At a figure drawing class, I sit amongst artists with sketch pads or pieces of handed out computer paper, staring at a man dressed in spandex and stillness. I try not to look down as I draw; this is my technique. But also, I am keeping track of the minimal times he blinks. I fear his eyes will go dry and freeze open. I worry as he begins to shake, holding an awkward pose picked out for him by the skinny artist/facilitator.
About an hour into these poses—some 5 minutes long, some 20—-I begin to take his clothes off. I do not realize I am doing this until I look down and notice that the nipples protruding out from beneath his polyurethane skin is surrounded by nude flesh on my paper. I write lines to offer contour to his chest and belly and then continue down.
Before I realize, his muscular thighs spread apart and a penis grows from the tip of my #2 pencil.
When the pose is over, I glance at the man beside me with a sketch far different from mine.
“I guess we see what is also inside us,” I say to him.
Later on, this male model turns into a female on my page. Or maybe he is still a male, but this time I draw his muscular shape surrounding a vagina. Perhaps I am out of my element. I work with words not images. But his body was speaking in many ways and all I did was exchange letters for stretched out lines and curves.
I didn’t need to draw what was in front me. The others were doing it well enough. What I needed to do was look beyond his poses. I’m not an artist; I’m an interpreter.