I’ve was recently asked whether I use models for my pieces and thought you may be wondering the same thing. The short answer is sometimes, but perhaps not as you may expect. I do not ask someone to sit still for hours on end while I attempt to capture every nuance as if I were crafting a portrait. Instead, I have a few very good friends who have allowed me to drape them in yards of fabric and photograph them in various poses that I later use for reference as needed. Some have been good enough to sit for me in the nude, which is very helpful when I’m having trouble with a gesture or a character’s movement; in those cases I have done sketches one after another in rapid succession. Like the photographs, I save the sketches for reference. I also have a multitude of sculpture, anatomy, and body building books that help me as well. Short of a cadaver, a shredded body builder can help me sort out a variety of skeletal and muscular questions, especially when they pose. Last, but not least, I also press myself into service using mirrors of various sizes that I have collected over the years – one of the largest is an old medicine cabinet door and it weighs a ton!
I can look at my pieces and recall which model helped inform which element of a piece – the position of a hand, the lines of the neck and jaw, or the slope of a shoulder and tilt of a head are all important gestures that help tell the character’s story. Some of those details are not always present in the final image that you see, but they exist beneath the surface. In fact, there are often 4 to 6 layers of elements of the character beneath the final image. So far on the new painting I’ve been working on, there are 3 layers beneath each character. I’m not quite Dr. Frankenstein, but I can appreciate using a bit of this and a bit of that to help a character come to life….