Bunstronauts of the crew of the salvage vessel the Buzzard had a long day on orbit. They had dismantled an old solar smelter and safely stowed the last piece of it for transport. No bun was sure what finally did it in. One report said that a liquid coolant pump seized and a pipe froze shut. That caused the smelter to burn right through in the middle and break apart. Somebun else said the poor thing took a direct hit from a small meteor, right in the radiators on the starboard side. The smelter was great at taking in meteors through its front ore manifold and popping out ingots of iron and nickel out its rear end, but it couldn't take one in its side. The legend had it that the Buzzard itself contained metal processed by the old smelter.
Mr. Toes and Abby were off the clock now, and the crew had the rest of the evening to themselves. They were about to rotate out for a recovery and restoration period, so they could pull an artsy all-nighter if they wanted to. After supper, they headed to the old, open observation room with crystal clear diamond windows. Once, it served as a greenhouse, a storage room, and even a rec room where you could bring your sippy bag and relax, gazing at the stars.
Mr. Toes put on a pair of blue cotton overalls that Abby's Auntie Jane knitted for him. They had a thick, comfy collar and faux suede patches on the elbows. She even knitted the logo of the Space Agency next to the zipper on the right side of the chest. He disabled the smoke detectors in the room, strictly against regulations, and lit up his catnip pipe. Mr. Toes started to prepare the room for an open studio, life-drawing workshop. In a workshop of this sort, the attendance was open to whoever wanted to join the group for a couple of hours of improvised life drawing. The organizer would try to find a model, then directed the poses and led the group through the session, but everybun would be free to express themselves however they saw fit. On the ground, there would be a small cover charge for the model's fee and the rent on the studio. Here it was all a volunteer effort.
Some used charcoal, some used graphite or pastels, and the brave ones wielded ink or aquarelles. They eschewed synthetic or digital media and materials, especially paper. The heavy weight, high fiber NutriBerry cold-pressed rug was the proffered sheet. In the end, it could be chewed to destroy the evidence of a bad night's drawings, and it would still be good for you.
A few years ago, it took Mr. Toes quite some time and effort to convince the director of crew operations to sanction the life drawing classes as an official cross-training activity for the crews. Mr. Toes started with the basics. He convinced the director that drawing from direct observation involved skills similar to remote robotics operations or piloting. The paw-eye coordination is crucial to both. So is single-pointed concentration and the sharpening of a bun's perception skills. Thus, drawing strengthens the "mental muscles" required to disassemble an old space freighter or to land a craft. The crew trains and doesn't even know it. They experience only the joy and frivolity of sketching a classical beauty suspended in microgravity.
The director, a stout and rough Flemish Giant, thought about it while he furrowed his brows and twitched his big fuzzy booplesnoot nervously. He demanded a proper report and documentation from Mr. Toes, offered no guarantees, and only half-promised a fair consideration. Mr. Toes took it in stride and considered it a win. After all, dealing with such matters with some bun like The Director is difficult even on a good day.
Later on, Mr. Toes found out that The Director sneered and ridiculed the idea. The Director ranted and raved about it to his wife, but his wife, a formidable, no-nonsense Rex, was surprised and thought it was a splendid proposal. Immediately, she wanted to host their art exhibit. She wanted them to meet the bunletts in her after school art program. The idea of arting bunstronauts got her all giddy! The Director knew better than to argue with a Rex and relented.
Slowly, the crew started to arrive. For everybun in this group, the first encounter with charcoal and paper happened right here, on orbit. Abby, Pancake, and Molly showed up first and shortly after Penny, Ava, and Joey. They drew lots to choose who would start the poses, and it was Joey's lucky night. Every bunny helped to clear the room and secure everything to the walls, leaving the ceiling and the side walls unobstructed to let in as much sun and starlight as possible. Somebun put on some music; somebun else warmed up a bunch of beverage pouches and set up little bundles of greens for snacking.
They took their drawing boards and mounted them on gyroscopically stabilized easels. On orbit, you can't sit down and set your board on a bench. You are free-floating, and so is your board. When you press the charcoal against the paper, the paper pushes back. That's why the easels had foot restraints and small paw-rails. They also had lights for the paper, little thrusters that used compressed air to change the orientation of the artist to the model, and little vacuum cleaners for removing the nebulae of charcoal dust that would inevitably form over the paper during the session.
They stepped into the foot restraints and adjusted their orientation to the model.
Mr. Toes called for a few, fifteen-second poses, and Joey froze still into the first pose. The swish of charcoal and graphite sticks filled the room. They had to work fast because it was not just the model changing its position, but the light shifted at a rapid pace during the sunny part of the orbit. As much as Joey tried to keep still to hold his pose, he was ever so slightly turning relative to everybun, so the pose kept changing constantly. When the planet blocked the sunlight, and the ship was in the shadows, they had about forty-five minutes of a fixed, steady light. Then, somebun would try to steady the model once more. It didn't always work exactly to everybun's liking, but they tried to make the best of it.
The effect of the shifting light source was most pronounced when the Sun illuminated the model with the flash of orbital sunrise. They would go from being lit by the warm, white light of the indoors to getting drenched by a burst of green, then orange and gold, then yellow and finally by the most intense white only a nearby star could throw at you.
During the next set of poses, each lasting a minute, we gave our best trying to do Joey some justice, and we were warming up nicely. The challenge always came during the long poses. Those naturally produced pieces that in spirit were aligned with the quantum nature of life. Joey's slow rotation forced the multi-planed conundrums of existence to the surface. Microgravity accelerated and forced every bun to deal with the fact that Joey had a backside as well as a profile at the same time. Then again, they were used to dealing with the interlocking and shifting challenges of daily living in space and always had to account for what's hidden out of sight. Here, a cubist representation of reality is nothing revolutionary and a [italicsNude Bun Descending the Staircase] happens naturally.
Before Mr. Toes started this group, he wondered how they would take to this exercise. On one paw, they were very different from their pit bun ancestors that mined disapprovium, cobalt, and iridium. On the other paw, these gals and guys were just as tough and accustomed to dealing with extremes. Engineering degrees didn't soften them, and they had never explored anything like this on their own. Outside of the confines of this "class," the only quality of line they ever cared about was how precise the line was and only trusted the mathematical representation of said line.
But it turned out that if given a proper introduction to the subject and a chance to practice, they enjoyed debating the quality of a line that turned and twisted, grew wider and thinner, disappeared in places and tricked the eye to fill the missing fragments. The line took on a life of its own.Now, they are quite adept at critiquing each other's efforts and, for a change, trust their guts and emotions when pushing their partners-in-art beyond their limitations.
Those skills didn't take away anything from them as bunstronauts. Quite the opposite happened. They have found a new common ground for engaging others, like the Director's Wife. Suddenly, during the company's annual Spring Equinox picnic, they were discussing various art exhibits and funding for the arts with her. They give hope to those that start out in life as artists but believe that longing for the pursuit of science is a betrayal of their artistic calling. Now, they can accept the beauty of the line no matter its origins, be it a nonlinear equation or a caress of soft carbon against a piece of paper.
Mr. Toes called for another pose change and set the timer for five minutes. After a couple of simple ones, Joey assumed the arched position of a skydiver; after that, he did a dance pose, then another one, but this time, he turned himself upside-down relative to the artists.
Pancake joined him toward the end of the session, and they presented a couple of pair poses that usually would be considered high action and impossible to hold on earth. They had never experienced the limiting effects gravity has on the poses the models can hold for extended periods of time.
As the evening drew to a close, Mr. Toes took a slow lap around the room, stopping by for a word of two with everybun. The music played, and there were plenty of beverages left, so anybun who wanted to say late could carry on. Molly stopped noticing what was going on around a while back. She was completely lost in her piece, and no bun knew when she would be done. Like so many before and after her, it would probably be never.