When I did my review on what I have learnt and achieved through mixed media for textiles I was left with unanswered questions. Why do I enjoy drawing the body and especially the female form. What is the source or the core of my inspiration when doing so?.
My formal studies/Training was in an art college in Madrid back in the 80s. Back then we studied all the old masters in the history of art. A lot of their work was figure drawing or body studies. In this part of my course I decided to research Leonardo da Vinci figure studies as he was the ultimate master in investigating and studying the human anatomy through drawings, paintings and sculpture. I felt that to understand my work I had to go back to basics, back to my initial inspiration when I first started my creative journey back when I was thirteen,
To start off my research I decided to make a collage of the images of Leonardo’s drawings that touched me. What do I see in his drawings? What could I learn from Leonardos da Vinci’s sketches?. I discovered that the main thing that drew me to Leonardos drawings is the sensitivity and emotion shown in his subject matters faces. The sense of mysteriousness, almost as if they were lost in obscurity,
What I see in the ladies faces is a quiet expression almost as if they are not allowed to express their feelings. I can almost feel from his drawings that these ladies hide their real feelings almost as if they had secrets. There are many questions that arise when I look at these drawings like; who were these ladies? What would they have to say if they had the same freedom that we have to express ourselves?. The other thing that I am fascinated by is that these drawings of women are the depiction of beauty through an Artist point of view. They are depictions of beauty, ladies who are serene, fragile, composed, maternal, untouched, clean, modest and shy. They were also dreamy, most of the time depicting Goddesses of love. I am really interested in the ability Leonardo da Vinci had in allowing the viewer to be able to guess his subject matters thoughts. Could I do that? Obviously not remotely as good as him but could I depict a 1% of that mystery in my drawings?
I noticed that Leonardos marks and lines are soft using light and shadows to define shape. I enjoy the sketchy unfinished effect of the drawings above, is this something I can take forward in my work?
A tall order I hear you say… and indeed it is but I can only try and adopt some of Leonardo’s practices and ideas. One little step at a time.
It just so happened that these investigations arise in the middle of the summer when I was visiting Madrid to see my family.
Walking through Madrid where art is oozing in every corner made me reflect and in turn answered some of my questions raised in my review for mixed media for textiles. I decided to take my son to the Prado a famous art gallery in Madrid. Before even entering the museum I was faced with a statue of Goya made by a Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure (1902). The sculpture depicts Goya standing in a overcoat with a hat in his left hand. It is not the sculpture of Goya that interest me it is the base of his sculpture, a marble image of Goya’s La maja desnuda (a nude women). I was reminded of how nudity in the female form is everywhere in Madrid and other parts of Spain. I grew up with it ever since I was a little girl. I remember seeing this sculpture and thinking of how free and sassy this lady was. Back then we were so tradicional and conservative but somehow we were never shocked at these images. It was our “normal” even though it was so contradictory to how we were taught to be and behave.
Could this be why I am interested in drawing bodies and the female form? Is it some unfinished business? Or is it learnt behaviour; as I have been heavily influenced by the old masters body studies and female portraits all around the places where I grew up. Madrid is also full of sculptures of naked men; depictions of angels, warriors, kings, etc. For some reason I have never been that interested in them even though they are beautiful in their own right. I think the reasons for this is because I always found the female depictions more mysterious and intriguing. This could be because of the contradiction of these images and the way we were taught to behave back then. Women where just beautiful creatures to adorn the streets and give us something to look at, or where they? Women were often portrayed like images depicting love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire. I realised very early when I was young that these women were rarely depicted looking like intelligent and strong only when they were fighting rape and these where sculptures that I didn’t get to see. The only sculpture in Madrid of a strong woman that I remember being drawn to was the one of Sor Juana Ines De la Cruz (near the palace), she was a very intelligent woman but not at all attractive as she was a nun. The story behind Sor Juana intrigued me but not so much her image.
As I continued walking through Madrid I became more aware of the art images depicting women all around me.
above: images of some of the art on the local tapas bars in Espoz y Mina (name of the st). The middle one reminds me of Botticelli’s painting of the birth of Venus in that the lady’s handmade is dressing the lady’s modesty. The handmade also stands on the right side of the picture just like the birth of Venus. So it’s easy to see why I am interested in body’s and faces when I draw.
I then started thinking about femininity and what it means. In the dictionary it means: Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women. The characteristics of femininity are: gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, caring, sweetness, compassion, tolerance and nurturance. These are the characteristics I see when I look at Leonardo’s drawings of women, was femininity what he was trying to capture? This is what I wanted to capture in part five. Female form and femininity from a prospective of an artist. This is not necessarily going to be equal opportunity’s material. I will be doing a study of femininity and female form influenced by my research of old masters and then try and put together a series of mono-prints to make a surface print. I have always drawn but I have not always liked my drawings or felt confident about them. I always worried about the outcome to much but since learning about mono-printing in part four it has opened my appetite to experiment more.
My summer continued in Sevilla where I visited many museums, plazas, churches and looked at so much beauty and culture that I almost felt dizzy.
In Sevilla the depiction of women was much more modest. The feminine form is usually dressed and it often depicts a Virgen an a matriarcal figure. There are Virgins in every corner and in every street as it is a very religious catholic city.
When looking at the sculptures and paintings around Sevilla they also had a similar expression in their faces depicting the characteristics of femininity.
The only statue in Sevilla of a woman that was different to the rest is one in Triana made by Jesus Gavira Alba in 1994. This statue is made in bronce and depicts a voluptuous beautiful lady who is carrying a guitar. This statue is to honor and celebrate the flamenco history in Triana. For me this statue depicts strength, beauty and the art of dance and music. She is quite striking against the yellow buildings and the deep blue sky. I wondered how I could incorporate this in my work.
I thought of Toile printed fabrics and wondered if I could experiment with the same idea. Could I design a repeated surface decoration with a white or of white background depicting instead of pastoral scenes, images of femininity from the eyes of an artist.
Traditionally a toile would have scenes of a pastoral theme such as a couple having a picnic by a lake or an arrangement of flowers. The pattern usually consists of a single colour, most often black, dark red, or blue. Toile is most associated with curtains and upholstery in particular, especially chintz.
instead of using the tradicional linen I will be experimenting with organza transforming the tradicional image of a toile into something less chintzy to something more airy and may I say … contemporary!
And now on to stage 3. Wish me luck
References: https//patternobserver.com the history of surface design: Toile de Joy. El diario de Triana.es .Dictionary- femininity. Rutas Pangea.com>escultura de Sor Juana de Ines De la Cruz. Www.drawingsofleonardo.org