Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An artist whose work I found on Flickr.com: Braccio

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog on Flickr.com and some of the work I've seen there. I do have a few favourites, and London-based Braccio is one of them.

One of the things Braccio asked me to do when I contacted him about writing a blog about his work was to warn people that many of his images are of nude adults. They are indeed very solid, very fleshy, and very believable. Nothing is glorified, nothing is left to the imagination either. You have a strong sense of an artist who maintains the age-old tradition of drawing what he sees, which is the tradition that brought us photography.

Braccio gave me a little background information - he is originally from Croatia, and rather unbelievably, has never had any formal training in art. But you know he's gone and done the hard graft of working on his innate talent - his Spirited Bodies series done in conté pencil and charcoal, is masterful drawing. You can see the guy in the # 4 detail is fond of his food and his beer, and is maybe a little less active than he used to be. By contrast, his piece Ian H. in pencil is nicely considered, the musculature of the figure's back very nicely formed, even if the legs seem a little on the short side, but this could easily have been the model's own build. I think the lines in Spirited Bodies - warmup for BAC #1, with two figures, are reminiscent of the figures of Matisse, the French Modernist painter and sculptor, and in a way I think it's a pity Braccio added such strong colours, because the simplicity of the lines is not apparently. Spirited Bodies @ BAC #1, by contrast, is a simple, rough drawing done what looks like pastel, and the lines are so vivid in it that it's very easy to imagine the figures dancing, rolling around on the floor, generally being 'spirited'.

Braccio has also created many landscape and still life pieces, in pen, watercolour, pencil and pastels. These include several cityscapes and interiors in London, and charming scenes from the English countryside, and some lovely scenes from places like Turkey also. But for me, I think it's his figures .... they are unselfconscious, vivid, beautifully observed. There is also a sense of a personal relationship between each figure, or subject, and Braccio himself. They are not just 'something to draw', there is a connection. A true artist, Braccio captures and records something of the individual - not unlike Rembrandt.

Keep them coming, Braccio. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Studies of the left foot and frontal female nude standing

As an artist that likes to draw the human figure in all its glorious variety, I often find myself disgusted and dismayed at the body fascism in today's mass media. This particular model was a trained dancer and as such had a completely different take on her body to the average man or woman, and wasn't terribly bothered about getting her kit off. But it is very very difficult to find a male or female model whose body is not 'perfect', who has lumps and bumps and maybe a little extra upholstery in places ... like Lucien Freud's painting of the social worker. She was a big lady, and might not have been celebrated by fashion media, but she had a body that painters would love. I would love a model like that again - I had one such model when I lived in the Netherlands, she was fantastic because she also had the body control we needed.

My trained dancer model in the image above, in addition to being marvellous for life-drawing, also had wonderfully strong feet. I mean, you could imagine her gouging holes in slate flagstones. I started to pay attention to them during the last few sessions I worked with her, probably because I had drawn every other bit of her several times and even painted up a couple of pieces in oil on canvas. I suppose when you look at something over and over, there comes a point when you see the bits you hadn't previously taken much into consideration. I knew how strong the model's back was, I had seen the muscles working under her skin in various poses, was very familiar with how the flesh in her torso moulded around her skeleton in various sitting and standing poses, and how the light would pick up her shoulder, clavicle, breast, ribcage. But the feet are a challenge.

I suppose that I have a particular take on the matter, given that in recent years I learned that I was flat-footed to the extent that knees and other joints were more vulnerable, and as such I am very aware of the weight feet carry, and yet how delicate a structure it is. As I knew my model is a dancer, not only did I have the sense that she could gouge holes in flag floors, but that each foot was a spring that would lift her off the ground whenever she wanted.

Or maybe it's just easier to do the fleshy bits on the torso, I don't know. I'll get back to you on that one when I do more life-drawing with a different model.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

People in Paris

I was going to entitle this blog 'Scenes from Paris' but then everyone would be expecting pictures of the Eifel Tower and what have you, and I have never photographed the tower during any of my visits to Paris. In fact, the second time I went to Paris, which was in February 2003, I didn't go anywhere near the Eiffel Tower.

But I always seem to go to Montmartre and I don't know why. I suppose it is simply my favourite part of the city to visit, and the last time we were there, Dolf and me, we stayed closer to Pigalle than Montmartre, and the Moulin Rouge was down the street. The thing about Montmartre is that loads of artists hang out there and sell their work and try to get commissions for portraits. A lot of the work I've seen there is really good, and I saw a couple that I would have liked to have been able to buy. I need a bigger house. And less clutter.

And I did a few things of my own. Sketches of people painted up. I did a lot of those in Paris, it's a city that really appreciates the more traditional approach to art. Not saying that they aren't progressive or anything, Paris does have the Pompidou Centre after all, but they have an understanding and appreciation of the craft of making art that many hifalutin' galleries seem to no longer have time for, as they are very keen to be seen as progressive.

Both of these are linked with Montmartre. When you're climbing up towards the cathedral of Sacre Coeur on top of the Butte, you can take the scenic route of the steps (at the narrow sections, watch out for the Romany kids trying to scam you. Don't stop for them. Say 'NO' and keep walking) or you can take the funicular railway. I took the steps and took my time. Ah, Paris. The city of lights, where modern art was born. And probably where it died as well. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Standing nude double in pencil with another artist in the backgroun

This is another one from the Limerick Printmakers life-drawing sessions. One of the perks of long poses is that you can often get other stuff in there too, and this I enjoyed. What would have been ever more fun would have been if I could have seen the other artist's drawing as well, and included that. But I just didn't think of it at the time.

I was looking through folders of work recorded, and thinking that surely I took more photographs of pieces last summer and where were they? Well, they hadn't been processed yet, tidied up with PhotoShop. That's another hour or so some wet and cold evening when I can't do any work either in my garden or on paintings.

I was talking with Sadbh Lyons who runs the gallery on Bedford Row in Limerick city, where three of my paintings are currently located, and once again, my painting Aventine Wedding is getting people talking. Apparently a man was looking at it and started talking about weddings and thinking about the dynamics of the people in weddings and marriages and it all got very philosophical ... he was nattering on for about 20 minutes, and she really tried to close a sale, but alas .... close but no banana, as some would say. But he might come back. With money. Here's hoping.