Friday, 1 February 2013

Fiddling around with a naked lady and a teddy bear....

Another picture has been finished.  And a small tapestry of a cross-dressing potter's favourite teddy bear.

In fact, let's deal with the tapestry first, shall we?

As I mentioned in my last post, earlier last year I bought a couple of tapestry kits from the British Museum's Grayson Perry exhibition.  It was of Alan Measles, who is Grayson's 50-year old teddy bear and overlord.  One kit was completed and gifted to my good friend, Katy, for her birthday last April.  The other has sat around, forlornly, waiting for me to find the inclination to pick it up and start it.

The inclination arrived last week.  I had a 'need' to do something with wool (or 'yarn', as our American cousins would have it!).  I'd had enough of crocheting hearts and the Celestarium shawl I mentioned at the end of last year is a bit of a non-starter until I learn how to use double-pointed needles properly (perhaps later this year when I've forgotten how frustrating it is) so I was flailing around a bit until I remembered poor, forgotten Alan.

I located the kit from the back of the cupboard where I'd ignominiously flung him last year and got everything out.  With the kit comes the Aida fabric (the specialist tapestry/cross-stitch fabric with the little holes) with the design printed on it with all the colours, a black and white photocopy of the design with the little symbols for the colours, all the tapestry wool, a needle and a thread sorter (this is basically where you label a short length of wool with its relative letter of the alphabet):


This is a close up of the actual printed design after I'd done all the bright red on the first day:


And here he is finally done, five days later:


I think you'll agree he's a handsome fellow and needs to be framed.  Normally I choose very plain frames for my creations, either black or white.  But Alan is such a colourful, flamboyant character that it would only be fitting for him to have the most elaborate frame I could find:


I think he'd be pleased.

So, onto the naked lady.  About 10 days ago The Guardian had a short article about an exhibition of photographs of nudes by Nadav Kander, with examples of 10 of his photographs.  The models had been coated with an emulsion made from marble dust and therefore look a little like marble statues, a little like dead bodies.  If you bother to read the comments on The Guardian page (at the risk of your blood pressure), you'll see that they're slightly controversial inasmuch as the old 'is photography art?' argument goes.  I didn't - don't - care about that as I firmly believe there is no definition of 'art'; all you can rely on is whether you like something or not.  If you like it, you're more likely to classify it as 'art'; if you don't, then you won't.  Simple.

I like these images.  REALLY like them.  I like their simplicity, their stark black and white ness.  The subtle shading of muscles and fat.  The soft, dough-like body of one of the women versus the sharp angular insect-like man.

One of the pictures really stood out to me, the standing, full frontal nude with gorgeous, flowing red hair.  It's called 'Islay standing':

As soon as I saw it, I thought it would make a stunning picture in white pastels on black paper.  So I decided to have a go at it.

I've never done life drawing before but I'm getting more confident with my ability to observe and draw what I see, more or less accurately so I hoped she wouldn't be too difficult!

I printed off an A4 print of the photo and got quite a large piece of black paper, and started to draw the outline in white pencil, trying to get the proportions right and hoping that she'd all fit on the paper:


I figured that wasn't too bad, so went over the outline in white chalk pastel and started filling her in, from the legs upwards, blending with my fingertips and doing some shading by removing the pastel with a cotton bud:


About 4 days later, this is how far I'd got.  I knew the top of the picture - hands, face, hair - were going to be the most difficult so sat and thought about it for a few days:


Finally decided to be brave and just go for it:


And here she is, final version:


I'm really REALLY pleased with how she's come out.  To be honest she wasn't that tricky to do although I was anxious about the top bit, and I was constantly expecting to accidentally smudge a bit or drop the pastel right down the picture but, for once, that didn't happen.  And the beauty of using chalk pastels (as opposed to oil pastels) is that you can rub it out with a putty eraser.

I'm now giving serious consideration to doing another of the photographs in the series, plus going to life drawing classes next term.

I have to say I seriously think that doing these art classes has been one of the better decisions in my life - I only wish I hadn't given it up for the previous 30 years or so.....

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