In 2002 the artist Will Cotton hosted a handful of friends at his lower East Side loft for a live drawing session. Cotton had grown a bit rusty at depicting people in his work and figured it was as good an excuse as any to throw a party. What he didn’t count on was the evening’s success, which spawned a series that reached its zenith in 2005 with the publishing of a New York Times article that described Cotton’s evenings as “collegial and supportive.”
Those same terms could be used to describe the atmosphere at Chelsea’s Highline Studio one weekday evening last week, when a couple of veterans and some newbies got together for yet another night of live drawing. “This is fun because I can invite more people than I used to,” Cotton said during a break, grinning at the sight of the large space scattered with easels surrounding empty fabric-lined podiums. The models, in silk robes, were making small talk with those artists who hadn’t clambered for the open bar.
Around 50 artists—including Nicole Eisenman, Inka Essenhigh, and David Humphrey—had been invited to the drawing party, an annual happening hosted by the New York Academy of Arts. It’s a kind of prelude to NYAA’s popular ‘Take Home a Nude’ fall auction, which raises money for scholarships; the artists get a chance to create nudes to donate to the sale. As Academy president David Kratz put it, “It’s a community raising event.”
Taking advantage of the drinks break, I approached some such community members. “Five years we’ve been coming, it’s kind of like a reunion,” said Alison Elizabeth Taylor, standing beside fellow artist Ryan McGinness. For many of the artists in the room, the opportunity to rekindle their drawing practice is what Taylor believes continues to, er, “draw them to the event.”
It’s also a nice respite from the isolated life of the studio. “What we do is so solitary in general,” Cotton said. “so coming here is a really nice break,” he said.
For artist and Academy lecturer Jean-Pierre Roy, it’s “the closest I get to a meditative practice.”
As for the silk robe set, “I model this party whenever they ask me to,” said Kimberly Chou, a “reformed arts journalist” (and, full disclosure, a one time contributor to these pages). “It’s elemental,” Chou said, “the partnership between artists and their models has been a part of art practice for ever.”