Figurative artists are awesome! They’re awesome mainly because they love the human body. They’re doubly awesome because were it not for them, I wouldn’t be employed. (Well, I’d still have the Illustration Department at FIT 🙂 ) The human figure is an astounding collection of shapes, lines, textures, and colors. And they’re all organic and sentient. Really, that’s all the material one needs to create a compelling work of art, is it not?
Sure there exists a painting philosophy that likes to cram model setups full of inanimate props. I have been posed many times amid a sea of bottles, vases, draped fabrics, guitars, plastic grapes and peaches, bamboo rods, baskets, fans, fake plants and trees, and much more. Now I confess I’m not a big prop person. I never even use those posing sticks employed by many models (males mostly) for drawing groups. I hate those sticks. They throw off my balance. I know they’re supposed to facilitate the model’s balance and stabilize them during the pose. But for me they have just the opposite effect. I’m much steadier on my own two legs thank you very much.
I find especially dramatic the figurative work that has the simplest of compositions – in other words, the model and just the model, undistracted, unenhanced, the “acoustic” version if you will. “Less is more”, as they say. The dynamics of the painting originate from the model, in a beautiful harmony that comes together from the pose, the body itself, the aura, energy, and personality emanating from the life subject – the best subject there is.
I’m so thrilled to post this image of a painting by my dear friend Tai Hung Lin. Tai has been studying with Sharon Sprung for over five years, and man does it show! The model is, guess who? Yes, yours truly. And I adore this painting because it has a kind of existential quality; a lone woman in reflection and rumination, and a gentle touch of passivity with the bowed head. Very interesting, and powerful in its simplicity. This painting is the perfect example of my earlier point, that a work of art need not be crowded with a lot of frivolous hoopla to create interest. Why would you need to “create” interest when you have a life model as your subject?
Here I am through the gifted eyes of Tai. This piece was done in Sharon Sprung’s class at the National Academy, spring 2007: