This is my latest piece, Southwest Beauty; I completed it yesterday and as I sit here today, looking at, I began thinking, I paint a lot of women. I suppose that's no surprise, I have talked about the challenge of painting figures and how I enjoy that challenge. And of course, I am a man, a man who likes women, and it would stand to reason that a person would often gravitate toward painting what they like.
As I pondered, I realized, I'm not alone in the enjoyment of painting the feminine. Women have been portrayed in art since pretty much the beginning of time. I haven't studied art history far enough back to substantiate it, but I would guess ancient man was likely drawing women on cave walls. As I continued thinking, I thought about how women have been portrayed in art over the years, over the centuries, and how my depiction of the female for is different, if it is.
In early times, women were often portrayed as symbols of fertility, as the givers of life, with exaggerated physical features and reproductive organs, or as idealized goddesses (think Ancient Greece). As time went on, into the 15th century, these representations became much more realistic and more elaborate as those in the wealthiest of classes commissioned paintings of their wives, elaborately dressed and decked out in the finest of jewels. These portraits were a demonstration of just how wealthy a man was. And of course, there were the reclining nudes of the Renaissance period, the woman was soft, sensual and demure; realistically painted, with perfect hair and pale skin, gazing away from the viewer. And of course, we're all familiar with art depicting the female form in an idealized religious way, the holy Mother Mary, if you will, such as in early Christian art.
As time went on, and society progressed, of course, the representation of women in art changed too. As the early 20th century dawned, artists began to reject realism, opting instead to experiment with more representative forms of art, like cubism (think Picasso), impressionism, with more emphasis on shading, shadows and blurring of lines (think Monet). And the list goes on and on.
So where do I fit in? Well, I'd say I'm a mix of all of the above, with my own special twist. My figures, when it comes to shape, contouring, proportions, etc., are realistic, but the lines are softer, more fluid, blended in a more impressionistic tradition. The colours I use are not always realistic and often are bordering on, if not full on, abstraction. For me, it's not just the image of the woman in the painting, it's more what she represents, what she's trying to say, the mood, the feeling. Sometimes, there might even be a bit of surrealism in there too.
My "women", if I can say that, aren't confined to any one type of representation. They're not all Reubenesque, soft, sensual and demure, and they're not all Earth Mothers. They're also not all waifs or goddesses. I would guess that's because we, well I, live in a time when such one dimensional thinking about any particular gender, person, whatever is known for what it is, foolishness.
Over the years, my female figures have evolved along with my painting and myself. For fun, I've put a slideshow in here to show you some of my women over the years. Enjoy, you never know, one of these may end up in an art history book someday as an example of the female figure is represented in art in the 21st century. ;)