Girl walks into an art studio

I meant to submit this to Man Repeller and completely spaced the deadline. Here’s my best feel-good story.

So, there’s this guy.

Okay, so he’s at least fifty years old. And no, nothing romantic. But he sends me emails about twice a week. They’re short, typically no more than a few sentences. But inviting, always inviting.

I never respond. I live across the country from him and I haven’t seen him in seven years. I’ve only met him about three times, maybe four.

The emails usually say something like this:

“Hello everyone. Come in out of the rain into the light and warmth of the studio tonight. Long Pose continues with Maryclare. Hope to see you.

– Rocco”

Sometimes I delete them, sometimes I don’t. But every time I see them, I smile.

I met Rocco after emerging from the wreckage of my most recent semester as a failed art student. I was drowning in critiques of my art and a lack of friends in a competitive environment. My brother gave me a life-preserver in the form of a job nannying for him out in Boston, and I flew out days before the semester even ended.

I was a nanny by day, but didn’t have the connections to chill with chimney sweepers by night. So I went searching online for a different creative option: figure drawing classes.

I signed up for the emailing list and found the studio in the midst of Boston’s labyrinth road system on a warm summer evening. I climbed up to the third floor and met Rocco.

Rocco Ricci. What a name, right?

Rocco, who looked like a balding and bearded Jeff Goldblum, had a warm, soft voice and welcomed me into the studio with four other artists. He let me borrow his newsprint and charcoal since I had none, and those tools are the most fun and easy to draw with quickly.

The building was right next to several rows of train tracks, and trains went through repeatedly, rattling the windows. The sun shone through the windows and onto our pads, giving us extra light. Rocco played Simon and Garfunkel in the background. It was absolutely the artsy hipster’s dream.

It was nothing like my art classes in college, which were in silent, cold studios. Rocco was nothing like my art teachers, whose jobs were to critique and improve. Rocco didn’t care if your proportions were off. He complimented everyone. Some people were highly advanced, while others were amateurs like me. Rocco was a golden retriever kind of teacher: just happy to be here.

I left slightly floating, surprised I could find that much joy in drawing again. I was able to make it to that studio only three times in the two months I was there. Life got busy. Years have gone by. I changed my major, graduated, and now work in web development.

I still get those emails twice a week. I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. I love the solace Rocco extended to a lonely, recovering art student. And whenever I see an email on a particularly difficult day, it makes me smile knowing that he’s still out there, holding his figure drawing sessions.

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