Friday 6 September 2013

Grace the face!

Hi! Here's what I've been doing since the last post:

Grace Oni Smith visited the studio a few weeks back to pose for some sketches and photos that will help me in the run up to the painting I will be creating of her in a Pre Raphaelite inspired portrait.

I want to get used to drawing her face and I have really enjoyed putting down the lines and shapes that create her unique looks. In fact I can totally see how one person can become a muse; if they have that certain something which makes it a pleasure to draw them, and also sparks the imagination!

We used some well known images as points of reference, the object being to create poses that embodied a classicly feminine ideal. As a trans woman, Grace is still a challenge to the popular perception of femininty even in this day and age, and one of the things we want to achieve is a strong provocative/sensual image that will get people asking themselves questions. 

 The Rose leaf by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
It's easy to see what a strong resemblance Grace has to a Pre Rapheaelite stunner. It's this strength of features which first inspired me to work with her, and lends itself so well to the project.

Pre Raphaelite work brings to mind sumptuous images of women, romantic scenes and sensuality. I think using this style of art is a good way to translate Grace's story to a wider audience. In other art work exploring transgender issues there is little scope for celebrating femininity without going down the full on route on par with traditional drag. Or on the flipside being very serious about the issue. 

Amanda Lepore by David LaChapelle
With our Pre Raphaelite vision we get do the dressing up and extreme glamour (see my make up post 'Smoke and Mirrors' for more on this), but we also get a chance to talk about trans gender in style that allows for sensitivity and sensuality. 

As part of my research into the style and ideas behind creating a Pre Raphaelite portrait I went to visit the Edward Burne Jones exhibition at the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight last week. 

Burne Jones was one of the biggest names in the Pre Raphaelite circle and one of its most successful. It's probable that even if you don't know his name you will probably have seen one of his paintings at some point, or even one of his stained glass windows.

The show 'The Drawings of Edward Burne Jones' runs until January next year and showcases a selection of drawings too fragile for permanant display. 

Many of the models in this exhibition had a certain androgenous aspect. this blurred line of gender works well for our project
It was wonderful to get up close and personal to the delicate pencil work. His preparatory studies of his models are so complete and refined. They offer a sense of strength but are produced in the most sensitive way (a balance I hope to acheive with my work on Grace).

A preparatory study of a zephyr for the painting Sponsa di Libano, shows the soft detailed application of chalk. Something I later tried to emulate in my drawings of Grace...

I'd reccommend a visit to Port Sunlight any day and especially the Lady Lever Art Gallery. It is a hidden gem containing a multitude of goodies that you can easily spend a day getting lost in.

Next post; As we put together ideas for the narrative for the portrait I interview Grace to explore her daily life as a drag/burlesque performer and trans woman.

For more images from the photo session and examples of drawings check out my Facebook Page :)