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The Female Artist Model: Malice In Wonderland

Coming off the Women’s March and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I would be remiss if I did not address the darker side of how female art models have been viewed and treated in history. As in all things professionally, there seems to be separate standards for men and women.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painted by Marshall Jones

In Sarah Phillips book, The Modeling Life, she says, “Standing at a unique juncture–between nude and naked, between high and low culture, between art and pornography–the life model is admired in a finished sculpture, but scorned for her or his posing….”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

She goes on to say, “throughout history, people have romanticized life models in an aura of bohemian eroticism, or condemned them as strippers or sex workers.”

As a female artist, this has never been my perception of an artist’s model. Sadly, after 35 years as a painter, I still occasionally have someone project some nonsense from a book or movie onto me. Just because someone is an artist does not mean they are a starving artist, bad at business, or egotistical.

The passion of an artist is often projected into a fictional version of themselves.  In these fairy tales, it is control over another, not passion, that is portrayed.

In fact, artists are in a business that requires being treated as such. It is a labor-intensive discipline that takes years to master. Finding an artist’s model that can work synergistically with you is a great rarity.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by James Edmond
Pigeon Plumtree III, James Edmond drawing in progress (L) and finished drawing (R)

San Francisco Bay Area Models like Carla Kandinsky became the face and body associated with The Bay Area Figurative Movement in the 60’s and modeled over 50 years. “It was before the feminist movement, before topless dancers had taken over San Francisco’s North Beach nightclub strip. It was far from respectable work. She feared telling people what she was doing for a living”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Adam Miller
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Adam Miller

When Carla Kandinsky was modeling at the San Francisco Art Institute she was approached about swimming topless in a large glass tank at Bimbo’s and to pose for nude photographs. She declined both. She said she realized art students did not see her as naked. It was form and shadows. It was like looking at a Coke Bottle.

Kandinsky wrote a poem once about her experience of modeling. In one poem she describes, “old men who draw their fantasies, making you years younger with thighs the likes of which you’ve never seen; cruel younger women wielding crayons like razor blades to hack lines deep into your face and draw the droop of breasts with merciless accuracy and older women dabbing in in delicate watercolors, their own lost youth and sex reflected in your painted eyes.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Kevin Moore
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Kevin Moore

Barbara Tooma modeled over 4 decades regularly with the California College of the Arts. In Peter Steinhart’s book, The Undressed Art, Why We Draw, Barbara tells us how often “artists project themselves onto the model without even realizing it.”

The Bay Area Models Guild was established 72 years ago by Florence Alan (a.k.a. Flo), herself an artists model over 47 years. Her face and body are familiar to fans of Diego Rivera, Wayne Thiebaud, and Joan Brown. Although Mrs. Alan died in the late 90’s, she left a legacy protecting models from work related risks. Both artists and artist models are screened heavily.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith

The Guild determines the length of time of poses, breaks, establishes guidelines for both the model and the atelier. Models must hold poses for long periods of time and return to those poses after breaks which is quite strenuous on the body. They must contend with the coldness of most studios and trespassers in university settings.

Longtime model Ginger Dunphy reflected on this recurring problem in The Undressed Art: why we draw by Peter Steinhart. “Crazy people walk into the studio at the Art Institute with cameras and take pictures.”

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Other models, like Marianne Lucchesi, experienced a creepy stranger sneak up on her at an evening session at San Jose State University and try to have a conversation. She had to stop posing, put on her robe and have the man removed.

Art models are so linked with their painters that we can forget we are looking at real people. Chosen for their deportment and stamina as much as their face, models are chosen for their other worldly quality, sensuality, a look of intelligence, or attitude.  An example of an “other worldly persona” would have to include the infamous Lizzie Siddel who was adored by the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood for her beautiful auburn hair.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Elizabeth Zanzinger

An artist and poet in her own right, Siddel posed for Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti.She was infamous because a bout of pneumonia left her addicted to laudanum (which she died at age 33 from an overdose). Most of all, she was infamous because Rossetti exhumed her body 7 years after her death, to retrieve a book of his poems he had placed in her grave!

Gustav Klimt sought a model that would mirror the eroticism of Art Nouveau. Viennese fashion designer, Emile Floge was his favorite muse. A sibling of his sister in law, her side parted natural Afro makes her image instantly recognizable.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Today’s artists often look for a model with attitude to reflect the feelings of women tired of being repressed financially, emotionally, physically and politically.

Pigeon Plumtree III is by far the most recognized female artist model in the USA. She is the embodiment of a 21st century woman of attitude. Even her name has attitude. She renamed herself after a Madeline Kahn character. In Road to Avonlea, Pigeon Plumtree was known for her beauty, fame, and selfishness. (Another woman with attitude).

Pigeon has been modeling for 19 years. A friend asked her to sit for her drawing class at a local senior center. “As soon as I settled into the quiet, and the stillness I fell in love. I can still remember the sound of the breeze through the trees and the birds outside. It was a magic place to find within yourself.”

A dancer and an artist by training, artist modeling was a natural evolution to her skills. She moved to New York and spent a decade immersed in modeling for art ateliers, established artists, and attending art openings. It was a long way from the non racially diverse small town in California’s Central Valley she had grown up in.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Harvey Dinnerstein
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Harvey Dinnerstein

Art modeling for pigeon has taken her to ateliers coast to coast. They included The Art Students League of New York, The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Judith Peck
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Judith Peck

Painted, drawn, and sculpted by many of today’s leaders in Figurative Art, Pigeon has been the subject of Elizabeth Zanzinger, Sharon Sprung, Adam Miller, Zhaoming Wu, Marshal Jones, Oscar Peterson, Harvey Dinnerstein, Mario A. Robinson, Aaron Coberly, and Judith Peck among many others. Several have given her practice sketches or other work of herself over the years. Although Pigeon prefers collecting the Gallery Announcement Cards that features work she is in, she is partial to a small bronze sculpture gifted her by an sculptor she posed for. She feels great gratitude that after years of modeling she can find her work reflected in books, galleries and museums.

I initially contacted Pigeon about writing this article shortly after the second San Francisco Womens March. We both live in the Bay Area and she is such a recognizable face in contemporary art it felt important to include her. Like women across the nation, we discussed our #metoo feelings and experiences and how they have impacted our professions.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Robin Smith
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Robin Smith
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Clarissa Payne
Painting by Clarissa Payne

Pigeon shared how she was sexually assaulted by a well known atelier student in Seattle several years ago. It was a 4 week pose. The painting she sat for is now well known and that student now is very well known. The original atelier was very professional and she met many artists she worked with for years. Like all women, we are learning to process our anger but not shoot ourselves in the foot professionally. We want to protect others from what we have been through. It only takes one drop of ink to darken a glass of water.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Michael Elsasser
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Michael Elsasser

Pigeon told me that over the last two years she has been phasing out any nude modeling for her own reasons. We both love human anatomy and love the endless blocks of shapes and shadows the nude is capable of.

As an artist I can tell you a body is never the same two days in a row, nor in the afternoon is it the same body it was in the morning. It is one of the most beautiful and challenging subjects for an artist to duplicate. We also discussed our growing unease with how nudes are mis-used in a social media context.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Sharon Sprung
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Sharon Sprung
Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Marshall Jones
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Marshall Jones

Pigeon eventually removed any nudes featured in artwork from her social media pages. Sometimes poses that are not sexual become sexualized in another form by others. Pigeon and I have both have received creepy friendship invites from around the world from people who were seeing something different in the art that was posted. She as an artist model, and me, for the work I paint, but also for the figurative artists stream I curate and write about.

Judith Peck met Pigeon in 2011 at an Odd Nerdrum workshop in New York. Since that time she has completed many paintings featuring Pigeon. Three have been sold already, including one from a Purchase Grant from the D.C. Commission Of The Arts and Humanities. The others will be exhibited at the Gallery at Penn College opening March 15, 2018.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Painting by Aron Hart
Pigeon Plumtree III, painting by Aron Hart

I asked Judith what quality Pigeon has as a model that makes her paint her over and over? “ Pigeon represents every woman and I can project emotion with her body language and expressions”.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Oil Wash by Susan Jansen
Pigeon Plumtree III, Oil Wash by Susan Jansen

Artist models, in the hands of the right artist, can be immortalized through their work. They become the silent voice for the time they live in. Pigeon is one of our voices.

We left our conversation in the mutual hope that society as a whole will evolve out of the sexualization of women. Over the next 8-10 years perhaps girls with selfies will stop turning themselves into masturbation fodder for boys, that toy dolls will not be designed look like hookers. Social Media has created a distortion of our purist creative endeavors.

Female Art Model Pigeon Plumtree III - Drawing by Shana Leveson
Pigeon Plumtree III, drawing by Shana Leveson


Featured Image: Artist Model Pigeon Plumtree III at a workshop for Sadie Valeri Atelier.  Photo by Sadie Valeri, featuring artists David Jon Kassan and Shana Levenson.

A Tantric Viewpoint: Living Together vs Marriage

Someone recently asked me why should any man bother getting married? He said men risked being ruined financially by one bad woman. He was lamenting that he could get stuck paying alimony or child support. Why not just live with someone instead?

Let me begin by saying to live with someone is not the same as being married. Marriage is a sacrament where you accept the karma attached to another person. You are agreeing to help the other grow and evolve at an accelerated pace. It is the fastest way to have who you are and who you are not, reflected back at you. We may not like what we see in that process, but we become a better human being because of it.

Living with someone you are not married to does not share that sacrament. I’ve seen people who have lived together 20 years, get married, and are divorced within a year. The reason is because that spiritual agreement kicks in. I think people choose to live with someone instead of getting married because subconsciously they know they’re in a karmic relationship and the growth process is going to hurt.

People do not ruin our lives, our choices do. If you marry someone for their looks or position in society (a doctor, a model, coming from a wealthy family) it is going to be a painful ride. You are marrying them for what you will get from them, not what you want to give to them freely. Choosing a partner based on surface criteria will make you a victim of your emotions. In a spiritual union, emotions enter your consciousness without you having to act upon them.

When you meet someone who shares similar interests, makes you smile easily, really listens to you and you really want to listen back, it is special. A trust develops. They become a mirror of your inner male or inner female part of yourself. Finding someone who helps us develop this part of ourselves is richer and sweeter than we ever imagined. You will thrive in your career because your heart, body and mind are thriving. People will be drawn to that natural expansion. It is very attractive because it brings energy to a room.

I think it’s important to add here that people sometimes forget the source of that expansion when they stop being grateful for their partners. They lose it all when they have an affair with someone who’s confused their newly developed expansion for passion.

With that growth we become the people we were destined to be. Sometimes the person that helped us get there gets left in the dust and they get angry. The key is not to turn your partner into a full time housekeeper, babysitter, slave while you travel or have exciting things happening to you all of the time. The key is balance. Encouraging our partners to study, have time for their own interests, enjoy time with friends. Both people have to honor their own lives in order to bring something to the relationship.

Forcing marriage by pregnancy creates a fragile foundation for a relationship. Having children should be a conscious decision by two people who agree to accept the spiritual/karmic responsibility for another soul. It is a huge commitment but having children is not required in order to have a happy marriage.

I remember meeting an adult friend of my mothers when I was 9. She and her husband lived overseas and traveled all of the time. I asked her if she had any children? She said “no”. I asked, “why not?”

She said, “because we didn’t want any”.

This was mind blowing for me! I said, “you mean we have have a choice?” She laughed and said yes. She told me men and women could have any kind of marriage they wanted. I chose right there and then not to have children.

I knew at age 9 that there are too many children born to people who have them for the wrong reason. If I ever changed my mind, I would adopt. I told all of my girlfriends (to their astonishment) that we didn’t have to have children when we got married if we didn’t want to!

Not only did my interrogator fear a doomed marriage, he also did not want to take financial care of any children if he wasn’t married to the mother. Sadly, he is not alone. It is not uncommon for fathers to ghost out of their children’s lives after a divorce. I find it curious that anyone that makes a conscious decision to have children or adopt them, would choose not to care for them later?

Parents are karmically and financially responsible for the health and needs of children until they reach adulthood. If you do not want to pay child support, don’t marry a woman that wants children. In fact, why not man up and have a vasectomy?

If you truly believe getting married could result in your ruin, arrange to have a pre nuptual agreement drawn up. Make it for ten years. If you are still in love after ten years, renew your vows and tear it up.

Whether living together or considering marriage, beware of your own stinginess. I’ve never met a man that was stingy with money who also wasn’t stingy with his love and as a lover.

If we fear marriage, we need to to ask ourselves if this is really about control? Control is the opposite of love. In Sanskrit the word for God is Ishvara. It literally translates to “the force capable of doing what She wishes to do, capable of not doing what He does not wish to do, and capable of undoing whatever so far has been done.” I’ve always told friends, “the person who controls the most in a relationship loves the least.”

A Tantric Viewpoint - Living together vs Marriage
Marble detail by Giambologna | Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy

Featured Image: Drawing by New York based artist, Maria Kreyn (b.1985, Russia) who often uses herself as a model.

The Artist Model: The Muse Behind The Magic

An interview with model John A. Carrasco

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 1 - Rita Romero
Rita Romero

In North America there is a romanticized image of the professional artist’s model. Movies and books are inclined to feed that image by projecting sexy nymphets and oversexed painters. The reality is modeling requires intense concentration in addition to immense physical and emotional control.

Artist’s models are not the same as a photographer’s model. Cameras are forbidden in a drawing class. Also, if the model is to be nude you must book a life model or a figure model rather than an artist’s model. Asking specifically for an artist’s model tells the agency or guild the model will be clothed.

As a painter and sculptor for 35 years, I can attest there is nothing sexual when we work from a live model. A drawing class collectively pays a model to master their skills in anatomy. An inexperienced model will charge $20.00 to $30.00 an hour and a skilled model is often twice that. Privately, we are trying to capture as much down on paper before the light changes or the model gives out.

Art modeling is demanding. Models must know how to transition into a hundred classic poses. Holding the position for long periods is not easy. Think how hard it is to hold a yoga pose. Temperature is a factor: it can get cold at times and at others the lights can get quite hot, or at least hot enough to make them sweat.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 2 - Daniel J.Keys
Daniel J. Keys

There are three categories of poses: Standing, Seated, and Reclining. Poses are held 5 to 20 minutes. Longer poses are reserved for the more experienced model, as the body can cramp. Poses that expend more energy, such as the asymmetrical contrapposto or standing twists, are also reserved for the experienced model.

Models at modern ateliers are sitting for the best and the brightest talent in the world.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 3 - Elizabeth Zanzinger class
John modeling in an Elizabeth Zanzinger class

One of the most recognizable San Francisco Bay area artist models is John A. Carrasco. Coveted for his soulful eyes, the silver beard of Dumbledore, and his illustrated limbs, he is immediately recognizable in drawings, paintings and sculpture. John is a legend to museums, artists and academics.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 4 - Kelvin Chen
Kelvin Chen

I recently had a great chat with John about his modeling career. He lives in the South Bay but travels to various studios including: Academy of Art (San Francisco), Golden Gate Atelier, (Oakland), Triton Museum (San Jose), Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier (San Carlos), NUMU Atelier (Los Gatos), Sadie Valerie AtelierJustin Hess Studios & Safe House Atelier (all in San Francisco). John has also modeled at universities such as Cogswell Poly Technical College (San Jose), Stanford UniversityNotre Dame, and Santa Clara University.

When did you become an artist’s model and how did you get into it? How long has it been? Do you do it full time?

About 4 years ago I answered an ad for Carl Dobsky’s Safehouse Atelier, San Francisco. It just took off after that. I’ve been doing it full time ever since.

Have you received any training as far as poses go or do you just allow yourself to be posed like a human mannequin by the artist or teacher?

I’m self taught and made up my poses.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Jie Gao

How long do you hold a pose before a break?

The norm is 20 minutes before a 5 minute break.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has ever happened to you in a modeling situation?

I doubled up with another Model for figure, surprised it went very well.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you modeling?

I thought a particular class was nude figure. It wasn’t and I was naked! I laughed, laughed and laughed!

I think we’ve all had some dreams like that!

Who are some of the artists that have drawn or painted you that really stand out in your mind?

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 5 - Jie Gao
Charcoal from Gorilla Brigade session in Toronto, Ontario

There are so many. In San Francisco there was Carl Dobsky, & Justin Coro Kaufman at Safe House Atelier. Justin Hess and Alicia PonzioSadie ValerieElizabeth ZanzingerIliya MirochnikJacob HankinsonEmilio VillalbaDaniel KeysTeresa Oaxaca and David Jon Kassan also in San Francisco.

That’s quite a Who’s Who of painters, and I know there are many more. I post many contemporary figurative artists on my twitter.com/Uridev stream and I’m sure many people have come to recognize many of these artists through my posts.

Yesthere is a wave of talent emergingI’ve been fortunate to also sit for David GrayFelicia ForteCarol RaffertyZoey FrankRobert Semans, and Youming Cate. At Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier I sat for Noah Buchanan and Sean Cheetham in San Carlos. There was also Zin LimJacob DheinHenry YanOliver Sin, and Zhaoming Wu at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Many more, too many to list really.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 7 - Elizabeth Zanzinger
Elizabeth Zanzinger (Charcoal and white chalk)

How many paintings, drawings or sculptures of yourself have been featured prominently in major exhibitions?

So far over ten have been have been featured and over ten more in sales. There are many more coming up in the near future I believe.

Do you attend the exhibitions and if you do, hang around the paintings?

I do try to attend the exhibits. It’s a privilege to be featured.

I’ve noted you have quite a collection of exceptional portraits of yourself. Did students give you that artwork?

I mostly get to keep artwork from Instructors. Sometimes I’ll trade modeling for the art.

Do artist’s models have groupies? I was shocked that you have more followers on Instagram than I do either on Twitter or on Linked In!

I don’t believe I have groupies, but I do have followers.

Does the general public recognize you either by your beard or tattoos from artwork?

Yes they do. People often tell me I’m plastered everywhere.

John A. Carrasco - Artist Model - 8 - Cuong Nguyen
Cuong Nguyen (oil)

How do ateliers or artists hire you if they do not know your name, just your face? Do schools have you listed as a model for them?

They find me through Facebook, Instagram, or Model Mayhem. There are also local Guilds for artist models.

Most Ateliers, Academy of Art and other Universities have me listed.

You’ve been modeling full time now a few years, have you become friends with any of the artists you pose for?

I believe artists and models develop a connection either figurative or portraiture.

Are you surprised by anything revealed in the artwork about yourself that you never realized as seen through someone else’s eyes?

Yes I was, very humbled by it.

A good studio model can become immortalized in history. Paintings will last 400 years or more whereas film deteriorates; digital photos are ephemeral, and singers become forgotten. The face and the body of an artist’s model lives on through the work.

Featured image: Augie LaRue Sculpture

Colored Pencil: A New Look At An Emerging Medium

In the world of art, colored pencils as a medium continue to be regarded as the new kids on the block. They’ve got the attention of a lot of people but still sit alone at at the drawing table waiting to be joined.

Colored Pencil - Jesse Lane
Jesse Lane

Colored Pencils for art were introduced in 1924 by Faber-Castelland Caran d’Ache.

There are three types of colored pencil. There are thick, soft leads that are waterproof and lightproof. They do not smudge or erase easily (Derwent/Eagle)

The second type are thin, non crumbling, lead pencils. They are are waterproof and great for detail, but come in limited colors. They do not smudge or erase easily but can be removed with a blade. (Verithin/Venus. The Venus brand can be erased).

The third are the water soluble leads.These can be used in combination with water to produce washes of color (cross between colored pencils and watercolors. The most common colored pencils are wax based because they are easily accessible, offer a large color selection and are easier to erase. They have a tendency to bloom (get a milky appearance) if they have not been sealed with a fixative.

Oil based colored pencils generally have a lighter appearance and can require the artist to repeat applications many times to get the richness he desires. They also can smear but a fixative usually is not required.

Colored Pencil - Brian Scott
Brian Scott

Colored pencil artists layer 3, 5, up to 20 layers of pencil to layer and mix colors. In addition to using crosshatching or other techniques to get the pencil into all of the nooks and crannies of textured papers, finishing techniques often include using solvents to blend the colors further.

Colored Pencil - Kerry Brooks
Kerry Brooks

Dry blending uses tools like tortillon’s (paper stumps), tissue, silks or other dried cloth. Additional color can not be laid down again after dry blending.

The U.S., Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom now have national colored pencil societies.Their professional competitions are beginning to attract the professionally trained artist to the medium.

Colored Pencil - Tanja Gant
Tanja Gant

Perhaps there is hope we will see the end of the plethora of puppy paintings along with sentimental children imagery that has become the hallmark of Social Media Censors.

The art most people are exposed to on social media distorts our perception of art. Classic art or the work of the classically trained, are often censored out by low paid home based operators. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition.   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws. For more on this subject, please see my article here.

Colored Pencil - Ann Kullberg
Ann Kullberg

Art Credit: Header Image by Christopher Pugliese (b.1968)

Drawing: The Line Between Real And Illusion

Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)Learning to draw trains us to see the world through our own eyes and not through the filters of the mind. Our minds delete, distort,and generalize through processing filters.

People who can’t draw have not learned to see what they are looking at. Drawing is a skill set that can be taught. It is not so much about what you do with your hands as it is what you see when you look at something.

In art school many drawing exercises quickly revealed to each of us how the mind lies. Our drawing materials were in one room and the model was in another. We were allowed only 5 minutes to look and remember as much as possible before returning to our easel and draw for ten minutes. After each quarter hour journey we learned quickly what our minds had shut out.

A major problem was that few teachers had the skills to teach drawing, especially the technical drawing needed in the design of textiles, industry, and science.

I see a technological parallel happening in the 21st century. So many tech “creations” are not “creations” at all but more akin to mental innovations. Many people see tech as the high priestess of design, but to those who actually create it is seen as derivative. Every reference of a CGI screen can be easily spotted to the trained eye.   I have said that art done in the digital world is a bit like compact fluorescent light bulbs: the color feels off and the energy is considered dirty. The emotions are stripped in the same way humor or sarcasm do not translate well in text messages.


Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)

There is an expression, “great artists steal.” Sadly it has been adapted and distorted from a quote by TS Eliot. People have heard so many versions of it, that is often taken at face value. I will get back to that later.

Junghoon Lee (South Korean)

The original quote, “the immature poet imitates and the mature poet plagiarizes”, has been parodied by artists, composers and writers such as Picasso, Stravinsky, and Faulkner.

Pablo Picasso changed the quote to, “Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.”

Igor Stravinsky changed it to “A lessor artists borrows, great artists steal”.

Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner, added his version with “Immature artists copy, great artists steal”.

Stealing in each of these cases refers to not copying someone else’s work, but taking it in what you love about it and making it a part of your self. It does not mean copying.

Someone who copies is confusing mental ideas with creativity. It is coming from fear, not creativity.

Competitive people believe only a few good ideas exist and there is not enough to go around. Competition is the opposite of creativity.Creativity manifests itself uniquely to every individual. It is unlimited.

So how did the USA get to a point where basic drawing skills are no longer taught to everyone? In 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. For schools to receive federal monies or what is known as Title I Funding, schools would have to administer standard based assessments.

Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)

Schools began to focus on test results through memorization. Although it technically included the arts, they were not tested for Title I funding. If the students did not pass rigorous tests, schools lost their funding and teachers lost their jobs. Teaching kids to think or to create was no longer financially worth it.

The No Child Left Behind Act was replaced with “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015. Although modified, it did not eliminate the requirements for periodic standardized tests given to students. It has left generations of visually illiterate adults and the non development of the part of our brain that helps us creatively solve problems.

Drawing with computers does not train the eye in the same way we learn with paper and pencil. Digital manipulation does not replace the skill of learning to draw anymore that cut and pasting from what is online is writing a novel.

I am not suggesting that everyone receive the rigorous training as a professional artist at an Atelier. Learning to draw in this way takes 2 years (graphite, charcoal, pen and ink, washes), It includes technical drawing (perspective and human anatomy. I am suggesting we take the lead from the French and take away cell phones from students during school hours.

Steven Assael (b.1957, American) Shana Leveson (American)

When drawing was initially required to be taught in our schools we had to use Britain’s school system to know where to begin. Art Master Walter Smith was hired and brought to the USA as the Art Education Supervisor Of Massachusettes.Walter Smith wanted to teach children how to draw, not make drawings. He wanted to give them an understanding of technical drawing that could be brought into design of products, incorporate science, and an understanding of how to see.

Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)

Jamie Hudson in his paper, Industrial Drawing in America in the 19th Century describes Smiths plan as follows:

  • “Smith separated the public into three sections:Children,skilled artisans,and general public. Children would be taught drawing in schools as part of their general education, artisans would be taught in night schools, and the general public would be able to have lectures in museums if they wished.
  • Smith educated teachers who had previous knowledge of drawing. He did this so in turn they became knowledgeable enough to teach normal teachers how to incorporate art in the classroom.
  • Smith devised a plan for incorporating drawing skills in grade schools. For younger students, they would be taught, “free-hand outline drawing” and when they were old enough they would eventually learn “model drawing”. “Memory Drawing” and flash cards were also included in his method (used in all grades).”

Many studies show technology is effecting our attention span and memory. It is literally re-wiring our brains differently. According to a new cognitive research out of Germany, “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between parts of the brain.” Drawing skills benefit our ability to contribute to dozens of skill-sets and contributes significantly to how efficient our brains age and work over all.

Colleen Barry (b.1981, American)

I post a figurative art stream on Twitter featuring contemporary artists. The gratitude I receive from artists and art lovers is my reward. So many people do not realize we are living in a renaissance of classically trained artists. If you would like to visit it please go to Twitter.com/Uridev.

Artists Work by order of appearance

  1. Camie Salaz (b.1977, American) drawing for the painting of “Orion”
  2. Maria Kreyn (b. 1985, Russia)
  3. Roberto Ferri (b.1978, Italy)
  4. Shane Wolf (b.1976, American)
  5. Junghoon Lee (South Korean)
  6. Elizabeth Zanzinger (b.1980, American)
  7. Left: Steven Assael (b.1957, American)
  8. Right: Shana Leveson (American)
  9. Edward Schmidt (b.1946, American)
  10. Colleen Barry (b.1981, American.)

The Nude in Art & The Evolution of Consciousness

The nude has experienced as many highs and lows in the art world as a manic depressive painter. Tim Marlow in The Nude In Art explains, “For at least 30,000 years, humans have represented the naked form in a variety of ways.”

To the Greeks and Romans, the male nude was a symbol of physical perfection the body was capable of achieving. The female nude was more focused on the deities that birthed the world.

Colleen Barry - The Nude in Art
New York artist, Colleen Barry (b.1981)

The British, although prudish by nature, enthusiastically collected nude paintings during the Victorian era.

Inspired by the French and Internationalism of the Orientalists, even Queen Victoria bought nudes for her husband Prince Albert.

War often changes everything in the arts. The world moved through not one but two world wars.

After WWII, figurative paintings became associated with Nazi Art or the propaganda art that used Socialist Realist Art. Western Germany became repulsed by figurative work. The Nude went back into the closet.

Studying art history, I’ve noted a correlation between the nude in art with what is known as Skirt Length Theory. When times are financially difficult, skirt lengths get longer and art on the walls gets more prudish. When we are in a positive state financially and emotionally, we tend to feel more comfortable revealing extra flesh in our clothing and in our art.

The Nude in Art - D Jeffrey Mims
North Carolina born artist #DJeffreyMims (b.1954)


The Nude in Art - Daniela Astone
Italian painter Daniela Astone (b.1980)

Sadly, I’ve noted a pattern in censorship of the female in nude when women begin to become more empowered. Francesco Goya’s Nude Maja (c.1800) offended audiences not so much because his mistress was naked, but that she is comfortable in her nakedness. She locks eyes with the viewer completely unashamed to be seen in her birthday suit. A hundred and twenty years later we see police shut down a gallery in Paris when Amedeo Modigliani painted a woman comfortable in her body and her sexuality.

Now, yet another 120 years later, the London underground (as well as Hamburg and Cologne), have deemed the nudes of famous Austrian painter Egon Schiele too daring for his own 100 year anniversary celebration next year.

People sometimes ask why artists would continue to paint nudes when they “offend” people? Do they? In my article, How Social Media Is Editing Our World View On How And What We See, I go into more detail on how computer algorithms and moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision to remove posts, breaking European censorship laws.

Artists paint and draw the human form because there nothing more challenging than to do so. It requires great skill in anatomy, foreshortening, understanding skin tone, light and shadow. Every emotion is held in the human body and no one has the same face or body two days in a row. You could paint the same model every day for the rest of your life and it would be a new person every time.

The Nude in Art - Zack Zdrale
American artist Zack Zdrale (b.1977)

I think what history has taught us about knee jerk reactions to nudes is this: naughty or nice is a projection of our own self image. If we vilify the human body, how will we (or our children) ever feel comfortable in our own skin?

When we take something natural and attach shame to it, something bad happens. It becomes a shadow part of us and acts out inappropriately. We get people secretly addicted to porn, who do not honor boundaries, pedophiles and men in the workplace that act like Harvey Weinstein.

Featured Image: American Painter Adrian Gottlieb (b.1975) “Pasithea”.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev

Art Censorship: How Social Media Edits Our World View

With all the horror terrorizing the world, something wonderful happened recently for the arts, and we have the French to thank for it.

In a landmark censorship case against art, the French ruled that Facebook can be sued in France for censoring content. Parisian teacher Fréderic Durand-Baissas had his account suspended 5 years ago after he posted Gustave Courbet’s painting, The Origin of the World, because it depicts female genitalia.

The social media giant tried to insist complaints had to be tried in California Courts. They lost as the French courts said, we think not. The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users.

M. Durand-Baissas, a 57 year old art lover and a father of two was angry at being portrayed as a pornographer after posting the famous 1866 oil painting. He told AP News Service, If (Facebook) can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France can.

As a professional artist and a curator of contemporary figurative artists emerging from the atelier systems, the issue of censorship on social media has been an ongoing issue. One of the problems is that social media image scanning algorithms cannot tell the difference between pornography and the painted image.

In fact these algorithms often can’t decipher the images they are viewing. For example, this painting by Marco Grassi was removed from my feed and my account was frozen for three days. (It was properly identified for copyright and included his bio).

Art Censorship - Marco Grassi - Autocorpo
©Marco Grassi, “Autocorpo”, oil painting. This painting caused my Facebook account to be suspended for 3 days. The algorithm could not tell a marble arm or a human foot from a penis.

France is not the only country taking issue with Facebook, Norway, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands have also insisted Facebook explain itself and about its ludicrous censorship policies. Examples include male nipples being OK, female nipples banned. Breastfeeding is banned but the beheading of a human or the evisceration of an animal is not.

Norwegian author Tom Egeland had his account suspended when he posted the Pulitzer prize winning photo The Terror of War which depicts children, including a naked girl fleeing from a napalm attack. The subject was about photos that changed the history of warfare.

One of the issues with trying to contest our pages being shut down is that most of the complaints are turned over to a low paid home based operator. Often, especially in European accounts, moderators are Chinese, Indian or even American companies with a deeply Christian tradition   Moderators impose their own cultural or religious belief on their decision, often breaking European censorship laws.

A clear example of this happened to American Senior Art critic and columnist for the New Yorker Magazine, Jerry Saltz. Saltz was kicked off of Facebook for posting images of medieval art. Although he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times, a blitz of hate and insults were directed at him personally.

The problem is that anyone who views art or imagery which conflict with their own beliefs can have your page shut down by moderators. A Muslim man that expects his wife to be covered is not going to want to see a woman in her natural form. White nationalists target paintings with people of color. The problem I have with this issue is the same question other artists have, “Why follow our art if you don’t like it?”

Having this kind of inverted censorship has created decades of the visually illiterate. Much of art being posted online is amateur, sentimental at best, toxic at worst. The classically trained painters are systematically blocked, often by people who want to control and punish others who see the world differently. It has become a tool for control those who embody shame, rage, religious dogma.

Cesar Santos, a master painter who trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, had 30,000 followers on Facebook. His account was closed by Facebook because “the haters kept reporting his nudes.”

Art Censorship - Cesar Santos - Map of an Island
© Cesar Santos, oil painting, “Map of An Island”.

If Social Media can create an Emotion Buttons its time for them to create an Art Button. An Art button would tell people they must be over 18 to view, that there might be nudity involved. If you view that person’s art page, you have agreed that you are of age and know what you may see. You will not have the right to report. (While they are at it they can design one for violence too).

How difficult could this be for coders if they have technology to recognize the skin of a child based on Markov Random Field Modelling? (I won’t explain it because it’s too creepy).

Here’s an image by Kamille Corry that got my account blocked both on Facebook and on Twitter.

Art Censorship - Kamille Corry - Scorched Wings
©Kamille Corry, oil painting, “Scorched Wings”.

As long as social media censors art, our perception of both art and the human form will be distorted. The human anatomy is studied, drawn, and painted for years by professional artists. It is a satellite for every emotion and a timeless beacon of all that we all share, our humanness.

Art Censorship - Angela Cunningham
©Angela Cunningham, student work from Grand Central Atelier in NYC

Featured Image: A visitor in front of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 “The Origin of the World,” painting which depicts female genitalia at Musee d’Orsay museum, in Paris, France.

To follow my Twitter feed on contemporary figurative art you can find me at Twitter.com/Uridev