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  • She had the typical nude model figure; slim, but strong, and she inhabited a natural elegance.

    After the initial awkwardness, the instinctive feeling that I ought to respectfully look away, my eyes explored her body in a professional, impersonal way, as if she wasn't actually a human being, flesh and bone and emotion, like myself. Three hours flew by while I tried to capture her rapidly changing poses and fix them onto paper, it was like chasing a butterfly; by the time I almost had her she had fluttered on. It was exhausting and fun, but when the time came to perfect our study of her body and she held the same pose for forty-five minutes, I got a little frustrated. My tools were insufficient, I was unable to transform her pale skin and sharp edges into flesh and color. I couldn't complete her, make her unapproachable figure come alive on the paper, like those using watercolor or pastels.

    I looked at the others, scattered around the room; nine pairs of eyes intently focused on this woman's body while she gazed absently at the easels, or the floor, or our legs. I watched her face for a long time. In the beginning, her face had seemed plain to me, the kind of appearance that is easily forgotten, the kind of face you don't really notice, most especially not when she is naked and your eyes are naturally drawn to her nudity. But the more I looked at her, the more intriguing her features became. I started to sketch her face, study it, scrutinize it, each line and curve and shadow, and it struck me how rarely I have the opportunity to do just that; stare at someone's face, openly, uninterrupted. My drawing became an investigation, I wanted to reveal what she was thinking about, I wanted to know whether she was a student, a mother, an immigrant, a poet, I wondered whether we had something in common. But her face was a locked door, shutting me out of the secret chamber of her mind, and no matter how much my drawing resembled her there was no way I could get into that room.

    After the class, the teacher told me I was the only one who had bothered to depict the model's face. When I looked through my twenty-some sheets of sketches, her face was portrayed in every one. Go figure.
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