Last year was, to say the least, strange. Difficult. Exhausting. But looking back on it, we managed to find some normalcy in it, some structure, some routine. We began 2020, one day after New Year’s Day, with a figure-drawing session, one of our favorite indoor activities when it’s too cold to meet outside. And one day before New Year’s Eve, we ended the year the same way: we got out our pencils and sketchpads and erasers, got out of our clothes, and spent several hours learning to recreate each other on paper.

Oh, there were differences this time around: rather than a windowless studio in a midtown high-rise we met in a well-ventilated ground-floor hotel suite with access to an outdoor courtyard–

–and we left the doors and windows open as much as we could stand, to let plenty of air in. (Those of us who needed to escape the cold could do so in the warmth of a jacuzzi tub.)

We kept our headcount down to ten or fewer at all times (people arrived and left at staggered times), and anyone who wanted the extra protection kept a mask on.

Did these precautions work? They seem to have — weeks later, no one who went to the event has gotten sick.

What we did get was the salubrious experience, too little enjoyed these days, of human contact. Not necessarily physical contact, though there was a little of that too–

–but the simple opportunity to see friends and share thoughts and laugh together and be together.

We took turns posing and sketching.

We pulled books off the walls and read them aloud to each other.

We tried out dramatic poses, some of which we couldn’t hold for more than a few seconds without falling over.

We each drew to the best of our ability, whether that meant stick figures–

–or professional-caliber art.

We took photos of each other drawing.

And most of all we simply basked in the company of like-minded souls, and the comfort of being naked with people who understand that the human body is a healthy thing to have and to see and to draw, without any of it being scandalous or sexual or to be shunned.

Will we do it again? Surely, though the temperatures have dropped further since, and it’s one thing to have the doors open in 30-degree weather, something else entirely when the wind chill makes it feel like zero. As long as Covid is with us, we’re being cautious, and that means waiting for warmer weather to return (and more vaccinations!) before venturing beyond small events with small pods of close contacts. But small events are better than none at all. We hope you also are finding ways to be with people, even if it’s fewer and rarer and more constrained than in normal times.

And we hope you’re finding time to be naked too. Pick up a pencil sometime. Even if your only model is the one facing you in the mirror, take some time to draw.

We all have art inside us if only we take the time to set it free.