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Posing for Artist Angela Cunningham

When I first moved to Western North Carolina I was studying full-time and didn’t have time for a regular job. To earn some extra spending cash, I posed regularly for local artists and drawing groups. I haven’t had the time to do it much lately.

Having a full-time job makes it difficult to be on call, but lately I have been sitting for artist and my former instructor, Angela Cunningham
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It’s a slow process but an amazing one to see come together. Every step is important in order to create a successful end product, which is in this case, a large format all graphite drawing, and perhaps also an oil painting. She’s done a few color studies as well, one of which is shown below.

As a figure model, I never have much expectation or investment in the work completed based on my posing. I know it’s not actually about me. It doesn’t hurt my feelings if the likeness isn’t there, or if it’s not particularly flattering, but sitting for Angela has been a unique pleasure because of her skill. It’s one of the few times I’ve allowed myself some satisfaction and expectation for the final piece. I really can’t wait to see how it turns out and feel honored to be a part of her body of work.


The above is one of my favorite pieces of her work. It is titled Silence. I love this painting not just because it’s beautiful, or that I’m partial to skulls, but also because the moth in the lower right hand corner is a polyphemus moth I found fluttering while it died on a hot night the first summer I had moved here. It reminds me of how exciting that time was and how beautiful, for both good and bad reasons, my experience here has been.

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Flow and Ebb – Life on the French Broad

Life is different. Life is interesting. Life is a bit hard to keep up with.

I’m on my last month of officially studying with Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios. It’s time to find a full time job and figure out a schedule to allow me to continue self study. I believe I will stay in Marshall for the time being. I like the quiet and slower pace. Things aren’t frantic here. I feel myself slowing down as well. A sense of urgency will always be part of me, but it is nice living somewhere that doesn’t exacerbate it. This place is full of quiet moments of meaning. Or maybe it’s just helping me focus on the moments that are already there but that I usually miss.

I love the sound of the French Broad always rushing within ear shot. I’ve never lived somewhere that has smelled so sweet. The spring flowers have melted like heated sugar, but now summer blooms like orange lilies and trumpet flowers are replacing them. I may be alone much of the time, but there are always lightening bugs to keep me company.

I’ve met good people. My studio mate Dan has been a great comfort and an easy friend. My roommates, Frank(another amazing artist) and Zane, have been a wonderful surprise. Having Chelsey, a friend from Norfolk, here eased my transition.

To help fund good times and my coffee needs I’ve been posing for drawing groups in the evenings, specifically for Lawter Studios and Ben Long’s drawing group. It’s been an interesting experience being on the other side of the canvas. It’s been a valuable lesson. I have found figure modeling easy in surprising ways and extremely hard in others. My feelings of exposure disappeared almost immediately. I came to realize that modeling for a drawing group is not about me at all. It’s the parts, not the sum of them.

I feel that I’ve learned a lot, and very quickly, while studying drawing with Angela. I have learned to appreciate and maybe even like graphite when before I avoided it in favor of charcoal. In the past I have been very heavy handed while drawing. I always seemed to be scoring the surface of my paper. While here I have grown much more delicate with the amount of pressure I use while drawing. My perception of value has always been a big source of frustration for me. I have by no means fixed this problem, but have made the steps towards increasing my sensitivity to it. I’m physically stronger as well. In the past I haven’t made myself stand while drawing. I’m required to now. At first the pain in my back and legs was incredibly distracting, but it eventually eased off. I’m stronger. I see more clearly. I translate. I’ve taken painful steps in the right direction.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle drawing bargue plates and doing cast drawings. They seemed inaccessible before coming here. I didn’t understand the process. Now, while not terribly skilled yet, I feel like I have the tools and vocabulary to unlock this mysterious method of learning. There is nothing magic about it. Just like most things, it’s hard work and discipline, but possible. Feeling that it’s possible makes all the difference. I have less fear.

I miss my friends in Norfolk and Philly. I miss my step children and life in Virginia, but I am also happy.