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The Final Project

By Andi Bedsworth

Two weeks ago, I mentioned my taking a figure drawing class in graduate school at Tulane University. Now, this was not my first figure drawing class as I had taken one year earlier in undergrad at LSU, but this class was completely different. I called it drawing “boot camp”, and it was definitely that.

We were required to do lots of homework, including anatomy studies and practice, and the teacher was not sure what to do with me as I was not an art major but a theatre design grad student. I brought some of my costume drawings to her for advice, and she seemed to understand a little more what I was in the class for. Still, I was the odd man out or at least I felt like it. I was 31 years old, a mother of two, not an art student and surrounded by mostly young students who were trying to make it in the art world. There was one older lady who was taking the class for fun (not sure why she chose this class for fun).

So, let’s get to the good part: the final project. Most classes have final exams or projects, and I was used to projects in grad school. Semester one was a series of intense design and research projects, so I was not alarmed that we would have one in art class until I discovered what it was. The teacher put up a nude self-portrait a former student had drawn and went on to explain how we would each be drawing ourselves NAKED and those drawings would not only count for a lot of our grade but would be hung in class on the final day for all of us to look at and critique. Well, needless to say, I was a little unnerved.  Working in the theater costume industry for many years, I was used to nudity (that of other people), and am not generally squeamish about my own nudity (in the privacy of my own home), but the idea of actually drawing my post-pregnancy body and having to hang it next to 20 something-year-old bodies was freaking me out a little. Also, the grading idea was scary. This was going to be graded, and it needed to look like a human body. No longer could I rely on stylistic collages to get across my ideas. This would have to look like me in order for me to pass the class. And since I was in grad school, not passing the class would put me on probation, which I could not even fathom.

Hence began the process of me purchasing a cheap over the door mirror, cloistering myself in the master bedroom while my husband watched our children, and spending hours drawing myself reclining on the bed most nights. We had several weeks to work on it, and I put in my all. Now I would just have to show it in class.