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Learning From Life

Publication : Bangkok Post
Section : Real Time
Story by Vanniya Sriangura
Photos by Anusorn Sakseree
Published date 24/7/09

Privately held live figure drawing classes with totally naked models, though not very common here in Thailand , draw quite an attention from people who have passion in art.

Privately held live figure drawing classes with totally naked models, though not very common here in Thailand, draw quite an attention from people who have passion in art.

No one really paid attention to Sompit's blank eyes. As cruel as it sounds, once in a quick while they just looked, exploring her naked body from neck, chest and torso down to her toes. Nothing seemed to escape the merciless focus of their eyes. But that gave her no cause for concern. She knew very well what she was doing. Having been doing it for more than 30 years, she suddenly stood up, put one of her hands on her hip and turned to face the audience.

As a first-time participant at a live figure drawing class, this made me feel uncomfortable. How could I look at someone's private body parts and then try to represent them in my own translation? Was I insane? No, I wasn't. With all the mercy in the world, I was just a student - just like everybody else there.

With a drawing brush in his hand and confident lines on his paper, Sonit Pichyangkul, a businessman in his 50s, attended the live figure drawing class at La Lanta art gallery for the first time and looked devoted. He has been interested in the arts, and especially drawing and painting, since he was young but had never had the chance to really study until two years ago.

''I am in an import-export business and my usual form of recreation used to be sports,'' he said. ''They helped me relax but did not help me practice concentration like drawing does.''


Sonit has managed to have more free time over the past couple years and began taking drawing classes every weekend. However, this was the first time that he had studied with a live nude model. He thought it's a great teaching medium, in this way he could see the real movement and muscle details - and he wasn't feeling at all uncomfortable.

''When the models are professional, as a student, you have to act professionally too. This is not an activity to be ashamed of,'' said Sonit.

He was among several participants at the five-week live figure drawing class for beginners held twice a week at the art gallery in Sukhumvit. Some of his fellow students - eight or nine ladies and two men, Thais and foreigners of different ages. Some were full-time art college students. Some were housewives, others were business people who said that art class es enabled them to connect with art without having to buy paintings. The class was conducted by drawing instructor Brian Curtin PhD and art instructor Acharn Kosol Pinkul.

In Thailand , privately held figure drawing classes with live models are not very common. Though you may find them in fine art s cho ols, in none of them are the models totally naked these days.


Drawing instructor Brian Curtin.

''Human anatomy is a crucial lesson for arts students,'' said Acharn Kosol, a former art instructor at Sri Nakharin Wirot Prasanmit University. ''Whether their field is illustration, religious painting, portraits or cartoons, artists cannot get away from the human form so they must be able to draw human figures. And to be aware of the accurate proportions of the human body, they must learn from and practice with a real human.

''Art institutes everywhere in the world offer this kind of class. But, in Thailand , because of our moral boundaries, live figure drawing classes with a nude model is not popular. And finding a model is also difficult as people regard the naked body as something shameful,'' said Acharn Kosol.

''But if you study history, whether it's Greek, Roman or Southeast Asian, you'll see that ancient people didn't take nudity as something dirty. The goddess Venus is topless. The famous statue of David wears nothing but a fig leaf. And even the Thai half-bird half-female kinnaree is partially naked, as you can see from mural paintings. So nudity was quite common in the old days,'' Acharn Kosol explained.

''For people who chase art, human figure drawing is primary,'' said instructor Brian Curtin. ''It has been said that if you can draw a human figure you can draw anything, because the human figure is the most complex thing to master. And live figure drawing class allows student to been trained to look carefully and in detail.

''In a drawing class like this, the atmosphere is usually very clinical, very cold.

It's not a sexual environment or anything like that, because the naked human body is not necessarily the most beautiful thing. People may be sexually beautiful in some contexts, but not in this context.''



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