Celebrating diversity with opportunity
By SHARON L. BRATCHER
For the Times-Herald Newspapers
Learning to draw the nude model has been an essential part of an artist’s training process dating back to the Italian Renaissance. And though we clearly understand the importance and history of drawing a nude figure in arts education, I, and a number of other people with religious reasons, were unable to enroll ourselves into a class with that methodology.
This presented a problem for us because a figure drawing class was one of the requirements for completion of a Graphic Design: Illustration Certificate at Henry Ford College.
I longed to learn how to draw people, and it made sense to me that since my goal was to draw clothed people and illustrate children’s books someday, a course dedicated to that would fulfill both my educational and professional goals. And so, a request was submitted to the faculty that a clothed figure drawing class be offered as an alternative class that would count for the Illustration degree.
Professor Vicki Shepherd designed “Topics in Art 234-01” for the Fall 2016 semester.
Everything happened rather quickly, so there was not a lot of time to market the class to other students. Students learned about the class through flyers that were hung around campus, and announcements that were made in some classes.
A small class was assembled. Professor Grace Serra developed a curriculum that modeled the Life Drawing class. We learned how to draw the portraits, hands, feet, and gestures to understand proportions and movement of the human figure, and we learned to represent the folds in the clothing as well.
The class met weekly for three hours and we were required to invest at least 3 hours of homework time each week as well. There were four modeling sessions, each lasting for three consecutive classes, so 12 of the 16 weeks we drew directly from a live model. The other classes focused on learning to draw drapery, so as to better understand how to draw clothing on a figure.
Serra provided extremely helpful one-on-one assistance, and adjusted the curriculum to include more time for a better understanding of how to tonally develop the figure. Learning new subject matter can be frustrating, and tears often flowed as we continued to work and rework entire sections of our drawings. Serra patiently taught us how to solve our problems, and we all made immense progress, as seen in the accompanying photos.
Diversity is not just about paying lip service to embracing different cultures and different points of view. It is also about understanding and respecting individual needs. Rather than coercing those of us with different convictions to adapt to a curriculum that we simply could not participate in, HFC provided us with a choice. We are all very glad that we were allowed access to the same educational opportunities that other art students are provided.
For myself, it is my love of, and dedication to Jesus Christ, and my desire to keep my mind pure that led me to this point.
Here are testimonials from some of the other members of the class:
“This class has been one of the best classes I’ve taken,” Batoul Ballout said. “I’m confident that I learned figure drawing even though the models were clothed. I truly am thankful to the school for offering this course, and being considerate. I know many people who didn’t go for art majors because of Life Drawing and not being able to take such a class.”
“Having the opportunity to take a life drawing class with a clothed model was very helpful and important to me,” Fatima Moshaymesh said. “I needed to take Life Drawing class in order to graduate from college with an Art degree, but I was not able to take it because seeing naked people is forbidden in my religion. This class solved my problem. I am able to graduate now. The Topics In Art 234-01 (alternative Life Drawing) class with clothed models should continue to be offered because there are many students who can’t take a normal Life Drawing class either because of their religion, or their high moral standards. Please keep this class so that those students can graduate without breaking their beliefs.”
“The class was really beneficial to me,” Cheyenne Horton said. “The teacher really took time figuring out why we were struggling at one point. Drawing clothed figures helped me with drawings I do in my free time. Understanding the movement in clothing and fabric itself made sense after the class. I would recommend this class.”
“For me, this class presented the opportunity to finish my Graphic Design degree, because the Life Drawing class, for the second time, conflicted with the other class I needed to take,” Lydia Sexton said. “I learned about tone, drawing people, and drawing fabric folds. This will greatly help in my career in Animation.”
There is always more than one way to teach a subject. HFC did a great thing for us by teaching us how to draw people without disturbing our consciences or beliefs. If the college decides to make this a regular opportunity, I am sure that other people will benefit from it. Since it will bring more students into the Graphic Arts program, it will also be a win-win for HFC.
(Sharon L. Bratcher is a published writer and editor who recently returned to college to study graphic design.)