Art Model Funnies

I bought the licensing rights for some cute cartoons from Cartoon Stock. While I browsed their inventory I figured why not type in “artist’s models” and see what comes up? In my opinion, it’s the ideal profession for cartoon humor and lampooning. And sure enough, there were many cartoons in that category! I couldn’t believe it. So I ordered and downloaded a few I think you’ll all get a kick out of. They address some real truths about this line of work! I’ll post a few now and save the rest for “Cartoons, Part 2”.

From Mike Baldwin:

From Baloo Rex-May:

I love this one from Nick Baker. It’s the Mona Lisa giving Leonardo daVinci the finger when he turns his back πŸ˜†

And a great one from Gordon Gurvan featuring Matisse’s famous Blue Nude:

Around the Blogosphere

Helloooo friends! Something screwy is going on here at WordPress. Pages are taking forever to load, server is messed up, and I’ve been trying to get a post up for the last hour and I can’t get the images to go in. And I had like five! So I’ve decided to give up for now. Boo hoo! ::goes off to sulk in the corner:: Well, I am a user, not a user so I’ll just have to deal with it. I’ve saved a halfway prepared draft, so at least I’ll have something to revise and work with when I try again tomorrow. It sucks because I have a really cool post to share with you guys. I feel bad. Oh well.

What I can do is type away “image-free” and offer a little update on Museworthy’s place in the blogosphere, little tips, and things I’ve learned over the past few months. If any of my fellow bloggers find this even slightly helpful then that’s great. And if they have their own experiences with this stuff, I’d love to hear it.

I’ve recently signed up with BlogCatalog, and so far it’s excellent. Good quality blogs on there for the most part. Fun discussion forums, groups, and very helpful and supportive members. Like all bloggers, I check my stats regularly, and I’ve gotten very good traffic from BlogCatalog. Even better, I’ve discovered some terrific blogs that I personally enjoy very much and am happy to have found.

I’m also on StumbleUpon, which is a websurfer’s dream. I can’t say I’ve gotten much traffic from StumbleUpon though. From what I can tell, it’s more a website geared place than a blog place. But oh the things you can find on there! So if you don’t mind watching hours of your life disappear while you’re glued to your computer screen, missing important events, never answering the phone, and neglecting things like eating and sleeping then StumbleUpon is for you! It is tons of fun. Not the greatest blog traffic generator. Not in my case, at least.

Delicious is ok. I use it exclusively for bookmarking and nothing else. No networking or sharing or anything like that. But it’s very useful, especially for someone like me who likes to save a lot of stuff. I prefer to keep my bookmarks there than in my browser. Traffic for Museworthy? A little. It appears in the WordPress stats referral section every once in a while, that’s about it.

I was on Technorati for a short time and the most bizarre thing happened with that site. Museworthy, by some miracle, has always ranked very high on Google searches. And that makes perfect sense because I get an enormous amount of traffic through Google. With all the art images on my blog, Google Image brings many people to Museworthy. I realize they may just be grabbing the image and leaving, but it’s still exposure, and that’s fine. But once I got registered with Technorati, Museworthy became buried in Google. It was weird! I tested it a few times and it was like my blog barely existed. Very strange. So I bolted Technorati. After some research on the Web, I found that I was not the only one to have this problem. It was reassuring to find that out.

Now onto Digg. I was all ready to get on Digg, but I heard awful things about it from some trusted friends. They said it was a snarky, bullying place with a lot of obnoxious jerks. That is soooo not my thing. Also, I heard that the submitted articles are very “tech” oriented, and that it’s not really the place for arts, literature, culture, etc. So I figured to hell with it. As much as I want to do right by Museworthy, I don’t want to force it upon an inhospitable crowd. Let’s face it, not everyone can get into a story about Salvador Dali. I understand and accept this.

But I am happy to say that Museworthy traffic has gone up considerably over the past couple of months, and it’s great because I enjoy maintaining this blog so much. Somehow, it has found its niche. And that’s what it’s all about. I have the best readers, the BEST! I promise to keep doing what I’m doing if you guys keep reading.

One more little nugget of info I should share; I’m considering starting another blog! I don’t know for sure, it’s a possibility. But I conceived this idea and it excites me. So stay tuned!

Love, hugs, and kisses . . . .

Spring Street Strut

The wellspring of life drawing here in New York City can be found not within the stately walls of an historic art academy or expensive art and design school, but in a cramped basement in the SoHo district. I’ve mentioned it many times on this blog. It’s called Spring Studios, and it’s located, appropriately, on Spring Street. With open life drawing seven days a week, three sessions a day, Spring Studios is more than a drawing studio. It’s a place for artists of all generations and varying levels of expertise to converge, socialize, share laughs, gossip, and shoot off lots of wisecracks (it is New York after all).

Like most life drawing groups everywhere, Spring Studios requires no enrollment, no reservations, no prior art training. You just show up with paper, pencil, and your $14, pick your ideal spot, and draw away to your heart’s content, from an inspiring, professional art model. Spring Studios has some of the best in the city. Oh yeah, and I work there too. πŸ™‚

I love posing at Spring Studios. I feel most like an art model there, if that makes any sense. It’s hard work, but gratifying. It’s the kind of place where models and artists intermingle freely and, in some cases, form solid friendships. Models, if they are popular, develop “followings” among the Spring Studios regulars, who will come down to draw just because one of their favorite models is posing for that session. They’re like our groupies.

For some reason, I pose really, really well down there. I suppose it’s because of the whole atmosphere; the intimacy, the book-lined walls, the shelves overflowing with anatomical props, the life drawings hanging on the walls, and, most importantly, the enthusiastic, responsive crowd. Plus Minerva, the director, respects the models a great deal and appreciates our hard work. But my favorite characteristic of Spring Studios is that it’s situated right above the number 6 Lexington subway line. If the model is sitting or lying down right on the platform, she can actually feel the train rumbling under her. Good vibrations!

Bruce Williams is a Spring Studios regular. Not only is he a wonderful artist, but he’s a great guy and friend of mine. Bruce was kind enough to send this image of a drawing he did of me down at Spring. I love it. It took place a couple of months ago and, if I remember correctly, it was one of those times I felt the “subway tremors”. But it wasn’t bad! This was a long pose, and the reverberations kept me from falling asleep. πŸ˜‰

You can see more of Bruce’s drawings from Spring Studios at SabatheDog. And you can visit the great folks over at Bristol Life Drawing for terrific work from their life drawing group.

Rodin and the Cambodian Dancers

National governments, and their heads-of-state, like to show off. They like to prance around on the world stage. They like to give the appearance of “cultural exchange” (with cultures they are, most likely, oppressing). They like fanfare and pageantry, state dinners, and all kinds of ballyhoo to promote their reputations, dominance, and grand civilizations. For most of us who hold a fairly cynical view of government, we know that the majority of this ostentatious stuff is bullshit. It borders on propaganda, and is sometimes even painfully embarrassing. Did anyone see President Bush drumming and flailing around like a fool with that African music troupe a while back? Enough said.

But thankfully, there is at least one very cool story to have emerged from such an occasion. The year was 1906. French President Armand Fallieres was presiding over the Colonial Exposition, a huge hullabaloo which attracted over 2 million people. One of the official guests was King Sisowath of Cambodia, who brought with him the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. The group performed classical Khmer dance and had received rave reviews in Marseilles a few days prior. So all of Paris was eagerly anticipating their performance at the President’s garden party as part of the Exposition entertainment. Now here comes the cool part. Auguste Rodin, the phenomenal French artist and sculptor, showed up at the garden party to see the much talked-about Cambodian dancers. He had his ticket in hand, but was turned away for not wearing a tie!! WTF?? So the 66 year-old, badass that he was, got justifiably pissed. Pissed, but undaunted.

The old man was determined to see the dance troupe and tracked their appearances. He finally saw them perform at the Bois du Bologne. And it was worth it. Rodin was utterly captivated by the dancers- their unusual short hair, fleet-footed steps, and distinct arm movements. Rodin was blown away. The dancers became his muses, and he couldn’t get enough. The group was scheduled to stop back in Marseilles for a short time before they returned to Cambodia. Rodin followed them there. I love this guy. He’s a badass AND a stalker! Rodin’s decision to follow the group was so impetuous and passionate, so driven by all-consuming artistic inspiration, that he forgot to bring his drawing paper with him. So he got some paper from a local butcher shop and worked on that. In just one week’s time, Rodin did a staggering 150 drawings and watercolors of the dancers, and enjoyed a sportive and lively rapport with them.

Here is a wonderful photo of Rodin, sitting on a park bench, drawing one of the young dancers:

Dancers are not an unusual subject for art, as we all know. I have done a post or two on Degas and Matisse and their “Dancers”. And let’s consider how very different they are. It’s incredible. I’ve also written and posted, as an art model, about gesture, and how it represents the very essence of the human body in movement. And the body is always in movement. And the variation of movement, of gesture, of rhythm, and the shapes and lines created by movement, are virtually infinite. Dance is all about gesture and movement. It’s clear why artists want to capture it.

By his own words, Rodin was completely entranced and mesmerized by the Cambodian dancers. With regard to his “stalking” trip to Marseilles, he said “I would have followed them all the way to Cairo”. Wow. It sounds like the man was in love! But I suppose an artist gripped by an inspiring muse is “in love”, in a way.

Art historians will find this Rodin experience, and the work created, especially fascinating because Rodin was a distinctly “modern” artist. The Cambodian dancers, in contrast, were distinctly traditional. So a unique alchemy took place between the trailblazing, sensual, visionary Western artist and the old-world, ancestral art of an ancient Eastern culture. I am certainly not up to the task of discussing it in depth, but those qualified to expound on the topic are more than welcome to comment away. In the meantime, here are just a few examples of Rodin’s “Cambodian Dancers”:

In spite of the big 1906 Colonial Exposition, no one cares or remembers dick about Armand Fallieres or King Sisowath. But Rodin is remembered. He lives on. And because of his art, the Cambodian dancers live on too.

Dagny Juel – Siren of the “Black Piglet”

Would an absinthe-swilling, free-love espousing, tabletop-dancing Norwegian wild child make a good artists’ model? You bet your ass she would. Expressionist painter Edvard Munch certainly thought so. A local beer hall is as good a place as any for an artist to meet his muse.

The year was 1893. The place was a tiny Berlin bar called Zum Schwarzen Frekel, or “The Black Piglet”. Munch was in town for an exhibition of his work and while there, befriended Swedish playwright August Strindberg and Polish poet and occultist Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Typical of avante-garde circles, the group congregated in a drinking establishment to discuss art, philosophy, and the human condition (and get sloshed in the process!).

Enter Dagny Juel. The well-educated daughter of a Norwegian doctor became a regular habitue of The Black Piglet, and instantly seduced the artsy clan with her nonconformist attitude and beguiling qualities. Dagny was reportedly “thin and flat-chested”, but had a beautiful smile and infectious laugh. And she could handily drink the men under the table. Her capacity for absinthe was almost inhuman. (I tried that stuff once and it is rough!) Dagny commanded attention, had virtually no inhibitions, and was quite the hell-raiser down at The Black Piglet. Her magnetic presence and personality inevitably led to intimate involvements with the male bohemian crowd. And harrowing times would follow for everyone.

Photo of Dagny:

Munch is of course most famous for his painting The Scream, but the titles of his other works present an insight into his angst-ridden psychology. They include Ashes, Jealousy, The Sin, and Death in the Sick Room. Yes, this guy was all about darkness and pain and anguish. But he had good reason. Both Munch’s mother and sister died young of tuberculosis. Another sister suffered from severe mental illness. And his father was a stern man who repeatedly warned the young Edvard, himself a sickly child, that he would burn in hell for his sins. So it’s no surprise that Munch’s outlook on life was oppressed with pessimism and despair. He said of his childhood, “Illness and madness and death were the black angels that stood at my cradle”. That is unbelievably sad. I really feel for the guy.

The depressive Munch was powerfully drawn to this independent, free-spirited 25 year-old femme-fatale. And he was not alone in his attraction to this young woman. Strindberg had a brief but volatile affair with her. German writer Adolph Paul was also infatuated with her, as was Przybyszewski whom Dagny would later marry. It is unclear whether Dagny and Munch had a sexual relationship, though we can speculate that it’s more likely than not. What we do know for sure is that Dagny was the model for some of Munch’s most significant works. Here she is in his painting Madonna, a most unorthodox portrayal of Mary, mother of Christ:

This painting was among the pieces stolen in the 2004 art heist at the Munch Museum in Oslo. Luckily it was recovered, but with some tears, holes, and other minor damage.

Here is Dagny again, in Munch’s Ashes. Not only is this a vivid window into a man’s dark, tormented soul, but it’s a powerful illustration of the chemistry between artist and muse, and the potent art that is created as a result:

Despite whatever turbulence, sexual liasions, and obssessive dramas were taking place during those heady times, it’s clear that Dagny and Munch worked very well together. Quite a formidable artistic pairing.

Dagny Juel’s life came to a tragic end. Her marriage to Stanislaw Przybyszewski was disastrous. Although she bore him two children, they both had numerous affairs over the years. And his alcoholism soon became out-of-control and destructive. In 1901, Dagny was murdered in a Tblisi hotel room, shot by a jealous young lover. Her five year old son, Zenon, witnessed the tragedy.

As for Munch, he never married. He suffered a nervous breakdown and in 1908 was confined to a sanatorium for eight months. His treatment apparently worked, as he emerged somewhat healthier, with his anxieties alleviated enough for him to life the rest of his life productively. He continued to paint and, unlike his family history, lived to be 80 years old.

By the way, here’s something I found interesting. Predictably, Munch’s Berlin exhibition back in 1893 earned negative reviews. And outrage to boot. The critics labeled him a “Nordic dauber and poisoner of art”. Even Kaiser Wilhelm himself spoke out against it. As usual, the art establishment got itself all in a tizzy over a bold new artist who addressed dark, disturbing themes. How many times in history does this happen? So yes, Munch had created a huge fury of controversy. But he wasn’t stupid, that’s for sure. His vociferous detractors had done him a great favor. Regarding the big cause-celebre over his art, Munch wrote to his aunt in Norway, “a better advertisement I couldn’t have wished for”. Smart man. Publicity is publicity. Whether it’s 19th century Europe or the 21st century Internet age, it’s funny how some things never change.

How Does My Garden Grow?

Hi everyone! Hope you’re all well. How am I you might be wondering? Oh, just fine. Entering the art model’s brief May “intermission” from work. Spring terms are coming to an end, and summer sessions don’t start until June. This is the “in between” time. So I have to cope with just sporadic job bookings over the next couple of weeks; non-school places like Spring Studios, where I posed on Monday night, Salmagundi Art Club where I’m posing next week, Brooklyn Artists Gym and a couple of private jobs. While I await new schedules from SVA, the National Academy, and the Studio School, I have to make do with not-so-steady work for the time being, and I’ll try to do so without moaning. Or feeling restless. Or missing the work I love. It won’t be easy.

But I suppose it’s nice to have some totally free days this week and next. How do I fill the time? Gardening is number one on my list. As of now my garden has that untended, unmanicured, wild, overgrown rainforest look. And I kind of like it that way! Here in New York we had several days recently of robust rainfall, and all growing things have flourished as a result. It’s the enchantment of spring; seeing budding leaves burst open into full green foliage at an accelerated pace, in the sumptuous growth that occurs right after those nourishing rainfalls. Plants grow that were never “planted”. Branches extend aggressively as if to say, “Prune this! I dare you! Sucker.”

So my garden is my priority for now, although I could garden in the nude to keep art modeling on my mind. The neighbors will love that, right? Oh, they can just think of it as the subject a great work of fine art: “Nude with Gardening Gloves”, or “Nude Woman with Hand Shovel”, or “Weeding Nude”, or “Nude Being Stung by Yellow-Jacket”, or “Figure Study with Squirrel”.Β 

As long as I can maintain the garden in such a way that preserves the natural-looking growth brought on by the rain then I’ll be happy. Balance between order and disorder is the key (and for life itself very often). Precision trimming, controlled shapes, and neatly manicured beds isn’t exactly my style. I want to honor the rain-fed lush and let the profusion of greenery do its thing without too much interference.

Enjoy this video of the Beatles singing “Rain”. It’s one of my favorite songs, and this is considered one of the first “music videos”. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo frolic around a greenhouse can inspire anyone to work in their garden. And John is just too cool in his shades!


Mama Muse

It’s almost Mother’s Day, and Museworthy would like to offer warm Mother’s Day wishes to all my readers’ Moms, my readers who are Moms, and my readers who are soon-to-be Moms (yay, Steph!!) Most of all, I want to wish my mother a happy, happy Mother’s Day. Great lady, great person . . . the BEST! I’m lucky to have her. xoxo

We have art to commemorate the occasion, courtesy of James McNeill Whistler. The American painter was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, and as the “black sheep” of the Whistler family, the rebellious James was expelled from West Point. He left the United States and settled in Europe where he painted and lived the life of an American expatriate. He became good friends with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, and had close acquaintances with Manet and Degas. Whistler was also an accomplished engraver and produced many etchings, lithographs, and drypoints.

Here is an 1860 Whistler etching of his model and lover Joanna Hiffernan:

As usual with artist/model circles and their romantic entanglements, drama ensued when Whistler discovered that Joanna had posed for Gustave Courbet’s notorious erotic painting L’Origine du Monde. Needless to say, both Whistler’s friendship with Courbet and his relationship with Joanna were effectively over.

But Mother’s Day is the theme, and I’m sure everyone knows which image will shortly be appearing in this post. It is Whistler’s famous 1871 painting of his mother, Anna MacNeill Whistler. By the 1860s, Anna was widowed, her children were all grown, and the Civil War was tearing through the United States. Rather than live elderly and alone in war-ravaged America, Anna accepted James’ invitation to come and live with him in London. At first, the straitlaced, matronly Anna was taken aback by her son’s artsy, informal bohemian lifestyle. But she soon got used to it, and, at the age of 67, proudly sat for her artist son, for what would become one of the most recognizable works of art. Whistler’s friend Edgar Degas was among the many admirers of this famous portrait.

Although the real title of the painting is Arrangement in Gray and Black: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, is has become familiarly known simply as “Whistler’s Mother”. It hangs today in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris:

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!!!!!