I spent several years attending a Life Drawing class. Most of the models were dance students, though we occasionally had actors from the local community theater coming in costume. The years spent in learning to observe, appreciate and draw the figure have been an important foundation for my sculptural practice. There is no substitute for learning to draw from life.
I have taken a few of these drawings and turned them into sculptures. I was particularly happy with two drawings from one class.
Drawing dancers in their tutus, with the layers and layers of translucent ruffles and tulle has always been a challenge for me – drawing layers and lines and folds which you both see and don’t see. Trying to sculpt this in clay, creating a believable illusion of the soft flowing form as it follows and highlights the lines of the dancer… was a technical challenge I had never been brave enough to attempt.
Working first with the body of the figure from my drawing, I found a way to create a thin layer of clay and form its dips and curves around her hips. Once I created the form of the tutu, I had to carefully control the drying process to prevent the thin layer of clay from drying out too quickly, causing it to shrink and crack. In the end, the clay was thin enough to create the sense of lightness, but strong enough to not break, or feel out of balance with the rest of the figure.
I brought the finished sculpture to show to a long time dance friend. She has spent years teaching and mentoring young dancers, often fighting against the sometimes toxic ethos of the dance world, with its spirit of frenzied perfectionism, eating disorders, and clawing competition to the top. What immediately struck her when she saw the figure was her attitude of rest – stepping away from the slavery to perfection and image, and toward the freedom to stop and take a breath.
Rest, or Selah, teaches us to let go of our illusion of control over our lives and the need to always feel like we are running one step ahead of failure. It is a journey into faith; the assurance that our Father calls us to action and effort, but He also calls us into rest, understanding and acting on our profound, daily dependence on Him and the way He lives His life through us.