Sunday, June 6, 2010

Working on a new piece

I had a wonderful experience working with a new (to me) model a couple of weeks ago.  Shelia has been a professional artist's model for about 15 years now, so she is very skilled at what she does. 

It was very interesting to notice the differences between working with her and photographing women who haven't gone in front of the camera before.  Shelia wasn't the least bit shy about disrobing.  She brought her robe with her.  She knew when she needed a break.  She was comfortable suggesting poses that might work well.  For friends who are modeling for the first time, it's a bit harder to disrobe, and they don't always know what they need, though they often have a pretty good sense of how they want to feel in the process.  I love the process of helping them discern what they need, what they want, and how to achieve it - that's often one of the richest parts of the process - and it was also lovely that Shelia already had that clarity.  I love both opportunities!

Because this session was about Shelia (as it is for all of my models), she had come with an idea of what she wanted to do which was to dance improvisationally as I photographed her.  For the first part, I played a very meditative CD by Robert Reich.  It was perfect.  I'd been in a rather hard spot that day, having just heard my son will need spinal surgery for scoliosis, so I needed something to bring me into the present moment.  The music was ideal.  And watching Shelia was perfect.  She is very graceful and beautiful in her movements.  I felt like she was a gift from God, watching her comfort in her body and the ease with which she moved.  She appeared to be directly connected to her core.  She closed her eyes and let her body lead the way.  I could hardly take pictures quickly enough, there were so many good ones! 

After a while, I asked her to pause for a moment so I could use a dark background - I have some new red velvet curtains I'm using for a backdrop now.  They are especially nice for women who are very pale who tend to blend into the almost white wall.  Shelia asked for different music, specifically Sinead O'Conner.  What a contrast!  It was loud and aggressive and almost harsh.  I have to be in a certain mood to want to hear it.  It was interesting seeing how different it felt to photograph her as it played.  I didn't feel as atuned to the experience, and I don't think those pictures turned out as well.  I still got some good ones, but I found myself having to block out the music so I could concentrate on the aesthetics of her movements.

That night when I went to bed, I started thinking about the pictures I'd taken and got an idea for a painting.  About a year ago, Chris had made me an 8'x2.5' canvas.  I had planned to make 24 paintings of women standing straight and tall, larger than life, looking straight at the camera.  I wanted the viewer to go into the room full of these powerful Amazonian women.  After thinking it through, however, I decided I wasn't quite interested enough in the concept to spend a year or more painting such huge canvases which I'd then have to find a place to exhibit and store.  I still think they'd be quite powerful, but I let go of the idea.  But still had the canvas...

What came to me was the idea to use the canvas horizontally and to have her in 3 or 4 different positions on it.  I remembered several pictures I'd taken of her squatting which I thought would be perfect.  I couldn't wait to get to the computer to play with the composition!  Here's what I came up with:

A couple of days later I was able to find the time to grid it onto the canvas.  This picture shows it with the background painted in.  I realized with chagrin (the next day!) that I had left out the second figure's arm which is going towards the floor.  That'll be my next step - to put it back in!  Silly me!

This picture will give you a sense of the scale of the pieces as well.  I'm having to use two easels to support it and have taken down my drawing table to make room for it.  It's LONG!!
I'll be done my big push at work (tutoring for exams) Tuesday, so I'll have some significant time to work on it after that.  I'm very much looking forward to the time!  I think this will be a fun piece to work on - though complex - look at all those hands!  And feet!  And faces! 

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