There I was on the first day of my second-semester art class, completely ashamed of my lack of artistic ability, yet determined to improve over the previous semester. I walked into Room 68 and found a spot near the front, just as my teacher clapped her hands together to get our attention.
“We’re going to dive right in this morning,” she said. “No use wasting precious time. Let’s just keep it loose and have fun today.”
I nodded, smiled, and began searching my bag for my pencil box, while at the same time silently pondering what we would be drawing.
As I propped up my drawing pad, a man took the stage, and I flipped open my pad to reveal the first blank page.
Now, the actual fall time of the front cover was probably only about a second or two—if that—but like a closing curtain on Broadway, the descent seemed to last a lifetime.
Beginning at its peak height—which completely blocked my view of the stage—the cover of my drawing pad fell slowly, carefully revealing inch by inch what I was going to be sketching that day. First, I saw the man’s head, gazing away from me. Then, I saw his bare chest and his arms laden with goosebumps. Then I saw his… WAIT, WHAT?!
The cover of my drawing pad landed, and I sat stunned amongst my classmates, unaware of what to do. I lifted my gaze back to his head, sure that I’d had some kind of pornographic stroke, then moved back down his chest and arms, until again I found his…
WHAT KIND OF CLASS IS THIS?!
I looked around, desperate to find someone as shocked as I was. But while I saw a few of my classmates wincing as they sketched, making a conscious effort to keep their eyes up, no one seemed to completely object to our subject.
“If you are uncomfortable, or feel it will use too much of your time, please feel free to draw fig leaves in the place of genitalia,” the teacher suggested. “And if the time comes that you do feel comfortable, challenge yourself to complete full body sketches.”
Now, I’m a modest person, so I knew the day would never come when I’d feel comfortable adding drop shadows to a stranger’s anaconda—so, after class, I assigned myself five hours hard research on the anatomy of a fig leaf.
Much to my surprise, however, intricate knowledge of such greenery would do me few favors as the semester’s parade of peckers continued. I’d failed to take into account the variety of schlong sizes and shapes that would take the stage, and I neglected to consider the impact that each model’s pose would have on the angle at which gravity would… um… pull.
Despite my thorough research, there were times that my fig leaves failed to appear, well, leaf-ish. One afternoon I sketched a man who appeared to be squatting on a burning bush; later that week, I drew a gentleman whose crotch had seemingly sprouted a snowflake.
To make up for the blunders down under, I decided to give more detail to the models’ facial features. I reasoned that if I had to turn in a drawing of a man giving birth to a pineapple, the least I could do was give my teacher a face for her to sympathize with.
It turns out, however, that if you are a tremendously terrible artist like me, a butt chin can look a lot like what I continued to hide behind a fig leaf, and facial hair can look a lot like what keeps it warm in the winter.
As the semester drew on, it became clear that I was never going improve; however, I did grow more comfortable with being told to stare at a man I’d never met before as he pointed both up and down at the same time. I even flirted with the idea of taking that next step with my colored pencils, and attempting to sketch a peen. What did I have to lose?
Ultimately, however, I talked myself out of it. I concluded that any attempt I made would not only be pitiful, but also insulting. Picture me explaining to my college professor why I’d added a pre-explosion Hindenburg blimp between the legs of “Bob from Torrance.”
On the upside, I did eventually perfect that fig leaf.