I'm an artist. I paint. And in the years that I've been painting I've made exactly $35, all wisely invested in my son's Yu-Gi-Oh card collection.

I recently decided I needed professional help if I were to ever paint anything other than fresh produce. I enrolled in a painting class at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, taught by a real live artist who has actually earned money with her talents. She is good. Really good. I enjoy learning under her tutelage, despite her uncanny ability to make me feel like I have the talent of a goat. She doesn't intend to crush my ego. And that's what makes it all the more painful. I can spend three sessions painting a complex still life of fruit, and with a single brush stroke she can turn it into what it should look like, a woman riding a horse.

In this class, we paint using live models. That sounds so sophisticated and cultured, don't it? I guess when you pay a lot of money for a painting course taught by a real artist, you get live models, some clothed and some not. My first nude model arrived with little fanfare, carrying a cup of coffee and wearing a dull gray bathrobe. "Good grief," I thought to myself, "couldn't she pick out a robe with more color?" Personally, I like a lot of color in my paintings, and a model in a gray bathrobe was not what I would have selected. Unaware of what was soon to come, I busily unpacked all the supplies that my foray into the formal art world required. When I turned to my easel I found the model standing in front of me sipping her coffee, buck naked. And I reacted the way I usually do when confronted with a naked stranger: by knocking over my brushes. Clink-click-click, they rolled under another student's easel.

I looked at the others in my class to see how they were handling this turn of events and realized that these were professional art students. I was the only one on her knees looking for brushes. They weren't fazed, and were already sizing her proportions onto the canvas. So, to avoid appearing as if the last time I saw a woman naked was in a high school locker room, I began to paint my still life of fruit. All the while trying not to look like an amateur.

It's almost the end of the semester and I no longer knock over my supplies when a woman walks into the classroom and takes off her clothes. I have begun to notice some other changes, though unfortunately not improved painting skills. My husband has suddenly developed an interest in my work. The man who has never been interested in anything I've painted is now spending an inordinate amount of time studying and analyzing my work, and making unsolicited thoughtful suggestions.

"Hmmm, this could be bigger."

"It's a little fuzzy."

"There's too much going on here."

His hands move in large circles before the canvas and point to various parts of the painting to emphasize his words. It is amazing how his confidence in his skills as art critic, self-proclaimed, developed so quickly. He hasn't quite mastered art lingo like "highlighting," "proportions" and "shadowing," but claims he is willing to learn and is even going so far as to insist on driving me to class and carrying my "heavy" art box and "large" canvas to the room.

I'm not sure if I like all of the attention my art has been getting, although my husband's input is better than it used to be, when all I could get out of him was "What is it?" Things may change real soon. Our next painting will be another nude. Male. They call him Adonis. I wonder if my husband will still want to carry my art supplies to class.