so much more peaceful when I drew cartoons only.
So, I started to contemplate some solutions. There were times I decided to only draw nudes outside my sketchbook, but I couldn't do that because I felt like all my art just needed to be in one place. Then, I thought that maybe I could draw a lot less nudes and a lot more other stuff, but I couldn't do that because the figure drawing genre of art takes lots of practice and repetition to improve. Discontinuing was not an option either, because figure drawing was just too much of rare and rewarding skill to pass up.
Finally I realized what I was doing and came to my senses. I realized I was trying to censor myself from what I could truly be and accomplish. I was holding myself back from a great skill and a great form of self expressions just because some people didn't like it. By holding back my art, I would be putting at stake my own self, and would be cheating the "rebels" of the past who fought hard to make this form of art of some acceptance in society. I'd be doing all that because of a few bad looks. I decided, then, to draw as many of what I wish, when I wish in my sketchbook because it was... MY sketchbook. Not anyone else's. I started to apply this view of mine. As a result, there usually were two kinds of people I was able too meet through their viewing of my work: the kind that agree and the kind that despise. Among those who agreed were the ones who thought that despite the controversy, nude art was natural, healthy, and pretty nice to look at, too. I was able to also hear some surprisingly intelligent ones express their reasons why, and that usually encouraged me to continue.
Then, there were the kind that despise. Meeting with them, at the time, was still discouraging. Some of them would have such big reactions that it made people turn around and look at me. Others returned my sketchbook and would not even give my art a chance, or even try to see what's next. Still, others would try to convince me that what I was doing was no good, some with no reason why. This shamed me to an extent, until I came up with this thought, which I'll close with:
Before I started figure drawing, people saw my art and all usually had the same reaction. They all loved it, and returned it. This same cycle would be so forever. When I started to put in something a little different, like nude art, I got to see how many different types of reactions people have, and how many different reasons why they have them. I got to see people from a whole new set of specs. When they returned my sketchbook to me, there was almost always something to talk about.