The weather is very changeable around here. It’s been warm/rainy, cold/rainy, warm/sunny, and cold/sunny. It’s also been foggy, drizzly, with a hint of snowiness. While I’m waiting for weather that will allow some outdoor painting (60º, sunny?), I am back to figure painting. That wonderful painting space I mentioned in my previous post also has an equally wonderful fainting couch. I’ve always wanted one of those for my own drop-in figure sessions. I have never mustered enough takers for my sessions so I’ve never gotten a fainting couch. I’d need at least six painters/drawers per session to get it started and keep it going.
Our model did not opt for the fainting couch, so it stayed in the background. I painted it in as an homage to that other fainting couch from Manet’s Olympia. I’ve always wanted to paint my own version of Olympia. When I get a group together, Olympia will be our inaugural pose. Meanwhile, this little watercolor of an Olympia-type pose will have to do.
With his Olympia, Manet gave its audience no cloak of voyeurism by having his model confront her viewers with a direct gaze. She gives the impression that she knows they are looking. She is not sleeping nor is she looking away. The un-idealized, simplified manner of painting was also a horror to its critics. With a black maid, a black cat on a dark ground, and a model confronting the viewer so fully, there was a near riot at the Salon in which it was hung. So strong were the reactions to the painting, that armed guards had to be present to protect the painting from an overzealous public.
This little piece will not bring that kind of reaction. There is nothing so flagrant as to shock its audience. Besides, we are so saturated by a steady stream of images that are sacred, profane, and vulgar that we are not shocked by images such as Olympia anymore. The only people shocked are the prudes who view any nudity to be sexual and therefore sinful.
My little watercolor also has no black cat or black maid on a nearly black ground. Manet shocked his art viewers with that too. The broken contrast rule made his critics apoplectic. It does have a green fainting couch on a green ground but only as a counterpoint to the warmth of the figure and the red cloth. I don’t think there will be any riots over this little image.
My Tuesday figure drawing/painting sessions are in office space on the second floor of an old bank building in Sturgeon Bay. The bank vault is still in place on the ground floor of in The Artists’ Guild art supply store. It has full height windows facing the street and an expanse of natural wood flooring. Behind this very large room are artists’ studios, teaching studios, a kitchen, and restrooms. It is a marvelous space to work in. It would also make a fabulous exhibition space.
I would love to have an exhibition in that room! The only problem is that it’s not possible to put hangers on the wall. The building is constructed with poured concrete. I did say it was old. Old concrete that has been curing for close to a century is very hard. You’d need a heavy duty construction tool like a hammer drill which has a duel action—it hammers and drills at the same time. Or you’d need a ram set which shoots anchors with a .22 caliber gunpowder charge. However with a material that is so hard, that using such aggressive tools leaves the possibility of shattering the concrete and have chunks falling out of the wall. I suppose you’d have to glue a liner the walls with something receptive to picture anchors with a powerful glue.
The model is dwarfed by the square footage and soaring ceiling of this room. I think I conveyed that in this little painting. The warm moss green of the walls made a very nice contrast to the red drape on which she is sitting. This is a quick pose group and getting a sense of finish can be very difficult considering the time constraints. This was done in well under 30 minutes.
We’ve had several snow ‘events’ since my last post. It seems spring just won’t boing! Granted, the snow is not significant and doesn’t last very long, but it’s still winter cold. All my swim buddies and I keep trying to convince ourselves that winter is on the wane by praising the occasional periods of sunshine. But, every time the weather man announces snow someone blurts out an “Oh, sh-t!” We are crabby with anticipation and impatience.
I visited my kids in Chicago and, there, the forsythia is blooming and the honeysuckle is all leafed out. We had a one day temp of 72º! It promptly transposed to 27º but at least we had it! Not a bit of green here with temps hovering at the freezing level.
We do have a lot of action at our bird feeders. We have three varieties of woodpecker, two varieties of nuthatches, and more varieties of finch than I can count. The birds are pairing up for nesting, but no vernal warmth to accompany it. Damn!
This little watercolor is a recapitulation of the last watercolor. I just thought I could do a little better. I find that i do these better from memory. I’m freer to invent by adding or subtracting elements. I also do better by trying the same scene several times. I learn and apply so much from the previous attempts that it seems that much easier. I generally don’t like to re-do paintings but in this instance the deficiencies in my memory of the scene, or the process of composing from many scenes observed while driving, keep them fresh for me.
I have more of these in the works. It doesn’t look like spring will have sprung by the time I post the next piece. I sure hope I’m wrong.