Sunday, February 24, 2013

Patty and Sharon Get Their Mojo Working

I made this sketch of a model I'll call Turk in Patty Whitty's drawing class. I'd admired Patty's work for years before I met her when I signed up for her class in 1988. I was going through my Dark Age, demoralized, knocked flat. Patty had been there and done that. Plus, she was struggling against big odds getting her art school off the ground. With Patty's gentle guidance I learned not only to draw from but to take nourishment from life.

Our class of about fifteen was a diverse group...a Slidell High art teacher, a few high school and college age students, 40-somethings like Patty and me and lots of senior citizens. Patty sketched right along with the rest of us. During breaks, she'd walk around instructing each of us in her soft, musical voice. It was a new experience for me...far different from 60s LSU art classes where tenured hot house flowers were snide at best, openly contemptuous at worst. Unlike them, Patty got results. At first, I teased her that some of her students wouldn't live long enough to learn to draw, but she consistently turned out competent draftsmen as well as some real artists.

Young Turk was our favorite model...perfectly proportioned and reliable. He was comfortable and inventive posing and could hold a pose forever. Our classes met evenings 6 to 10 twice a week and had a monastic quietude and intensity. Between breaks, the only sound was the faint scratch of pencils on newsprint.

One evening, it was about 6:30 before Patty said, "I guess it's just you and me tonight, Sharon. Let's get started, Turk."

Turk struck a fine pose and Patty and I started drawing. Patty had a frontal view; I a profile. I was well along on my sketch, when I noticed movement from what had always been Turk's consummately professional manhood. No one changed expression. No one said a word. All I heard was scratch, scratch, scratch. I turned my eyes furtively looking for a signal from the maestra. She was perfectly stoic. This seemed to go on forever until Patty asked, "Well, for whose benefit is that?" Without moving, Turk reddened and mumbled something inaudible. "It's been a long time since I've seen anything like that," she said. Finally when a sparkling dewdrop appeared, Patty called a break.

Turk disappeared and Patty walked over to my easel. "You drew it!" she exclaimed.

"It was there!" I said.

Turk recovered his dignity and resumed the position. But after several minutes, his disobedient appendage resumed the rebellion. Defeated, Patty ended the class. After Turk got dressed and left, Patty and I...craving conversation...made a beeline for the all night truck stop. Huh? What thought had popped into his head? We were twice his age. What would she do if it happened again? (It didn't.) Should she have canceled the class before it started? How was this scenario like a porn film? For days, we were giddy with delight. We were new women.


  1. Sharon, Absolutely a beautiful drawing! Looks like a Degas. Is the portrait of Patty a photo or one of her amazing paintings?

  2. A fine drawing, to be sure. Very assured & convincing. . . . But I am not seeing "it".

    1. Ad, that's because I didn't post the drawing of Turk I did that night. "It" was really exaggerated...I didn't get the proportions right. I guess "it" just loomed so large, the old eye-hand coordination thing didn't work so well.

    2. That was a drawing I did in another class full of high school teachers and geezers like I am now.