On Friday, November 18, 2011, the Boston "We've Come for the Davenport" Chapter of the Robert Benchley Society enjoyed an evening of life drawing.
Above -- David shakes the cocktail of the evening, the aviation. Note the retro-deco rocket cocktail shaker.
Mr. Benchley, prior to his writing career, was first an illustrator at the Harvard Lampoon and in the 1920s hung out with artists in New York City, so we believe he would fit right in.
Nearly all the participants were non-artists and the evening was designed to expose them to something new, sketching from the live model. There was a time, when we were young, when we all drew -- you would have been a very peculiar child if you didn't like to draw -- but then the time comes when you notice that your drawing is not as good as professionals or trained amateurs, and that is when people get the idea that they cannot draw. This has not always been true. In the nineteenth century many educated Americans and Europeans who were not artist did, nonetheless, learn how to sketch. People of means loved to travel -- the "Grand Tour" of Europe, Niagara Falls in America, and so forth -- and not all carrying camera phones, they sketched what they saw.
For the non-artist, the point of sketching is not necessarily to create great "art" but to learn how to observe. I can tell you that of my visits to Rome, the places there I most vividly remember are those I sketched, because sketching requires close observation. That is what this evening of life drawing is about -- learning how to observe. Do not compare you work to others in the room, rather note, how over the course of the evening, your work improves as you learn how to observe the model.
In art school you normally start with sketching from still-lives -- fruit, flowers, and so forth -- and the live model is not introduced until the second semester of the first year or even first semester of the second year (or at least that's how it was when I was in school). However, if I invited you over on a Friday evening to sketch a plate of fruit, I do not believe I'd have gotten nearly as many of you to attend as we have here tonight when we have two nude models, Hannah, 18-year-old female, and John, 20-year-old male, both with perfect bodies. Now, draw, and have fun!