Truly, for the past few years, I have realized how much I love figurative and portrait art. And in my own self training, I've also realized just how demanding it is... not just in execution, but also in justification. By that, I mean simply the process of drawing or painting a figure is difficult, of course. But also convincing others (especially non-artists) that figurative art is a valid art form. After all, unless you commission an artist for a personal, private portrait for your home, what use is a portrait of a random person that you don't know? And then there's the nude figure... where do I begin??
oil on canvas
It's a tricky subject, and it's especially tricky to convince folks that it is not obscene/pornographic/whatever. I get it. I'm reminded of an old Beavis and Butthead episode where they go to a nude figure drawing class for the sole purpose of seeing naked chicks, and it's the best moment of their lives until they bring out a male model.
It's funny because I've been to a number of figure drawing classes, and all of them have been a female model. But still, there is nothing less arousing than a figure drawing class, and I know every artist out there will know what I'm talking about. Sure, you're looking at a naked body for 3 hours, but you're looking at it as if it was a ceramic pot, or a bouquet of flowers, or some other mundane object. I won't deny it... Artists objectify the human figure. We have to. That's our job as figurative artists. We aren't looking at the nude body as a nude body, but as an organized series of shapes, forms, shadows, lights, and in the case of painting, colors. The trick is, in the words of Michael John Angel, to "draw the pose, not the model." But make no mistake, speaking for myself, the purpose of objectifying the human figure in this manner is not to cheapen the humanity of the model, but just the opposite - to bring honor and glory to God's greatest creation to the best of my ability.