I've been going through old porfolios of drawings over the weekend. Some of these folders haven't felt the sunlight on them for a decade or more. I have one portfolio that is just work from my figure classes with Robert D'Arista at American University in the early 80s. Most of the drawings are not great. They are for my eyes only, nostalgic reminders of a journey through a particularly steep section of the learning curve with a singular artist and mentor as guide. Certainly, I can see that I had an eye for the figure - proportions are more or less accurate, gestures are good, composition of the page not bad. Most of these drawings are like first notes on a new instrument. Their author was tentative, still yearning for some authority that he hadn't yet earned. At the bottom of many of the drawings are little hand-scribed notes. During a model session D'Arista would circulate and collect drawings that he liked from students. At some point he would dismiss the model and hold court in the center of the room with the selected drawings in a stack on an easel, never raising his voice so that anyone who wanted to hear what he was saying had to gather closely around him. That's how I got to know my classmates! While he flipped through the drawings one by one with one hand, and gesturing with his cigarette in the other, I would write down his bon mots.
I am posting a few of the drawings from that time. Anyone who was there might recognize our models: stoic Juan, who, just to make things interesting for himself, would take on the most muscularly challenging poses; Jane, with her unusually robust lower body; or, Dick, the retired Shakespearean actor from the Folger Theatre who would leave us wondering if we'd just drawn Othello, Henry II, or Falstaff.