Monday, November 30, 2009

Anatomy Mash-Up

I strip off my clothes as I walk down the hallway of my studio. A full length mirror is attached to the store-room door. I tape to it a photograph of a painted study for a new large enamel work. In the study, an Asian woman stands topless, a lime green slip slid down to her waist.
I don't have an Asian woman available to model for me so I have to do it myself. I'm tall, broad shouldered, with an African-like ass and wide hips, so I'm hardly an ideal alternative. I stare at the reflection of myself, half-naked, as I twist and turn – replicating the pose in the study as it might be seen from different angles, imagining a camera moving in a slow circle around me.
Every so often, I stoop to a sketchbook on the floor, in which I draw bits of what I see – and of what I can't.
I also photograph myself with a small Canon digital camera: countless images, each capturing small variations in my pose or the framing.
Later, I'll load them onto my computer and draw from the screen. I'll ignore my fleshy Caucasian curves and and imagine the skeletal frame beneath as the basic form for a finer boned Asian body.
This is very different from the sort of life study I was taught in art school. It combines sketching my own reflection (a form of study as old as portraiture itself), new and past photography, collaged elements of downloads from the web, close examination of line drawings in anatomy text books and of course, memory (I stare at people a lot, making mental notes of their bodies and features). The 'life' I draw exists only in disparate parts but the results of these reconstructions from various source materials are no less 'real'.
I think of the process as a 21st century mash-up of a life study: at once hand-crafted and
tech-enabled, modular, sampled, reconfigured, individualised, and yes, a little solitary and remote.

2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Excellent description of the modelling process. When I start a new Calendar Girls piece I often wear a tight silk cheongsam. It restricts my movement in the same way as the women I paint, and there's a mirror & camera nearby to freeze myself in just the right pose.

erinrichardson said...

I use myself as a model religiously, mainly my hands in a large mirror. I'm converting my big hands into child like cartoon hands. It's immediately available and less hassle than dealing with people. This is a new twist on an old concept, artists have been painting self portraits forever.