Modeling for FIT
I was invited to be a model for an FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) illustration class. The teacher was Heidi Younger, who wrote the book Sounds of the Under Ground, which features an illustration and a poem about me.
The class lasted from 11AM to 2PM. 25 Freshman students sat around the room, with big easels or drawing boards in front of them. I played the musical saw on a stage in the middle of the room, with a light shining on me. During the first song I played nobody drew anything – they were just listening with surprise. I played non-stop for about an hour. The teacher walked around the class, giving general and individual instructions to the students.
I was very curious to see what they were drawing…
I learned that art-school models are entitled to a 5 minute break every 20 minutes. That makes sense for a model that is supposed to stay completely still for her drawing. But for a musician, that doesn’t make sense – I preferred to just keep going and take one big break after an hour instead of little breaks ever so often.
During the break I walked around looking at the drawings and talking with the students.
The first student who impressed me was Da Mee Hwang from Korea. She told me she has been in New York for one month now. She said my music made her realize that she misses her Mom. I thought that was very touching.
At one point the teacher instructed the students to switch hands and draw using their non-dominant hand (so, if you are right-handed you would draw with the pencil in your left hand). This exercise is meant to free the artist of whatever habit they might have fallen into in their drawing style, and to encourage the artist to look more at the model than at the paper and use broader movements while drawing. At first the students were inhibited by the uncomfortableness of this excercize, but I was impressed by how good their drawings came out, considering they were using their “wrong” hand!
Another student who impressed me was Eriko Matsukawa. She said my music made her try a new style of drawing. I was very impressed by her work – she drew a whole picture using basically one line.
Daniel Vasquez drew me as a tree – that was interesting. He said he got the association because saws cut trees, so he drew a tree playing a saw.
One girl drew me as a mermaid – I think it’s a great association because the sound of the singing saw is like the sound one imagines mermaids make. Reminiscent of stories in the Greek mythology of Sirens luring sailors to the rocks with their enchanted songs.
During the first half of the class the teacher instructed the students to draw using one color only. Most students used black.
During the second half of the class the teacher instructed the students to use two colors. Most students used black for the main lines and added red or orange or green etc. to draw attention to whatever it was they decided was the highlighted point.
One girl used the color red to describe the music around me, the sound enveloping me.
One girl, who told me that she was in Israel last summer, used one sheet of paper to draw 3 separate pictures, each one using a different color as the secondary color. The result was a nice capture of the day’s activity.
A girl named Vicki told me that she just finished high school last June. She plays violin for 9 years now, so she could relate to my use of the bow. She just moved to NYC from Buffalo to go to FIT. She said she might come to draw me in the subway some day – that would be fun.
Vicki was impressed by the fact that I cared to see the students’ work. She told me most models just go into the “model’s room” during their break and that they never look at the student’s work. For me the most interesting thing about this gig was looking at the student’s work! I was so impressed by their talent. Especially by the fact that they all strived to not just draw me as I am, but rather to express the quality of the sound and the quality of movement executed while playing the musical saw. I was amazed at how well they transferred sound and movement quality to the canvass. And they are only freshmen students! Can you imagine what amazing artists they will be when they graduate?!