FACE 2019 Trip Report

The 2019 Figurative Art Convention and Expo was an amazing experience, and I am so glad that I went.  However, the final schedule I got just a few days before I was scheduled to leave threatened the entire trip.  I was down for costume modeling for three days, including both open studio sessions.  I was going to extraordinary effort and expense to get to this event in Williamsburg, Virginia, driving all the way from Fort Worth, Texas, and that effort just wasn’t worth it to me if I had to remain in a costume the entire time.  I was going to be surrounded by some incredible figurative artists for this event, and to not have the opportunity for any of them to draw me as the real me, without any costumes or clothes, was not something I could fathom.

I did reach out to the person coordinating the models and those open studios, and the schedule was changed.  I would have to leave a day earlier than planned, but she offered me the chance to model for the first day of Daniel Maidman’s pre-convention workshop.  Daniel Maidman was an artist I had followed for almost ten years, so I jumped at the chance to work with him.  She also changed one of my open studio nights to nude modeling rather than costumed.

I had everything packed for the trip Thursday morning when I went to work at my regular job.  I left work early to model for an afternoon class at the University of Texas at Arlington.  When that class ended, I drove straight from there to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I got a room for the night.

I left the hotel in Little Rock at just before six AM and drove through the rest of Arkansas, all of Tennessee, and most of Virginia until I reached Williamsburg.  My total miles driven that day was 1,018, which was a personal record for me, especially with no one else traveling with me.  That record wouldn’t last long though.

The workshop with Daniel Maidman was a wonderful experience.  Not only is he an incredible artist, he is also a genuinely nice guy.  There were about fifteen students in the workshop, and I wound up doing no less than five different poses throughout the day.  Daniel’s first drawing of me is my favorite.  I liked it so much that I wound up buying it after the trip.  I also got photos of me with Daniel Maidman and a photo of the entire class that day.

 I was fitted with a colonial costume for my second day at FACE and was one of two models at an outdoor painting session just prior to the opening ceremony.  Here are a few photos of that outdoor session:

On my third day, I didn’t have any modeling scheduled until the evening studio session, so I drove out to Jamestown and saw the site of the original settlement.  There was even an archaeology team out there working while I was there.

I was to model in that costume during the first open studio night. It was as hot in that costume under the studio lights as I had feared.  The session lasted five hours, with breaks for the models every 20 minutes and a longer break for dinner about three-fifths of the way through the night.  All the models were on the same schedule.  There were five of us: a portrait, costumed male and female, and nude male and female.  I did a standing pose so that the artists could see the entire costume.  I wound up taking the heavy coat off during every break.  There were at least 100 people in the studio (which was normally a hotel ballroom), and the energy in the room was almost electric.  Here are some photos from that first studio night:

The second studio night was one of the most amazing experiences of my 35 year modeling career.  I got to model in my pure state rather than in costume, so the energy I had felt in the room the previous night was just heightened.  Joe, the other male model there and the nude male on the first studio night, had taken a seated pose that first session.  Many of the artists drawing and painting him had done portraits.  I wanted to encourage more figurative works, so I chose a standing pose.  Patricia Watwood, an amazing artist from New York, was the faculty person who helped mark and light my pose.  She would also act as mentor for the attendees drawing or painting me.  I was beyond thrilled when she sat down later in the night and did a quick sketch of me.  Here is that sketch:

The studio organizer, at my request, took several photos of me in the pose and texted them to me.  Some of these are suitable for posting on Facebook and Instagram, but some are not.  Since this is my blog and since I believe in the goodness and purity of the nude human form, I am including everything here, along with some shots of the paintings done of that pose.

That last painting was by San Francisco artist Eva Strauss-Rosen, and she surprised me by offering the painting to me as a gift.  She said that she couldn’t get it on the plane while the paint was still wet, so I gladly accepted it.  I will be getting it framed soon.

The studio session ended at 11:00 PM.  Once I got dressed and got the check for the modeling work I had done throughout the convention, I bid everyone I could find a fond farewell and went back to my hotel to try to get four hours of sleep.  I got up and was in my car at 4:04 AM (which was 3:04 AM Central time).  I drove a southerly route, through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana and made a grand total of four stops along the way, arriving home in Fort Worth at 11:47 PM CST.  1,391 miles in 20 hours and 43 minutes.  I don’t recommend that level of extreme driving, especially after only four hours of sleep, but I was out of vacation time and needed to be at work the next day.

As stated in past blog posts, I started modeling in November 1984.  This trip was my 35th anniversary gift to myself, and it was just an amazing experience.  It was so amazing that I just had to share all of these photos of the event with everyone who visits this blog.  And in addition to the amazing modeling experience, I was able to sell several copies of Life Models at the convention (at least double what I had expected when I planned the trip).

35 Years and FACE

This month, November 6th to be exact, will mark 35 years since I first modeled for a figure drawing session. It’s still difficult for me to believe that I am old enough to have done anything professionally that long. And honestly, I am only 53 now since I got such an early start modeling.

Here is a drawing of me done at an anatomy workshop in 2012 by Katy Hamilton.  She also did that amazing drawing of me that is on the back of the paperback edition of Life Models.

Anatomy drawing

To celebrate those 35 years, I will be traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia to model at the Figurative Art Convention and Expo. FACE 2019 runs from November 10th through the 13th, and on the evenings of the 11th and 12th, they have what they are calling the “world’s largest art studio” with up to a dozen models posing on different platforms, some clothed and some nude. The whole thing sounds like so much fun that I just had to apply to be one of those models. Yes, I will almost definitely spend more on the trip than I will make at the convention, but I’ll also be able to write off as business expenses a lot more than I spend on my taxes thanks to the standard rate of mileage expenses on Schedule C. All in all, there were just too many reasons for me to do this than there were to skip it.

I will, of course, have copies of Life Models with me at the convention, just in case anyone is interested in buying a copy.

Check out the FACE 2019 website at: https://figurativeartconvention.com/

 

34 Years…

I modeled for my very first figure drawing session exactly 34 years ago today.  I bring that up here since modeling, especially nude modeling, provided the genesis of my novel The “Volunteer”, and is a major focus of my next novel Life Models.  In celebration of this anniversary, here is a slightly edited piece I wrote a few years ago about how I got into modeling in the first place…

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Art modeling is an unusual job because it is one where nudity in front of others is required, and yet, there is nothing overtly erotic or titillating about it. It can be very physically demanding, both doing short action poses and long extended ones. The human body was not made to be still, but to be in motion. Maintaining a pose for any length of time goes against that nature to move. And yet, in spite of the physical demands and the fact that I am putting myself on display to an extent greater than any other job that I can think of, I still love it. I wouldn’t have done it for 34 years and counting if I didn’t.

I grew up in a very clothes-compulsive house. Nudity was simply not present except in the bath or shower. I don’t think I’ve seen either of my younger brothers nude since they were toddlers. So when I was 18 and a freshman in college, I rebelled from that clothes-compulsiveness by taking it all off for art classes. The idea that I could be a nude model for a whole classroom full of people was born in the dormitory cafeteria. I lived in an all-male dorm, but it was next to a female dorm, and we all shared the same dining hall. I was sitting across from a young lady one day in the fall of 1984, eating lunch. This girl was a little odd, but she was also cute. I remember being very interested in her. I don’t even remember her name now, all these years later, but one random fact I do remember is that she was a big fan of Grace Jones. During our lunchtime conversation, she mentioned that she drew “naked people” in her art class.  I knew that such classes existed from watching an episode of Three’s Company not too many months earlier.  In the episode, Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) tries to impress a new girl in the neighborhood by agreeing to pose for an art class she is teaching. When he arrives at the class, she tells him to get undressed. He is surprised, not even suspecting that the art class drew nude models, but he goes through with it anyway. The punchline is that his landlord, Mr. Furley (played by the late Don Knotts), walks into the class with his drawing pad under his arm just after Jack has disrobed. The look on his face was the funniest shot of the episode.  But Three’s Company took place in California.  I didn’t think classes in Fayetteville, Arkansas would use nude models. I was immediately intrigued. I told the girl at my table that I wanted to model.

Later, as I thought about it, I decided that I had to go through with it if only to impress upon this girl that I would do what I said I would. I ventured over to the art building and saw a sheet on a bulletin board advertising for models. They were paying five dollars per hour, which, at the time, was better than any other campus job I could get. I went to the Tuesday evening open figure drawing session and made an attempt to draw the female model there. My drawings were terrible, but I wasn’t too interested in drawing. I wanted to witness a session and see how the model acted, was treated, etc. It took me awhile to gather the courage to sign up as a model myself, but I finally did.

While waiting for my first call, I went to the college bookstore and found the textbook for the figure drawing class. It contained a few black and white photographs taken in drawing classes. One of the things that I couldn’t help but notice was that the female models were nude but the male models in the classes wore a jock strap. That wouldn’t do. I couldn’t see myself modeling like that, with my genitals covered and my bare butt hanging out. That would be far more embarrassing than being fully nude, I thought. Besides, if the females get to be completely nude, why not the males? I went back to the open drawing session, but there was another female model there. I asked one of the ladies drawing if they ever had male models, and she said yes. I then asked if the males had to wear anything, and she said no. That calmed my nerves a bit. Unfortunately, my second attempt at drawing was even worse than the first.

I got a call a few Tuesdays later from the coordinator of that open session. His model had cancelled for that night, and he needed someone to cover. I accepted somewhat reluctantly. Once I hung up the phone, I realized that the class started in less than an hour. I took a long walk around campus before entering the studio. There were only two women who had shown up to draw that night, including the one I had asked about the jock strap thing. It was election night, and I’m sure a lot of people stayed home to watch the returns. (Reagan stomped Mondale that night, by the way.)

I didn’t even have a robe, but the female models I had observed hadn’t had robes either. I started taking off my clothes beside the modeling platform. When I got down to my underwear, took a deep breath, and slipped them off. There I was. The two ladies did not run screaming that there was a naked man in the room. I took my poses and got more comfortable as the evening went on.

I eventually modeled for the regular figure drawing class during the spring semester. Alas, the young lady who had introduced me to this new profession never saw me model (she had only taken the class in the fall). The figure drawing class was small, only five students, and I got very comfortable posing for them. Toward the end of that spring semester, the instructor asked me to model for her introductory drawing class. I agreed, and I was somewhat shocked when I showed up for it. The room was packed with at least 20 people. I definitely had butterflies just because of the number of students and the knowledge that they had never drawn from a nude model before. I went ahead, gulped real hard, took everything off and hopped on the model stand.  My experience in that class was wonderful, as if my platform were an island outside of everything else going in my life and I was sharing it with these special artists in the room.  By the time class was over, I didn’t want to have to get dressed and go back out into the rest of the world. I was hooked on this strange, wonderful profession.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire 17th Anniversary

On March 7, 2001, I sat in a television studio in New York across from Regis Philbin and answered multiple choice questions until I missed.  I wound up winning $32,000 at this little exercise, and along the way, Regis and I talked about my nude modeling job in front of the studio audience and the many cameras.

That episode aired four days later, on Sunday night, March 11th.  I went to the store that day, and as I was checking out I looked around at everyone and wondered how many of them would be watching me that night.  All they had to do was tune their televisions to ABC.  In fact, that applied to anyone in the country, all 250 million of them.  It was such a surreal experience.  And for a few days after the show aired, people did double takes when they saw me, many of them actually approaching and talking to me as if they knew me, asking about the show and the money I had won.

It’s hard to believe that it has been seventeen years since that amazing experience, but I have grown older.  My kids have grown up.  My toddler son is now a father himself.

Here’s the video of my appearance on the show (D.H. Jonathan is a pen name I used when publishing The “Volunteer”).