Walking into the art studio on the ground floor of Alice Lloyd Residence Hall is both exciting and daunting. Dried paint that once dripped from paintbrushes coats the counters and floors. Handprints, sketches and signatures overpower the walls. The sink area is an art project in itself. The atmosphere, complemented by the sounds of Buena Vista Social Club, is a welcoming one.
Yet the Open Figure Drawing Workshop taught by Mark Tucker, the “Arts on the Hill” program coordinator and Lloyd Hall Scholars Program lecturer, isn’t for the easily discomfited. Confirmed by the occasional giggling of passersby, not everyone is prepared for what they witness. Those that attend the workshops do not draw still lifes – they draw nude models.
Arts on the Hill, the workshop’s sponsor, began seven years ago as a housing initiative spurred by the need to create extra-curricular activities. Tucker’s Open Figure Drawing Workshop has existed since the program began and takes place from 8 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Anyone is welcome to grab some complimentary charcoal and a sketchpad. Although the workshops are free and open to the public, the majority of its participants are college students.
For the eager beginner, the first class may be somewhat of a culture shock.
“It’s not like a nudist colony,” Tucker said. “It is interesting how in our society, we are exposed to so much partial nudity that we don’t see it anymore.”
For some, observing a live model rather than mundane objects enables a heightened emotional connection to their work. The setup allows for a conceptualization of the human body divergent from the media’s desensitizing images. For Tucker, the presence of nude models also encourages dynamic instruction.
The involvement of the model, University alum Ray Schnueringer, spans eight years, beginning when a friend requested that he model for a course at Eastern Michigan University. Though he found the ordeal unnerving at first, Schnueringer has since modeled for figure drawing and sculpture courses through the University, Eastern and the Steiner School. During the hour-long sessions at Alice Lloyd, Schnueringer rotates between standing, sitting and reclining poses every five to seven minutes.
Although Tucker’s workshop has previously employed other models, Schnueringer’s consistent presence demonstrates his passion for being a small part of the students’ creative ventures. Having worked together since the program began, Tucker and Schnueringer share an amiable familiarity, strengthening the workshop’s appeal and its lighthearted, fun-loving nature.
“He is so patient and works with people on all different levels,” Schnueringer said of Tucker. Tucker’s priority is helping his students find their creative voice. Humor and ease fill his classroom.
The workshops provide a common arena for artists, whether professional, practicing or self-proclaimed. For one hour twice a week, the blandness of the world can be imitated, shaded over or perfected by a swipe of the hand.
Open Figure Drawing Workshop
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.
At the Alice Lloyd Art Studio, ground floor