May 052016


Aussie Cyril

What’s so refreshing about working with photographers is their appreciation of my gestures and movement and personality, in contrast to plodding sketchers whose only mundane goal is “accuracy” – a snobbish aspiration to demonstrate Leonardo-esque drawing skills. Give me any day the photographer-model relationship: an intuitive combining of the flair and spirit of two people.
    To be fair, there are artists who do capture the moment; artists who stand at arm’s length from their easels applying swift, urgent strokes that start from the shoulder rather than the finger-tips; breathless artists with shifting feet who race to produce drawings of a creature on the verge of moving: a model who has flung herself into a wild shape that can only be held for a few moments, her tremulous muscles at snapping-point. Their quick, raw sketches are not about technical accuracy.
    But isn’t there still an essential difference between artist-model and photographer-model dynamics? I mean, what artist would ever say, à la Helmut Newton, “yeh, give it to me baby”? Note: I’d be okay with Newton saying that to me because he’s the genius-level of brilliant, but if Aussie Cyril took that tone I’d be grossed out. Also note: on a bipolar scale, Bel is way at the opposite end from Newton, ghostly in her lack of assertiveness in the model’s domain; silently, unobtrusively documenting the model’s chosen way of presenting herself rather than endeavouring to shape the final image. Bel comes at it with no agenda.

Is that strange?

Over my shoulder Bel is looking at my iPad. ‘One of Cyril’s?’ She sounds unimpressed.
    ‘Yes – it’s from our last shoot. Last week. He was aiming for something like Alfred Stieglitz’s 1921 portrait of Georgia O-Keefe’s neck. I hate my old woman’s face, but the composition and contrasts are interesting. Though I think I’ve over-photoshopped it…’
    ‘You mean you’ve gone a whole week without seeing Cyril?’
    Was that sarcasm? I don’t react to it. ‘Yep! Think he’s losing his romantic aspirations at last, thank goodness.’ (Though I am missing the money).
    Ping! A text.
    ‘Ah. Talk of the devil…’ I grin (why do I feel sheepish?).

My dearest Suki –
sorry for silence! That fantastic session at 50 Moganshan last week exhausted me. By the end, sheer concentration was wearing me out. Have needed a period of repose. But we must definitely book that room again. Just been perusing online more of Schiele’s work – graphic, sexual. Not surprising that he got arrested for allowing children to see “indecent pictures” in his studio. Have you read anything about his muse Wally Neuzil? Other than Wally his models were always prostitutes. How does one model come to be considered a muse when all others are simply prostitutes? Your Cyril x

Yes please – do book that same M50 space again. Due to that big whitewashed wall at one end, it’s perfect for reproducing the Schiele-esque look: sharp, spiky sketches that float without context in empty white space. Re Schiele’s “indecent pictures”: the lines between fine art, erotica and pornography are completely arbitrary: culture-bound, generation-bound – don’t you agree?
    Schiele only drew what he was interested in, especially (it has to be said) genitalia: he would literally just leave some other parts of the anatomy blank, like, he couldn’t be bothered to draw the boring bits. But then he was barely out of adolescence when he reached the prime of his career. Don’t you find Lucian Freud to be similar? I mean eye-wateringly explicit – serving up his models’ genitals bang in the centre of his paintings like hot dinners on plates. Female models. Male models. His own daughter. I wonder whether Courbet’s face-slappingly graphic ‘Origin of the World’ painting set a precedent, without which Schiele and Freud would never have got away with their stuff?
    Btw, I totally agree with art critic William Boyd re Schiele’s “superabundant gift” in drawing the human form:
“You can’t be a truly great painter if you’re not an excellent draughtsman”. True, yes? Suki

Dearest Suki,
so much discussion-fodder! May we meet? Dinner at the Radisson tomorrow? A further interesting point in that Boyd article:
“Hugely famous and successful artists who draw as well, or as badly, as a 10-year-old are everywhere acclaimed…” Jackson Pollock being one example. What’s your opinion on Pollock, Suki – could he draw? And does that matter, especially in regard to the current top popular UK artists? How do you rate Tracey Emin’s figure-drawing skills? And David Hockney’s drawing skills – is Hockney only good at colour?’
Cyril xx

He’s asking me out on a date. O bugger.
    But can I resist the Shanghai Radisson?
    After all, I do need to set him straight – of course Hockney can draw!!!!!



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  12 Responses to “Page 23”

  1. [Re: the creative inter-relationship that photographers and gesture-drawing artists have with the model, in contrast to the plodding sketchers]

    I agree – I love quick, bold, flowing gestural drawings of the body.

  2. Yes, I don’t like sub-Leonardo figure drawings that are more to do with “getting it right” rather than looking. Drawing can be many things (I was going to say something pompous like “the essential thing with drawing” but luckily my internal editor was awake) from information-gathering, to performance, to self-discovery. I feel happiest when it becomes one with the experience of looking and being alive and looking.

    Similarly, making a dogmatic assertion about photography is just as daft, so all I can say is that it’s a useful recording device and occasionally it tells me things about the world I hadn’t noticed (I suppose it’s the moment reflected on at leisure), but it’s still a very new technology, and so too soon to say. Incidentally, about prostitutes as models: I believe there was a lot of cross-over in the 19th century and probably before, from a time when women’s bodies really were property and treated as such.

    By the way I found this article [re censorship of online nude images] some time ago and thought you might be interested.

  3. Thanks Craig, Jane and David for your affirmations.

    Good article David re: some social networking sites’ (in this case – surprisingly – Pinterest’s) ignorant censorship of “nuddy ladies”. Coz they’re rude, aren’t they.

    The life models’ Facebook group ‘Life Models Only’ has had some issues like this. Many members routinely post drawings and occasional photos that are the results of their modelling sessions (or the artists themselves do). Sometimes these have been taken down – which always throws up a huge discussion.

    Re prostitutes: there are some dwelling among us today who actually perceive life-modelling as being in the realm of sex work.

  4. What is ‘mundane’ about ‘accuracy’ ? All that posturing and flailing about is so ‘Alexander Dumas’. Everyone should be looking for economy of means, part of which is speed, but neither of these are anything but posturing without accuracy. Pas de touche.

    • What I find mundane about’ ‘accuracy’ – I mean when accuracy is the be-all and end-all of the exercise – is that it is joyless.

      Oh, but let’s hear it for Alexander Dumas (author ‘The Three Musketeers’ and ‘Count of Monte Cristo’): look at these wonderful quotations!

      “All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.” = my life story!

      “Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.”

      Yes! If a person can achieve happiness through dancing at their easel and ending up with a flamboyant gesture-drawing that looks more like a flag waving in the wind than a human figure, I say DO IT!

    • Way to sock it to’em, Chris. Thrilling figurative art owes more to accuracy than anything.

      You need only observe life-drawers in the life-room. When they “get it right” – no matter what the speed – they look like cats that got the cream. Their eyes twinkle, their chests swell…. they beam all over and if you switch off the lights they glow in the dark. And justifiably so.

      Whereas those of us who fail to GIR swiftly tuck our clumsy insults to humanity into our portfolios and tip toe out the door – shamed for not mastering the science before venturing into “looseness”… for not walking before running (pun intended).

      Accuracy is the pro-Schiele and the anti-Emin. It rocks.

    • Accurate to what?

      • Accurate to the point of portraying convincingly the figure observed by nailing the perspective and dynamic – and trying for likeness.
        I think we can assume I don’t mean depicting every pore.

  5. I can vouch for Loizart “getting it right” as an excellent figure-drawing artist. Whilst demonstrating thrilling joie de vivre.