In the summer of 1998 I took a job as a model in an art studio. Well, I suppose since I hadn’t actually been offered a job, I just took an opportunity. I showed up one day, got nude and stood on a small table in the middle of an art class. The teacher, Eileen, assumed I was meant to be there, so she let me stay. Every two weeks for the next few months I went to the class and stood there nude. Now, it wasn’t that I particularly enjoyed getting my kit off in public, and I’m no great fan of modern “art”, but I had a big job planned that required me to infiltrate the seedy underbelly of the amateur art world. Only there could I find what I needed.
One morning I was in the studio, sans vêtements as usual. That particular day the students had to choose one of three subjects for an oil painting: me, another nude model named Veronica, and a bowl of rotting fruit that had been left there from the previous fortnight’s class. After standing there for a short while, silently trying to recall the rugby league premiership winners from the last twenty years, Eileen came over to inform me that I was free to leave early that day as none of the students had chosen me as their subject. Oh well, I thought, no matter. If thirteen of fifteen aspiring artists had elected to paint Veronica, and the other two had gone for the rotten fruit option, that was no skin off my nose. After all, I was there on a mission, not to have my physical appearance appraised by a talentless herd of perverts who wouldn’t know beauty if it bit them on the bum.
Since I wasn’t needed as a model that day, I wandered around the room inspecting the students’ progress. It’s funny, you can stand completely naked on a table in front of someone and they’ll happily ogle you as they transcribe you to canvas, but simply stand behind them, looking over their shoulder, and they get all uncomfortable. Anyway, as I saw nothing useful in the students’ work, I put my pants on and prepared to leave. As I made my way to the door I noticed a student in the room I hadn’t seen before. He was over in the corner; I must have walked right past him earlier. I made a quick detour to examine his brushwork. I was stunned. His rendition of naked Veronica with a mouldy peach for a head was breathtaking. This guy had talent you couldn’t learn in a class — it was a gift. He had what art aficionados refer to as “chops”, and it was exactly what I was looking for.
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