UTech nude model plans now ‘clothed’

December 17, 2020

Last November, the animation department of the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) called for a model who would've been required to pose nude in front of students, in order for them to complete drawings.

But the ground-breaking idea didn't see the light of day. Jeffrey Menzies, life drawing and figure analysis lecturer at UTech, was passionate about the bid, but plans to hire the model were halted, and the situation was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is no in-class model and that person would no longer be needed at this time, because it's about direct observation of being in the same space as the model, and not drawings from a screen, but responding to real space. And not to say that puts them (students) at a deficit. It just changes their experience," Menzies told THE STAR.

He believes that it's essential for art students in training to understand the anatomy by drawing a person in the nude, before they can grasp the concept of drawing. He says it was hard moving such a practical subject into the virtual space.

"I teach traditional drawing ... pencil and paper, so I don't use technology. To readjust was tough. Over 20 years in an art school studio environment and all my learning experience as a teacher has been face-to-face. This subject requires a lot of emails, WhatsApp, phone calls and Zoom.

Renegotiate and consider

There's a lot of positives that have come out of this, because it has forced us all to renegotiate and consider what teaching is," he said. "It's not ideal for the students, because it's nothing like working face-to-face, but I'm making it work. Zoom is everything, but the subject is very practical, so it requires a lot of work. But we have to make it work ... we have no choice."

Menzies says he will have to take an old school approach with his incoming students.

"That class is coming up again next semester and I have to renegotiate what life drawing is. Essentially, I have to take a more historical approach to it. I would have to give them research to do, looking at old master artists, studying their work and forcing them to go out in public and draw humans in everyday life ... at the market, at the tyre shop, the man at the stall," he related.

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