Finally back to posting – with a new burgeoning model on board!

Hello everyone! My last post was November 25, 2009, or 47 days ago. That is FAR to long to go without posting on a blog, especially a relatively new blog. So I must apologize again for my lack of consistency. I really want to make this into a good, entertaining and enriching blog on figurative art, from a model’s perspective with heavy input from the artists out there. Waiting nearly 7 weeks between posts is not a good way to do that, so I am sorry yet again for the massive lull – I assure you that unless there are major extenuating circumstances it will not happen again.

HOWEVER, I do have some reasonably good excuses. In addition to hosting multiple family members and friends during the holidays at our cramped New York apartment, traveling to Spain for 9 days to visit my in-laws, and getting back into the swing of things at work, my wife and I received the extremely exciting news that we are expecting our first child! We found out on Thanksgiving Day (the first possible day a test would be positive), and are currently 10 weeks along, due August 7, 2010. We avoided any public announcements until our families were told in person, and now that we are so far along and have an ultrasound showing a strong heartbeat from the little guy/gal we are telling everyone. So there you have it – the MAJOR reason for my lack of posts is that our first child is on the way, and I’ve been just a little distracted!

To bring this full circle and back to figurative modeling, some of you artists out there may have had the opportunity to draw and/or paint a (visibly) pregnant woman at some point in your career. Google “life drawing with pregnant models” and you’ll get a variety of public photos and drawings and some interesting blog posts on the experience. As a male model, I am somewhat envious since it is something I can never do: pose while pregnant. Both artists and their pregnant models rave about the experience. One blog noted that the pregnant model was superb, but smiled every time the baby kicked – it was infectious, spreading to all the artists in attendance. Another artist was impressed by the incredible curves found on the form of a pregnant woman. Anecdotally, every artist I have spoken with personally has loved drawing a pregnant woman – they describe it as “special,” “unique,” and “powerful.” I can certainly understand why! My only personal experience with a pregnant model was when I was part of a body painting performance art piece with a female model – her nude body was painted entirely white except for fish on her belly, as if it were a bowl filled with water. Needless to say she was the hit of the evening. So the modern view of pregnant art models seems to be overwhelmingly positive.

The Arnolfini Wedding, by van Eyck. It is a misconception (no pun!) that she is pregnant in this painting.

Interestingly, this perspective was apparently not shared by many of the classic painters, who rarely – if ever – drew or painted pregnant women. The reason for this is unclear, but as I thought about this post I racked my brain for several days and could not bring to mind a single classic painting depicting a pregnant woman; certainly there are no nudes, and I couldn’t even think of a clothed pregnant woman. Even depictions of the Virgin Mary are after the birth of Jesus or the Immaculate Conception – none that I can recall are late in pregnancy. Many lay viewers believe the woman in The Arnolfini Wedding by Jan Van Eyck is pregnant, but most art historians believe this is the style of dress that leads to this misconception. I have heard a few people speculate that Manet’s superb Olympia is pregnant based on the slight prominence of her lower abdomen and the fact that her hand rests just above her pubic area, but this is highly unlikely as well. If anyone can think of any classic paintings, sculptures, or drawings or pregnant women – nude or clothed – please let me know!

My wife and I are both enthusiastic about taking nude maternity photos when she’s about 7 months pregnant. She has never had an interest in art modeling (unfortunately, because she is beautiful and has a superb figure), but loves the idea of posing nude for a photographer while pregnant. A Google search for “fine art maternity photography” yields some superb work from a variety of photographers. Personally, I love the curves found on pregnant women, including the obvious abdominal curves, the massively upsized breasts, and the extra padding on the hips and buttocks. There is something tender and unique about it that makes for great photography and beautiful art in general. Though it isn’t for drawing or painting, I’m excited about my wife and unborn child’s foray into the modeling. Might our little one grow up to pose for artists as well? I hope so – that would have his or her proud father that much happier!

42 Comments

Filed under Art model, Art modeling, Figure drawing, Figure painting, Life drawing, Miscellany, Nude, Nudity, Pregnancy

Velazquez and the Figure

Velazquez, Self portrait.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez, arguably the greatest Spanish painter of all time, was also Spain’s greatest figure painter. Born in Seville, Andalusia in 1599, he was educated as an artist in southern Spain until spent an important formative period Madrid from 1622-1629, where he studied under the visiting Peter Paul Rubens. In 1629 and 1649 he visited Italy, purchasing some of the great works by Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, as well as spending time at all the major Italian academies. Other than those visits to Italy, Velazquez spent his career in Madrid as a favorite of the royal court, particularly Philip IV. He only completed about 150 works of art, many of which were portraits of Spanish aristocracy, including 40 of Philip IV himself.

The Toilet of Venus, 1649.

Velazquez is a superb painter – one of my favorites – but he only has a single nude that survives today: The Toilet of Venus (or the Rokeby Venus). I first saw this piece in 2000 during a trip to the National Gallery, London, and was immediately an admirer of Velazquez. The Rokeby Venus – so named because of its ownership at Rokeby Park, England – was probably painted during Velazquez’s trip to Italy in 1649. The painting was completed in Italy in part because of the influence of the Italian artists and their love of the nude figure, but also because Spanish nudes during this time period were very hard to come by due to the Spanish Inquisition. Regardless, it is one of Velazquez’s finest figurative works, and certainly among his most famous. Though he likely used a live model for the painting, her identity is unknown; some have speculated she was a mistress he saw while in Rome, while others argue she was a model used in a number of his other paintings.

Archne (A Sybil), 1647. A fine clothed figurative work by Velazquez.

Regardless of her identity, she is now immortalized on canvas in one of the world’s top art museums, her lush figure enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. Though her face is somewhat obscured by the mirror, her form is unobscured and fully on display, one of the rare instances we see a model’s entire backside and face at the same time. I wonder what the model would say to feminist Mary Richardson, who attacked the painting in 1914 as part of the suffrage movement, tearing 7 holes in the canvas? Would she agree with the feminist loathing of the adoration of female beauty? Or would she argue that as the model she holds the power over all of us observers, Velazquez included? Is the joke on her, or on us? It’s ironic that Velazquez’s one nude, painted safely outside the reach of the Spanish Inquisition, would be shredded centuries later in England by a woman whose ideology couldn’t be more distinct from the extreme conservative Catholics.

Mars, 1640.

Though the Rokeby Venus is Velazquez’s lone nude, he complete several masterful figurative works, my favorite of which is Mars. Painted around 1640 in Madrid, Mars is an excellent execution of the male figure as well as a masterful use of color. Superficially simple, once you let your eyes feast on Mars for a time, the viewer is mesmerized by its subtle complexity. The face is – like the Rokeby Venus – somewhat obscured in shadow, but the rest of the figure is on full display, aside from a strategically placed silk sheet. The lighting and skin tones are superb, contrasting perfectly with the lush colors of the surrounding fabric. At the bottom of the canvas lies the armor of Mars, ostensibly stripped off during his tryst with Venus. The painting takes place after he is caught by the gods making love to her, explaining his somewhat contemplative posture.

Several years ago I did a month-long, two-day a week painting class with a pose specifically modeled after Mars. The instructor was a big Velazquez fan, and arranged the composition very similar to the actual painting. Instead of a helmet I wore a purple turban, and instead of a silk wrap I wore skimpy red shorts. Though I wasn’t completely nude, considering the context of the painting – just being caught in the middle of love-making – it was the most exposed I’ve felt while modeling. In my mind this highlights the dual function of an art model: to provide both physical and emotional inspiration for the artists. Indeed, the class was very talented and produced some great paintings from our sessions, including some of the most emotionally poignant I’ve seen.

Of course, Velazquez will always be remembered for his masterpiece, Las Meninas. I have seen the original in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and it is one of those rare paintings that passes all expectations when viewing it in person. I stood entranced for about half an hour, just taking in the technical mastery combined with political and social commentary. Though not a true figurative piece, Las Meninas is truly sublime…

Las Meninas, 1656.

3 Comments

Filed under Art class, Art model, Art modeling, Figure drawing, Figure painting, Life drawing, Nude, Nudity, Velazquez

Posing nude and composition

grusskarte_sorryBefore getting into the meat of this post, I need to apologize my loyal readers for my lack of posts over the past 2 weeks. I have been very busy with work and modeling, but I should have at least squeezed in a quick post or two…the worst way to start a new blog is with 2 weeks of silence! So, I apologize for not posting – I promise to be more diligent in my attention to Figuratively Speaking!

As an art model, I’ve come to the point where I feel much more comfortable posing nude with a very minor prop – such as a staff or stool or pillow – than with any sort of “fancy” accompaniment. I’ve been asked to pose in varying degrees of dress (or undress), including a bathrobe open in the front, my underwear, nude except for a scarf, nude except for a sheer stocking over my face, etc. I’ve also posed with various props such as books, flowers, animal carcasses (that’s another topic altogether), flowers, and toy guns. Using props and posing in different degree of nudity isn’t a big deal to me, but as a personal preference I’d rather be up there completely naked with no other props.

figure drawing028 1k

Posing nude is much easier for a model than posing with exotic draping.

The reason, you ask? Well, I think it has to do with simplicity more than anything else. I know how my body looks in different poses, and can control my weight distribution for long, difficult poses. It is very easy for me to find an interesting pose and stick with it for as long as necessary. But posing with props or costumes adds a layer of complexity than makes things more difficult. No longer can I simply pay attention to my own body, but I must take care so that the prop or costume looks interesting as well. A standing pose is all well and good, but if I’m asked to hold balloons and make it look interesting? How can I make sure the pose looks exactly the same after a break? How do the balloons change the way the light shines on my body, and am I changing that light with minor movements?

Posing nude with an open robe is fine, but I must find a pose that is not only interesting in terms of my body position, but also is interesting in the way the robe drapes my body. And with a robe (or any garment) it is much harder to maintain consistency after breaks. So I prefer taking the stand all by myself – just my nude body, perhaps with a “support” prop or two. Certainly makes my job easier!

One of the interesting compositions I’ve participated in as a model occurred at a large university advanced life drawing class. The instructor was very nice, but had a very “morbid” personality: she wore plain black clothes, and had a fascination with dead animals (hence the animal carcass). In one class she had me pose as a “drunken king.” Easy enough on the surface: I was nude sitting on a nice pile of soft cushions and pillows – no art model is going to complain about that. But then came the interesting part. To enhance the monarch motif, she asked me to wear one of the old Burger King paper crowns on my head. I don’t like head pieces while modeling (throws off my balance), but this wasn’t a difficult pose and the “crown” was light.

Chicken Bones 2So my pose wasn’t particularly hard, but to top it off she scattered chicken bones all around me on the cushions. Yes, partially eaten and cleaned bones with morsels of meat still clinging to the ends. The odor was less than pleasant, to say the least. Finally she brought in several empty beer bottles and a large wine bottle – I held the wine bottle in one hand and she placed the empty beer bottles around me, intermingled with the chicken bones. The idea was that I was a drunken king after a sumptuous orgy. I didn’t mind that, but instead of empty bottles and chicken carcasses couldn’t she have brought in a (preferably nude) fair maiden or two???

So there I was, posing nude with a Burger King paper crown, an empty wine battle in one hand and an array of actual cleanly eaten chicken bones and beer bottles scattered about – I basically looked like the guy who had too much to drink at the sports bar the night before. I’m pretty open-minded and easy-going as a model, so I had no problem finishing the multiple-class pose. But it brought to mind Caravaggio’s famous Bacchus. I have to wonder: did his model pose with actual wine and fruit? It’s a step up from bones and empty bottles, but still. And check out that headpiece – now that’s too much!

Bacchus_WGA

Bacchus, by Caravaggio. 1596.

3 Comments

Filed under Art class, Art model, Art modeling, Figure drawing, Life drawing, Nude, Nudity

Hair on Broadway – a Review

Hair-702098 (1)Last Saturday (yes, Halloween) I had the opportunity to see the Broadway revival of the iconic 1967 musical Hair. Described as a “Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” the show is a musical celebration of Hippie culture and the individual freedoms promoted by the Hippie “movement” of the 1960′s and 1970′s. The production was great fun: good music with such tunes as “Age of Aquarius” and “Let the Sunshine In,” hilarious comedy, celebration of free love, and strong social commentary on issues such as race, sex, and war. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but overall I had a great time – the energy and effusive spirit of the cast was contagious. I left the Al Hirschfeld Theater truly invigorated.

The cast of Hair during its run at last year's Shakespeare in the Park.

The cast of Hair during its run at Shakespeare in the Park, Summer 2008.

So what does this have to do with figurative art? Well, as many of you know Hair is famous for a scene in which the entire case appears nude on stage. Part of what made the show controversial (and famous) is its frank treatment of sex and nudity. The nude scene itself isn’t as much about sexuality as it is freedom: freedom to express ourselves and shed cultural norms that in many ways oppress us. Indeed, Hair is full of celebrations of the realness and innate sacredness of the body. In one scene, after being kicked out of his parents’ home, a character takes solace in the fact that he still has his body, as he counts (in song) all the body parts that are his – he may not have a home or possessions, but he still has his body.

2645_86075974376_727179376_2318978_7447636_n

The current cast of Hair, as seen on the cover of Time Out New York.

I am far too young to have seen the original, but I was frankly disappointed by the nude scene in this production. The stage was dimly lit during the scene, and some of the cast were clearly self-conscious – a fact that works against the concept of shedding inhibitions and expressing individual freedom. If they wanted to be bold and provocative, they should have performed this scene with much more realness and boldness. If they are simply replicating a somewhat anachronistic production, they should have either left the scene out all together or closely emulated the original. But the tepid portrayal of nudity is completely at odds with the driving point of the musical. They weren’t shy about sex or profanity or edgy social issues – why the fear of a little skin?

As an art model, my goal is to expose myself completely – body and soul – every time I take the modeling stand. I pose fully exposed under bright lights for hours at a time as men and women of all ages carefully scrutinize my every curve and shadow and angle. So forgive me if I’m unimpressed with a self-conscious cast standing nude in dim light for about 15 seconds in a musical all about shedding culturally-induced inhibitions. I know undressing in front of a theater filled with 1,000 people is no easy task, but the nude scene is completely consistent with the character if the show – if they are too shy to drop their clothes, they should not be in this particular production.

That said, I did enjoy Hair overall. I wasn’t alive during the age of Hippies, and from what I know there are both admirable and deplorable aspects of their lifestyle. Their celebration of the human body and their aim to remove the stigma attached to nudity is laudable. I only wish it had come across more clearly on stage. Maybe they should take a few cues from us art models…

3 Comments

Filed under Miscellany, Nude, Nudity

My first time

photos_0105_studio02Every art model remembers the first time they posed nude for an art class. It’s hard to forget stepping onto that podium and unceremoniously dropping your robe to the floor, standing completely exposed in front of a group of strangers as their eyes scrutinize every detail of your naked body. The physical awareness, emotion, and vitality of that moment are still with me today, though I will never recapture the essence of those first few poses on the stand. So what is it like the first time an art model poses? I’ll answer with my story below, but I’m interested in hearing from the other models out there as well – what was your first time like?

As I related in my previous post on why I started modeling, my inspiration was a trip to Italy and the lasting impression made by the many superb sculptures I saw, particularly Michelangelo’s David. After returning from Italy in January (9 years ago), I contemplated the prospects of art modeling over the next few months, and in April finally decided to take the plunge and call around to find a life drawing class willing to take me. After several days and a few dozen phone calls, I finally found two community groups willing to have add me to their roster. At the time I lived in a moderate size Southern city, and only two life drawing groups existed. They had a grand total of one male model that posed for both groups; the prospect of a new male art model was appealing to them.

So after a “trial run” at one of the groups where I posed in a costume (I dusted off my old high school soccer uniform for the first time in 8 years), they penciled me in for a nude session 6 weeks later. The other group – held at a local Jewish community center – had already scheduled me for a session in July, but called back the very night of my first costumed gig and told me they had a cancellation – I would be modeling in just 6 days for the first time ever! I hung up the phone with excitement and trepidation – a series of intermittent “butterflies” started that wouldn’t go away until after that first session was over.

Sketch4As excited as I was to start my art modeling career, I had three major concerns: what poses to do, body hair, and getting an erection while posing. Body image wasn’t particularly worrisome for me: naive though I was, I still understood that my reasonably fit body wouldn’t be the best they’d seen, nor would it be the worst. The posing concern was resolved easily enough with practice. Every night leading up to the session I would undress, stand in front of my full-length mirror, and practice posing. Like most figure drawing classes, this session consisted of a series of short poses (gestures), then a few 5-minute poses, then 10-minute poses, and finally four different 20-minute poses to end the evening. So I tried to think of interesting, dynamic, elegant poses that were feasible for each amount of time. I consulted art history books, reviewed famous paintings and sculptures, and added my own twist to some yoga poses. After completely rehearsing my repertoire, I was ready to pose.

0037463000000-ST-01-Dynamic-Figure-Drawing

I purchased this book so I could come up with interesting poses.

The body hair fear was foolish on several levels. First of all, models have body hair of varying degrees. Artists want to see a “real” human body, not a hairless mannequin. Second, I have a fairly low amount of body hair as it is – just a tuft of chest hair, very sparse fuzz on my back and buttocks, and an average amount of pubic and leg hair. Yet for some reason I considered this too much, and actually shaved all of my body hair except for my armpit and head hair. Silly and unnecessary I know, but I was a neophyte and thought this would be more appealing to the artists. I still trim my pubic hair, but the rest I now grow naturally.

Finally, the erection issue. I think every male art model at least considered this occurrence before taking the stand for the first time. After thousands of poses and a few dozen erections over the past decade, I now realize a boner on the modeling stand is rare, short-lived, and taken in stride by the artists. But to a relatively sexually inexperienced man in his early 20s who got aroused easily, this was a concern. I decided that when I felt the slightest stirring down below I would just bite my lip and think of something really sad – that seemed like the best way to physically and mentally quench an unwanted spontaneous hard-on.

The day of my session arrived (a Monday), and I was nervous throughout. I glanced at the clock anxiously during the day, apprehensively anticipating the arrival of 7:00 pm. Butterflies zoomed through my stomach and my heart raced every time I thought of dropping my robe. I arrived as the JCC 15 minutes early, and found the small studio tucked in a corner above the gymnasium. The monitor, a figurative sculptor named Arthur, made me feel at ease and directed me to the nearest restroom so I could change into my robe. I read enough about modeling online to know to bring a robe and sandals to wear between poses, so I was prepared from a “dress code” standpoint (ironic as it is).

Most community life drawing groups consist of middle age men and women.By the time I had changed and made my way back to the studio, the other artists (10 total) had arrived, all setting up their paper and selecting their pencil and/or charcoal stick for that evening. Six women and 4 men were there – all the men were middle age or older, several of the women were in their early 30′s – about what I expected, and would come to learn is typical of community drawing groups. I stood in front of the model standing, pacing unconsciously, trying to act calm on the exterior while by heart raced at an ungodly rate. My time had come.

“Ok, let’s get started,” Arther boomed. “Five 2-minute poses, then two 5-minute poses, please.”

Realizing this was my cue but not entirely confident about what I should do next, I stepped to the side of the modeling stand. Looking down at the floor in the cold, weighty silence of the room, I untied my robe and with a light toss, dropped it to the side of the stand. I was naked. My heart pounded out of my chest. The emotional vulnerability of that moment is indescribable – I was completely exposed in front of these 10 people, and there was nowhere to hide. Very few people had seen me naked to that point, but there I was in front of a group of strangers, their eyes pouring over the contours of my figure. My stomach flipped again and again, and the physical awareness of my nudity was profound: it’s as if every cell in my body were alive and sensing every change in temperature or micro-current of air, and I was consciously aware of all of it simultaneously. Yet the thrill and exhilaration was the highest high: I felt immortal and yet utterly vulnerable. The rush of adrenaline and sympathetic stimulation was among the most intense of my life. It had begun.

The inspiration for my first ever pose: Bernini's David. I gingerly stepped up onto the stand (a make-shift platform that consisted of a table propped on boxes), and assumed the first 2-minute pose, a nicely twisted gesture with my hands on my left hip, derived from a Bernini sculpture; I still use it frequently today. And with that pose I was into the flow of things. Looking back on that first session, my performance as a model was pretty mediocre. Yes, I stood still and held some decent poses, but I was too still: my poses were stiff and rigid and tense. I hadn’t yet yearned to settle into a pose in a way that is interesting yet relaxing. I had also yet to learn how to expose myself completely beyond the physical nudity. Being naked is only the surface exposure – good models expose themselves through and through, including their fears, emotions, and spirituality. I was nude, but I wasn’t fully exposed. The artists were all very complimentary (though Arthur sensed the tension and said I needed to appear more comfortable up there), and I was assured of repeat bookings. Their renderings of me were insightful and gratifying – there I was, a completed drawing on canvas! I had inspired this small work of art, but it was an art work nonetheless!

And what of my 3 major fears going into the session? Well, the poses were good, but I hadn’t yet mastered the ability to make them simultaneously interesting and relaxed. Still, for a first session they were more than adequate. The body hair issue was indeed a non-issue. No erection occurred that evening, as might be expected. Anytime I became aware of my penis in any way I clinched my teeth and tried to prevent it – a practice that undoubtedly led to my apparent tension on the stand.

1IMGP1727Thus with a single invigorating session under my belt and none of my fears in any way an issue, I was hooked. I always think back on that first session with fondness – as nervous as I was, nothing can compare with the rush of that first time dropping the robe and assuming a pose. Of all the many sessions I’ve had since, that was without question my most memorable.

So what about you, fellow models? How was your first experience? I would love to hear how your first time was similar and/or different from mine…comment away!

11 Comments

Filed under Art class, Art model, Art modeling, Figure drawing, Life drawing, Nude, Nudity

Master of the Figure

William Bouguereau, Self-portrait, 1879

William Bouguereau, Self-portrait, 1879

When you think of great artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, what names come to mind? How about if we narrow it to just French artists? You’d probably think of Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Seurat, Manet, Degas, or perhaps even Courbet. All tremendous artists and well-deserving of perpetual recognition and fame. But there’s someone missing, an artist who was almost without question the greatest figure painter of his era. A man who completed 700 oils on canvas, won every award possible at the time including the Prix de Rome, first class medal at the Salon in Paris, Grand Medal of Honor at the Salon, and was elected president of the painting section at the Salon. He was only one of forty artists selected to a lifetime membership of the Academie des Beaux-Arts, taught life drawing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and figure painting at the Academie Julian (he had the best models and accepted female students), and received the very high of honor of being named an officer in the Napoleonic Legion of Honor. Any idea who this might be?

Unfortunately most people today do not recognize the name or the art of William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). That’s a shame, because not only is he my favorite artist, but in my mind he belongs on the same platform with the other great artists – especially figurative painters – of all time. His technical ability is universally regarded as impeccable, and he was greatly admired by most of his artistic contemporaries. Today his paintings are typically the most popular pieces in a museum or collection.

Despite being the most popular painting in the museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts recently sold The Bohemian, 1890.

Despite being the most popular painting in the museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts recently sold The Bohemian, 1890.

So why is he a relatively obscure figure (no pun intended) in the art world today? The answer is somewhat complicated, but the primary reason is because he is overshadowed by the Impressionist movement of the day. Bouguereau was staunchly Classical in his subject matter (nymphs, myths, biblical scenes), and he preferred highly finished, idealized figures to the realism of artists like Courbet. Bouguereau and Gerome were the hold-out Romantic and Neo-classic artists, but the direction of the art world was definitely moving toward the modernity of the Impressionists and their ilk. That Bouguereau clung to traditional technique and subject matter rankled the progressive artists and critiques, who made Bouguereau their favorite whipping boy (Degas was particularly scornful). That anti-Classic snobbery largely persisted throughout the 20th century. Only in the past decade or so has Bouguereau seen a resurgence of popularity, with his paintings selling for higher than ever prices at auctions and his work enjoying immense popularity at art museums across the United States.

If you continue to read this blog, you’ll find that I’ll reference and praise Bouguereau a great deal. Plenty of you will disagree with me, but in my mind there is no finer figurative painter in history than William Bouguereau. His technique is superb, his colors are warm and inventive yet restrained, and his classic subject matter – often criticized as “sweet and sentimental” – is to my personal liking. Discovering his paintings about 10 years ago opened my eyes to the possibilities of figurative art. Indirectly, his work influenced my decision to become an art model. For an outstanding analysis of one of his best works and the process of completing it, take a look at a blog post by artist Stapleton Kearns here.

Since I’ll be discussing William Bouguereau frequently, I won’t go into his biographical details now, or discuss all his work. Instead, I’ve posted my 3 favorite Bouguereau paintings below. My favorite is Nymphs and Satyr. To me this painting is a microcosm of Bouguereau’s appeal: superb figures (look at the gestures of the nymphs, particularly the front right), excellent flesh tones, perfect color, classic theme, sensuality, and light sexual tension – most men would love to be in the satyr’s position! The second is Song of the Angels, a piece I love for its sentimentality, figures, and color. ¬†Finally, and this was a difficult choice, I decided on Zenobia Found by the Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes. This painting represents what I love about Bouguereau, and to a certain extent modeling. There are great male and female nudes, interaction between the figures, wonderful color, and an excellent Classical setting. Enjoy these for now, but realize there will be plenty of more Bouguereau paintings to enjoy in the future…

Nymphs and the Satyr

Nymphs and Satyr, 1873

Song of the Angels, 1881

Song of the Angels, 1881

Zenobia Found by the Shepherds, 1850

Zenobia Found by the Shepherds, 1850

1 Comment

Filed under Bouguereau, Figure drawing, Figure painting, Life drawing, Nude, Nudity

Why I became a model

michelangelo_david_detailStanding in front of Michelangelo’s David was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Allowing my eyes to feast on the perfect proportions and magnificently modeled contours of Michelangelo’s masterpiece was one of the very few times I’ve been genuinely awestruck and emotionally moved by a work of art. Of course I was not alone, and the crowd surrounding the sculpture – from all continents and speaking a wide variety of languages – were overwhelmed by David as well. Japanese men snapped photos from every conceivable angle, Brazilian women gestured emphatically in admiration, and children from all over smiled and pointed.

Michelangelo-DavidPart of what moved me about David was the intense scrutiny and admiration of a sculpture that represented an actual living, breathing person. Yes, Michelangelo’s unrivaled artistic ability gave birth to David and his other works, but the model immortalized in marble represents the mental image we conjure when we think of Michelangelo and his sculptures. When we think of David, we think of the man whose likeness is carved in marble, not the artist who sculpted it. When the myriad of people admired the man in the marble, they were viewing a representation of the model. Thus when looking at David, we were conscious of the model who provided inspiration, the actual human being who stood completely nude and exposed before Michelangelo 500 years ago.

It occurred to me later as I drifted to sleep at the hotel that I could be David – or at least the man who inspired David. Michelangelo’s model was simply a man who knew how to hold a good pose. No lengthy training or specialized instruction was required – simply an ability to stand still and the willingness to stand naked before other people. The man who modeled for Michelangelo did not perfect his craft over the course of his entire life the way a musician does, nor did he complete the rigorous training required of physicians. No, this man loved art and was fortunate enough to be Michelangelo’s muse. I loved art and was willing to drop my robe, so why couldn’t I be someone’s muse?

Figure drawingWhen I returned home I took my first steps toward becoming a muse. I called several local art stores and after several days of phone calls I finally got in touch with the monitors of a handful community drawing groups. I will post more on my first modeling experiences in a future post, but the impetus to make those phone calls and buy the drawing books to come up with good poses came after that trip to Italy and a visit to David‘s home in Florence. I loved art before that trip, but after seeing David I wanted to become art. Ten years later, thousands of hours on the platform, and countless drawings on paper, paintings on canvas, and sculpture in clay later, I think in some small way I’ve succeeded…

7 Comments

Filed under Art modeling, Miscellany, Nude, Sculpture