A Visit to the Open-Life Class

Upon first entering the Duke Street Annex of The Art League School, it’s easy to miss the Open Life classroom. The doors are disguised as part of a huge wall mural. Inside, the only lights are turned on a still nude model and the only sounds are those of purposeful strokes brushing against each canvas. The artists are in deep concentration until the timer beeps for a five minute break. Donna Cramer, the class monitor, moves quickly to lay tape at the model’s feet, ensuring an identical position when class returns. 

“I call this the Pin Drop Society,” says Cramer as she finishes the taping job and the model moves for his robe. “Obviously because you can hear a pin drop in the room while everyone is working. They’re all so engrossed.” 

A walk around the room reveals the array of works in progress, each one a different medium. Some artists are using acrylics, others are working in charcoal, and another is simply sketching with a burnt sienna pencil. 

“I’m trying to be Leonardo Da Vinci,” laughs the student while finishing up a facial shadow on his drawing. “I love this class and I’ve taken it for years, mostly because of the freedom to choose your own direction.”

Another student is busy smudging the charcoal along the figure’s leg. She says her finished product will include several angles of the model, occasionally rotating the canvas to give it a circular shape. “At this point, I don’t know what it’s going to look like,” she says. “But that’s part of the fun in these classes.”

The variety of interpretations is a treat for the eye. Each unique angle, coupled with the individual artist’s weapon of choice, makes for an original contribution. An abstract painting with a purple and yellow pallette sits next to a pastel black-and-white while an acrylic piece is getting ready for another layer. “I use acrylic because it dries fast,” says the painting’s artist. “With a human subject, you have to make room for change because things are constantly moving, even when he sits still.” 

The model returns and takes his position. The students give him direction as another 20 minutes are put on the clock.

“Raise your chin a bit.”
“I think your shoulders were forward a little more.”

Then silence falls across the room once more as the artists resume stratching at their easels. Little by little, each work takes shape in its own unique colors, in its own unique dimension and in its own unique life.

To learn more about The Art League School’s Open Life class, visit the website.

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