get naked or leave: part II

Get naked or leave, 20in x 24in, mixed media collage on canvas (developed on an original sketch from art night), 2006
Get naked or leave • 20in x 24in • Mixed media collage on canvas (developed on an original sketch from art night) • Carly Swenson • 2006

My freshman year of college, I was unable to take any studio art courses and missed making art. My friend, Lylee, was a sophomore and intended to transfer to another school the following year. Therefore, she wanted to build her up art portfolio.  Our friend Zach simply loved art.  Thus, we created our own Art Night. We had the delightful tagline of, Get Naked or Leave.  We were open to other artistic friends joining us.  The implied rule was mutual respect, and you had to take a turn modeling. It was only fair.  If you were practicing drawing other nearly naked scantly clad humans–you should be willing to model as well. Get naked(ish) or leave.

Zach sketch, graphite on paper, 2003
Zach sketch • Graphite on paper • Carly Swenson • 2003

But most of the time, it was just the three of us. One of us would model not-quite-naked while the others would draw/sketch figure studies. 

These are some of my favorite memories from my freshman year of college (although, I do have many wonderful memories from school).  It always felt good to make art.  I didn’t have much previous experience drawing humans from life.  So, these art nights helped build my breadth of artistic skills.

Zach was one of those sweet, genuinely nice guys.  It was too easy to make him blush. Therefore, Miss Lylee and I loved say moderately inappropriate things while we posed, because, while the heart of our activity was very mutually respectful, we are still smart-asses and thought it was funny.  Although, the atmosphere always remained completely platonic–which given what I had seen in movies set at college–that was pretty impressive.


In Lust (detail image) mixed media collage on paper, 2007
Art night ink drawing of Lylee used in mixed media collage on paper • Carly Swenson • 2007


Lylee and me
Lylee and me, 2008ish

Eventually, from my freshman year on, our art night evolved to an anyone-welcome-all-fully-clothed-just-hang-out-together-and-make-art-event.  My art and non-art friends would get together playing with pencils, paper, paint, and glue.  We created for the love of creating.  Our works weren’t about the final piece; they were about enjoying the process and the people. We tried new techniques and inspired each other.  Even now, on the rare occasions I do get to see Lylee we still try to enjoy mini art nights. 

College was wonderful for me because despite my height and insecurities, I finally started to come into own and feel comfortable and confident being absurdly tall or beautifully tall as I was called by my friend, Abbie.

After my freshman year, Lylee transferred. I hated to see her go, but I understood she needed a different school that better met her academic needs, but we have remained friends.  She is still an amazing, positive, beautiful, and inspiring human, who cooks fantastically fun food, makes beautiful art and loves hearts.  Her blog can be found here:

our dear friend, Zach, 2003
Zach, 2003

Tragically, our friend Zach died in April of 2006, before our college graduation.  He drowned when he had an epileptic seizure while swimming.   He was student teaching in Australia.  He was simply a good human, and his passion for art would have made him an amazing educator. 

As life goes, we weren’t as close by our senior year as we had been a few years prior.  However, the memories of him, our talks, laughter, art, and our delightful art nights will always hold a special place in my heart.

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