There is a certain magic that happens in an art classroom, which is difficult to articulate. Words cannot express the unspoken language that exists when confronted with a plain canvas and a naked model. Senses are heightened as our imagination taps into a collective energy, where the outside world ceases to exist.

I stick my charcoaled thumb out in front of me to measure and proportion the body accordingly. I look at my easel where a blank sheet sits and with my crayon, I try to mirror what I see in abstract lines and curves. I make my mark with bold and heavy strokes, cutting the infinity of white space before me. I admire the sun flickering against the naked flesh, highlighting every imperfection. This body is a life map and I follow the lines, the curves that twist and end in bumps. I copy the hair creeping out like ivy and know that a story lies behind every wound and stitch that breaks the skin’s texture, and I mirror it in my drawing.

Every now and then I glance on enviously at the work of my peers sketching away and I can’t help but notice that after weeks together we all bear similarities in our drawings as if one master guides our hands! I spray aerosol over my finished drawing to stop the charcoal from spreading and for a moment I am satisfied, until I realise that the work is still not good enough and I start again!

The hum of concentration in our room is intense, most windows are closed and the body heat intensifies. Our model is at ease, while dozens of furrowed eyes and moving hands rape and replicate the naked form.
I question if this naked model feels ‘truly naked’ so to speak, as we peel through each anatomical layer, from bone structure to muscle tissue and the final coating of skin. Maybe this model hopes that one of us will capture that invisible beauty? Or that their charms will be immortalized by the painter's brush?

It’s moments like this I remember from Art College and I have always wanted to capture that essence on film, bringing across that unspoken yet visual dialogue between artist and model. But reminiscing on old memories my attention turns not to the artist per se, but to the muse, the subject… THE MODEL!

Who inhabits this body? Why does this person come in and stand naked for us every week? What thoughts drift behind those distant eyes? Is this liberating? Does the individual want to prove something? Will we ever know?

Vittoria Colonna

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