Thursday, October 9, 2014

Your Model Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

Here is the painting I am working on of Rachel just now.

The Athlete Wraps Her Ankle, work in progress, oil on linen, 40”x30”

We were actually working out other poses for the painting, all of them seated. Seated, because Rachel’s ankle is injured and she can’t do a sustained standing pose just yet. So I was drawing other poses, and then she was wrapping her ankle, and I said, “Stop - that’s it.”

Preparatory Sketch for ‘The Athlete Wraps Her Ankle’, pencil on paper, 15”x11”

As I was drawing, I realized it had triggered some memory in me - it took a little while to place it, but then I remembered.

Boy with Thorn, Also Called Fedele, and Spinaro, Roman Copy of a Greek Original

The next session, we got to work on the painting. I was using the impasto technique I’ve been teaching myself lately - first a heavy burlap-like canvas, and then the sculpted transparent oleopasto underlayer, and finally thick paint (for me) on top of that. And I was getting the same satisfyingly physical results I have gotten since I started.

detail, The Athlete Wraps Her Ankle, work in progress (apologies for blurry cell phone picture)

At the end of the last session, I had a little time left over - not enough for the face, but more than one wants to waste. Rachel had a very clear tan line from a week in the Caribbean, so I figured we should do a drawing of that. I love tan lines in art, a thing I learned as a child from the dazzling, carefree, sunlit world of Hockney’s Beverly Hills, so similar in its drowsily sensual way to the unmarked glowing hours of Matisse’s afternoons in Nice.

David Hockney, Sunbather, 1966

As I was getting ready to do my drawing, I explained to Rachel that I had recently switched from a 2b pencil to a softer 3b pencil, because I was finding I wanted to make my darks darker and heavier. And she said, “Oh, so it’s like your painting.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “You went from your thin, delicate surface to this thick paint in just the same way.”

I hadn’t thought of that. But of course it’s true.

Rachel’s Tanline, pencil on paper, 15”x11”