Here are some sections of an interview with Aimee Mamelon, the author of a new adult novel set in the Central Florida art world. The book is called, Rough Sketch.
JR: I understand that Aimee Mamelon is a pen name. Why adopt a false identity? Aren’t you proud of this book?
AM: Nice opener. Let’s get to the hostility right away.
JR: I’ll rephrase my question. Aimee Mamelon is a pen name. Interesting…
AM: I’ve worked as a model, artist and art instructor in the Orlando area. Some of the characters are composites based on people I’ve met, and the plot contains elements of stories I’ve been told and my own experiences. I didn’t want colleagues and acquaintances and friends leaping to conclusions.
JR: You didn’t want them to find out that you were writing about them? Won’t they figure out your identity once they read a few passages that are about things that only you and they went through together?
AM: Please listen carefully. This is a novel, not a memoir. None of the things that happened in this book are a blow by blow account. The characters in the book are representative of certain types of people I’ve met in the art world, but none of them are direct portraits of actual people. Got it?
JR: So you’re not a sex addict?
JR: But your main character, Lizzy, is.
AM: Maybe at the beginning. I think of her more as a female Don Juan, as someone who’s desperately trying to find fulfillment, to patch a few gaping holes in her life. She uses sex to take the cutting edge off of her loneliness.
JR: Why did you open the book with a graphic sex scene?
AM: Well, obviously, I wanted to get my readers’ attention. And I wanted to introduce the main character’s core problem right at the outset. The first chapter is really about playing out her frustrations more than reveling in her satisfactions.
JR: She keeps trying to find some sort of escape from reality?
AM: Yes. Exactly. She drinks and goes out clubbing and has one night stands to forget that she’s just scraping by, her family drives her nuts, and that she feels unloved and unlovable. When she takes someone home she can believe for a moment or two that she’s taking control of her life and her needs.
JR: But of course she just makes things worse.
AM: Yeah, it takes her a long time to figure out what she really needs and how to get it.
JR: Have you ever modeled in the nude?
AM: Yes. I’ve modeled for art classes, and I posed for a boyfriend who is a figure painter.
JR: So the scenes where Lizzy models are fairly accurate?
AM: Oh, yes. The first time I modeled in a class I thought that I was going to throw up or faint. It feels pretty strange to be the only naked person in a room of 25.
JR: Does that get easier the more you do it?
AM: I was a little nervous every time I modeled, but not nearly as bad as the first time. It depended a lot on the instructors and the students. Some teachers were very demanding and didn’t care if my leg went into a spasm during a pose. They just expected me to keep holding it. They acted like I was an object. Some were a lot more kind and took my needs into account…One creepy guy wanted to date me and called me up at home at all hours and asked me what I was wearing.
JR: That had to be awkward. What were some of the stranger moments you faced in class?
AM: I was modeling at a little, nonprofit art school, and all the students were in their thirties or forties. I relaxed. Usually it’s younger college kids who show no respect. Well, anyway, I’m standing on the modelling stage wearing a bathrobe, waiting for the male instructor to stop talking to one of the female students. He finally says a few words, I drop my robe and hit a pose, and this old bat in the corner looks me straight in the eye. Her face is red and she’s glaring at me. She throws down her charcoal, points a finger at me and yells, “Jezebel! You brazen Jezebel!”
JR: Really? What was the class? Watercolor still life?
AM: Figure drawing. I guess that lady had no idea that artists draw nudes in a figure drawing class. Go figure.
JR: What did the instructor do?
AM: He was pretty cool. He asked me to put the robe back on, and then he told the lady to pack up and leave. She demanded her money back, and he opened up his wallet and peeled off a few bills. He apologized to me after class and said that the school gets some odd balls from time to time.
JR: Is the art world as tough as you’ve portrayed it in the book? Is it all about finding out a way to sell out in order to make some cash?
AM: I’ve understated some things. It’s intensely difficult to make a living doing anything creative. Some artists try to tailor their work to a market. In Central Florida there are a lot of artists doing old fashioned still lives and landscapes. I see lots of flower paintings and landscapes with a palm tree stuck dead center. Sky, water, palm tree. This kind of work usually sells a lot better than scratchy, dark abstractions.
JR: Do you look down on the sell-outs? You went to art school. Didn’t they teach you to look down your nose at realism?
AM: I don’t blame them at all. If they figure out how to turn a buck selling art I’m ready to applaud. One thing you learn in the art world is that it’s not a meritocracy. Some of the best artists I’ve known have a huge collection of their own work. They can’t give it away, and the only ones who really like their work are fellow artists who can’t afford to buy. Sometimes the least talented artists get to the top of the heap by relentless self-promotion. But there are times when crap art gets exposed and the good artists get shows and sell. It’s all random…If someone can figure out how to make the money flow in their direction, even for a short while, then I say, “Go for it chickee!”
JR: That sounds a little bitter.
AM: Just trying to be realistic.
JR: Are you still working as an artist, or are you devoting all of your efforts to perfecting your craft as a writer?
AM: It’s about even. Sometimes I feel less inspired to go into my studio and work on a painting. The computer looks more inviting then. And sometimes I get tired of digging around for the right word, the right turn of a phrase, and it’s nice to pick up a brush and turn off the words in my head.
JR: Are you modeling anymore?
AM: I trade off with friends from time to time. They pose and I paint, and vice versa. Mostly it’s just for portraits. I can’t remember the last time I posed in the nude.
JR: But not for college classes?
AM: No. I gave that up when I put on a few pounds after I had my first baby. A lot of models quit when they no longer feel confident in their body image anymore. It takes guts to get up on stage and have twenty pairs of eyes poring over every square inch of your body…And the joints get achy. I did yoga to stay loose and limber, but after a while I started visiting my chiropractor more often than I wanted to, and modeling seemed like a less attractive way to pick up a few extra bucks.
JR: At the end of the book Lizzy gives up a lot of her independence to take care of her lover. Do you think that she made a good choice?
AM: She learns to give more of herself, to expect less from others. But I’m not sure if Peter is a good bet in the long run. He’s an alcoholic with personal issues of his own. But I think that their relationship gives Lizzy a chance to figure out a different route for her life. When she’s with him he presents enough of a challenge to force her to make different choices.