In France, the problem of painting from life persisted. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the locals’ response to an elderly anglo saxon male trying to find nude models (of whatever age or gender) with a view to mounting an exhibition of naked bodies in the isolated medieval village of Mezin where I live, in the heart of la France profonde. This could easily result in the etranger being run out of town.
My wife, who has posed as my model since we first met, was the easy and obvious way out. However, she eventually spat the dummy.
‘I’ve sat around naked doing nothing for you for over forty years, but I’m not doing it any more. It’s boring, uncomfortable, and time consuming. And you always make me look like an effing monkey with a miserable face.’ (We won’t go into what happened when she overheard me say softly to myself, ‘But that’s what you look like to me when I’m painting you.’)
After several years of creative stagnation, an idea suddenly popped into my head one day when I heard a snatch of YMCA on the radio. No, no, not the Young Women’s Christian Association, but rather the camp 1970’s pop group, The Village People. That’s when the penny dropped (anyone remember what one twelfth of a shilling looks like?) ‘That’s it,’ I thought, ’I’ll paint the village people.’
So I started painting portraits from photographs of as many of Mezin’s wide range of citoyen as I could, hoping that it would stretch my artistic and creative capabilities. And it worked: over the next two years I painted a series of over 30 portraits which I turned into an exhibition that was held at the Office de Tourism in Mezin.
A few examples can be seen the poster above.
To sum up then, this post is about the problems of painting from life using a nude model. For anyone who might have missed the point because of my wide ranging ramblings, I opted for a safe solution: I painted their portraits rather than their privates. And with serious loonies around, (like the one who sent me the cutting), who’d chance getting caught in their studio with a model with his or her pants down?
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