Who am I? What am I?

Unnamed Portraits 1 and 2

I’ve been working on ideas for a new series of paintings for a while now, and it has got me thinking about why I paint the subjects that I do, and what are the real themes and ideas that I am trying to explore.  Why do I paint naked bodies and not flowers, boats or trees?

What springs to mind when you think “naked”? Exposed?.., self-conscious?.., vulnerable? These are what I feel when I imagine myself naked. Another person might say liberated or sexy. I know from the experience of showing my paintings over the years that people’s perception of nudity varies wildly. A large number of people, for instance,  are simply unable to dissociate  nudity from sexuality.

“Honesty”. If you strip a subject of all its decoration and embellishments, isolate it from its surroundings and props, are you left with the true essence of that subject? Does a painting of a person thus exposed actually say any more about their true character? Is it a more honest depiction than if they were in their chosen attire and makeup?

“Relationships”. In any depiction of a person who posed in front of an artist, there are at work dynamic relationships between the artist, the model and the viewer. Just as the viewer will bring along their own preconceptions of the artist and the subject, so the artist will, during the sitting, form their own opinion of the model’s personality. Subsequently, however they try to honestly describe what they see, the artist’s depiction will always be tainted by their own views. This is what distinguishes a painting from a photo.

“Identity”. Who am I? What am I? These are questions artists and philosophers have been asking through the ages. Although it seems impossible to ever give a truly honest account of the world around us, still they strive to achieve it. I wonder if, when a model poses, if I know nothing about the model, would I be better able to give an honest description of them? Or would the work be somehow diminished if I didn’t know who they were or what they do? I think it’s worth a go. Anyone interested in posing nude for this new series is welcome to get in touch. False names encouraged 🙂

Feast of Venus – problem pose

feast of Venus work in progressFor the past few weeks I have been working almost exclusively on my interpretation of The Feast of Venus. I am getting to the stage where I can define the figures, and set them in space. I’ve made some adjustments along the way, and am happy with all the poses, bar one. The third figure from the left – the figure bending over and looking back over their shoulder – has been a nightmare. My last two sittings ended with the life models getting quite fed up with my instructions to “bend forward and curve your back!” Human anatomy being what it is, their backs just would not bend so, which leaves me with a compositional problem. That curve is essential for the composition, and at the same time the pose has to look mildly erotic. I think I may need to hire a contortionist.

The artist Inga Krymskaya,  is inviting other artists to contribute their own interpretations to her ongoing project:
“3045 Variations on The Feast of Venus…..an ongoing project by the Dutch artist involving the adaptation and reinvention of the Flemish Baroque painting by Rubens entitled”.

Feast of Venus – preparatory sketches

Sketches for feast of venusI have just finished a third sitting with life models in preparation for my “Feast of Venus”. It went quite well, and I think I have finalised most of the poses. There’s one pose that has presented some problems, and I may still need to organise another sitting just for this one figure. I imagine it’s a problem that Rubens often had, where actual human anatomy did not conform with his designs. I’m sure he also heard his models complain that their backs wouldn’t bend like that, or they couldn’t twist their bodies so.

The Feast of Venus – life models wanted

feast of venus painting layoutI’ve settled on a provisional layout for my Feast of Venus painting. Most of the figures are quite well defined for this early stage, but there are a few unresolved areas. I will have to make some decisions about the background in the top right, and the tree behind the central figure of Venus. So today I went out with my camera, photographing trees. I must confess that I’ve not spent much time looking at trees in the past, and to begin with I was amazed by the huge variety in form and texture….. After four hours, they all started to look pretty much the same.

I now have a selection of poses that I’m happy with, which I can present to the model when she arrives for the first sitting. This first sitting will just enable me to work on the layout to a greater detail, so I can make decisions about how I want each figure to look; then I can start looking for suitable life models.
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