The Essence

Henri Matisse, The Dance

I went into my first art class of college not knowing what to expect. It was a Figure Drawing class, and I was extremely excited to finally be branching out of the general drawing classes to get down to the specifics. Truth is, I had been drawing bodies for a long time but had noticed that they never really came close to those I had admired in Henri Matisse’s The Dance or Klimt's Water Serpents I. I didn’t really know what the class would be like at all, but I was thrilled at the thought of finally being able to captivate the real essence and movement of bodies.

By the time the arms of the clock indicated the start of class on that first day, everyone had already set up their newsprint paper on their easels and were standing before them with a chunk of charcoal staining their dominant hand. As I followed to do the same, the teacher began greeting us hello and introduced the model of the day. I swear that not even a minute had passed when the model struck a pose and the teacher yelled, "Five-minute sketch, go!"

At the sound of instruction, I was completely caught off guard. I noticed, looking to my left and then to my right, that everyone was already far into their drawings. I'm like, How can you draw a whole body in just a matter of five minutes?! By the time the timer went off and the model broke out of her pose I had barely begun attempting to make the woman's torso look as realistic as it did in real life. As soon as the teacher came around to my sketchpad when examining the class drawings, I felt a warm shade of strawberry red arise on my cheeks. On top of that, he had just finished congratulating Picasso next to me on his perfect, full-body, five-minute sketch. Without saying a word when facing my sketch, he called out to the class for another five-minute sketch and this time, deciding to stick around beside me while I sketched.