At the last moment, I was invited to a charity party at the New York Academy of Art. It was described to me by my good friend Marnie as “an expensive drawing class but lots of nude models and taught by the famous artist Will Cotton at the New York Academy of Art as a fundraiser.”
Wanting very much to invest some of my earnings from the launch of my last online class ( Painting with Words) I was eager to support a good cause and hobnob with famous people.
I knew at the very least this would dress up my facebook page and make me look fabulous while at the same time I could dust off my life drawing skills.
Since my friend would already be in the city, I traveled from the suburbs on my own. When I reached the New York Art Academy, an art school founded by Andy Warhol, the young men at the front desk asked “you’re here for the fundraiser?” and I am not sure if it was my paranoid imagination but it was said with a hint of surprise. Immediately my insecurity complex kicked in and I wondered if (yet again) I had guessed all wrong what to wear for this event. My friend had told me she would be wearing “black pants and a nice sweater” so I was wearing “nice pants and a black sweater.”
What they were wearing
As it turned out, I was fine. Perhaps, somewhere in the middle of dress code …maybe towards the bottom end of that.
Here is a sampling of the outfits I spotted. One young chic thirty something socialite stood with her freshly cut bobbed hair and yellow shift dress with an impossibly tiny black sling bag. There was another thirty something-ish woman decked out in eclectic patterned black fishnet stockings and black miniskirt topped by a Cookie Monster blue fur vest. Other outfit standouts were the woman with a purse made out of a license plate. I don’t think the woman in the yellow shift dress actually touched any of the messy drawing supplies.. Most of the women there were in their fifties with tailored black pants topped by high end cashmere turtleneck sweaters in pastel shades, their necks draped with expensive looking jewelry.
The Set Up
Around the room there were three circles of easels with two nude models perched on a draped platforms. However, no one seemed to be paying much attention to the beautiful naked bodies in the room except for Alyssa Monks and Will Cotton who were preparing their demonstration in one corner of the room.
Having found my friend and my courage (through a glass of red wine) we approached the two artists and introduced ourselves. Will’s first comment to me was “Are you excited to draw tonight?” which was said in a tone that clearly made me understand that he assumed I had never drawn before. The truth was, most of the folks in the room had never drawn before so it was a fair assumption. Also, the full ticket price of $500 made it unlikely that any starving artist he never heard of would be coming in to “just draw” that night.
I actually had chosen the cheaper “junior” admission ticket price. There was nothing on the website declaring what a “junior” meant. I figured the worst that could happen was that I was carded at the door and asked to cough up a bigger donation. A humiliation I was willing to risk.
Artist Will Cotton demonstrates “How to draw the figure”
Alyssa Monks in front of her drawing
After the host and hostess murmered the required niceties we were divided into two groups.Half of the room watched Alyssa’s demonstration while the other half of the room had the benefit of Will’s demonstration. I was on Will’s side of the room.
No one complained which artist demo they were assigned. Although Will may be the more “famous” of the two (it is all subjective) Alyssa is way more glamorous… Sorry Will. You are very cute too. He doesn’t look his age at all ..which is fifty. By the way, Alyssa, who is in her thirties, wore a mini skirt over black tights and Will wore cuffed jeans and converse.
How do you judge fame?
Speaking of fame– how does one judge that? During my internet stalking spree I learned that Alyssa Monks has over 300 thousand facebook fans. While Will, who painted the famous nude Katy Perry album cover, and whose art has graced the covers of ArtNews and New York Magazine has only a few thousand more than I do. (as of this writing, February 2016 Will Cotton has 8,384 fans and I have 5,154 (see SchulmanArt facebook page).
But his paintings sells for six figures. (Actually, I have no idea how much they sell for and I just made that up. While researching this blog, none of his paintings shown online have prices… so if you have to ask, you can’t afford it)
What does this prove? That when your prices are that high you just don’t need as many collectors to support a viable art career… ie the higher your prices, the fewer customers you need.
What I learned during the demonstration
I hate to admit that I didn’t fully take advantage of the great advice being given at the event during the drawing lesson. It is not that I am so arrogant to think I know everything. In fact, during the one moment that I was paying attention I learned how the neck sits really into the clavicles not on top of the shoulders… a detail I either didn’t fully understand before or had forgotten.
Anyway, like I said it was not that Will was boring but most of the guests continued to chat noisily among themselves and my ADD brain became distracted by each tempting passed hors d’oeuvres.
The food was both beautiful and artful. I was only annoyed that the servers kept interrupting my drawing sessions to ask if I wanted a canape. Next time, I will bring a sign like they have for international passengers on long flights. Perhaps, I should swipe a “do not disturb” door hanger during a future hotel visit to hang on my easel. (After writing this post, you will learn that I did swipe a few things throughout the night… but I digress.)
Don’t worry. I did get plenty of food during the cocktail hour when I mingled with the “famous” artists in the room. I was happy to diverge from the “wrestling” diet I have been following at home, In order to support my son who needs to “make weight”, we have been eating nothing but steamed broccoli, grapefruit and fish. This, it turns out is an excellent diet for a woman my age. Just saying.
Each party guest was given an easel, a large drawing pad, charcoal and pastels as well as a gray kneaded eraser. In addition to the provided supplies, I also had schlepped in my watercolor markers to add finishing touches.
Every twenty minutes the models take a break for five minutes and I used that time to chat with Will. My friend Marnie had just snagged the drawing created by the Dean of the Academy simply because she asked for it. So I turned to Will and asked if I could have his demo too. He said “No.”
Thinking that maybe the host of the party had already laid claim to it, I told him I was surprised he didn’t try to sell it to me. He said “You can’t afford my art.” and then he looked at me and said, “Well. I don’t know, maybe you can.” Remember this was a room filled with art patrons and society types and the only “real artists” there besides Marnie and myself were the faculty of the school and the famous people.
What art would you steal from the Museum of Modern Art?
Feeling slightly uncomfortable because I realized in his eyes he saw me neither as a peer nor as a potential collector, I changed the subject and asked him what kind of art he liked to collect. I was not going to pretend that I recognized any of the names he proffered as Marnie nodded knowingly in appreciation of his art tastes. And she was not pretending as she offered intelligent commentary on each artist.
Flustered, I then asked what artwork he would most like to steal from the MoMa. Without hesitation he said a Picasso sculpture from the most recent exhibit but by then Marnie had noticed the models started posing again so I rushed back to my easel.
Look over my shoulder as I draw the last pose of the night…
The drawing on the left is by Marnie Gelfman and all photos in this blog post are courtesy of photographer Marnie Gelfman
Here is a snapshot my friend Marnie took of my finished drawing. The pose for this lasted twenty minutes and it is not complete. I didn’t post this to my facebook fan page because they have very strict “nipple” policies on facebook and instagram.
I focused mainly on the face and then I loved the way her jet black hair cascaded over her breasts. I wish I had more time to “ground” the figure since I prefer subjects to be integrated into the background rather than “floating.” I think I may work on this later today after I complete a commission as my “reward.” When I do, I will be listing this online with my other figure paintings.
With this drawing, I was completely pleased with myself and knew I had brought my “best self” to the easel that night.
“No, you can not have my drawing.”
Now here is the punch line of the story. Just prior to drawing this, remember I was talking to Will Cotton who had refused to give me his little sketch. So when he came over with his eyes glinting. I gleefully detected a fleck of green in them. (You can compare my drawing with Will’s 20 minute demo above.) While he and Alyssa Monks gaped in amazement, and serious art collectors, such as a board member of the Whitney, murmured their appreciation. Alyssa declared that I should do the demonstration at the party next year. She wasn’t kidding.
I joking told Will that “No, you can not have my drawing.” and that was that.
For my efforts, I was awarded one of their goofy prizes… “Painting most likely to hang in a Williamsburg Basement Apartment.” I also won this apron.
In addition, instead of removing my drawings from the pad and rolling them up, I just took the whole damn drawing pad home as my “party favor.” I am not sure if that was the right thing to do … but I thought I would put the pad to the best use and each time I used it I would be reminded of this wonderful night.
In Case We Haven’t Met Yet…
Hello! I’m Miriam Schulman and I create mixed media art to tell stories. I also teach other people how to craft their stories with art. I give them the techniques they need to get the results they desire which brings more joy to their lives.
My art has been published by Somerset Studio, Art of Man and the New York Times among others and collected by an international audience. When I’m not working on art in my studio, you’ll find me in a museum spending time with friends or family. Explore my art at SchulmanArt.com or join the fun at TheInspirationPlace.net
Now, I would love to hear from you! If you could steal any artwork you wanted, what would it be? ( no need to limit yourself to the Museum of Modern Art)
I’m Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration.
I inspire art-lovers to reconnect with their creativity and profit from their art. Whether you paint simply for the joy of it or you’re serious about selling your work, and you’re ready to stop putting yourself on the back burner...You're in the right place. I've done it and I can inspire YOU how to do it too.