Well yesterday was International Women’s Day and I was honoured and delighted to be asked to do a talk about being an Erotic Artist at the Library at Burton on Trent in celebration of it, alongside designer Mariama Tushemeriirwe, author Janet Bennett and singer Hayley Di Rito who was accompanied by Blue Yates on the guitar. And I feel that the audience were very appreciative of our talks and that we were very inspirational for them. It was interesting for me to hear the other speakers talk about aspects of their lives, and to hear the positive affirmation of striving to follow your dream, overcoming hardships, finding people who inspire and help your creativity, finding support through like minded people, and being brave enough to tell others about it, and finding how much they appreciate the fact you do! Wow! What a night!
Various friends had rung, emailed or texted me to wish me good luck before hand, which was really sweet that they were thinking of me and wanted to wish me well with their support, I really did appreciate it!
I arrived a good hour early and was met by the positive and ever helpful Janet, who works at the library, and introduced me to the lovely Mariama, and we were shown the set up and the stage and seating for the audience. Ok, it was relaxed and informal and the emphasis was on the word “fun” for the evening. I’d been practicing my talk for a few days beforehand, and hoped that I wouldn’t dry up during it! I was on in the first half, after Mariama had spoken. Then there was to be an interval for coffee and then Janet spoke, followed by Hayley singing. I’d met the delightful Hayley briefly in somewhat different circumstances, since she was at the house of a friend of mine the other week, and we’d said hi over a game of Trivial Pursuit!
There were enough people in the mostly feminine audience for me to still feel that I could relate to them as individuals and I was delighted that they came to speak to me before and after my talk, and at the end of the evening. Some were inspired enough to want to talk to me about the possibility of me doing commissions for them, some wanted to talk about the prints I’d taken with me, and some wanted to talk about their interest in art. All interesting, as ever, and really nice to interact with them as friendly people. The head librarian asked me afterwards how many times I’d said my talk before and was surprised when I said it was the first time. He said that it sounded natural and I said that I’d been practicing it out loud for the last few days, so I’m glad that I did, even if the cat was a little bemused my by actions!!!!
It’s been interesting for me to sum up my life so far in a succinct talk lasting 20 minutes, to complete strangers. I looked at the who-what-why-how-where-when aspect to help me put it in order. And its really focused me again on to what I do and who I am. One woman told me afterwards that she was enthralled with my talk, so that was great to hear! And for those who missed it – this is the basis of my talk:
Hello, Iâ€™m Jackie Adshead and Iâ€™m a landscape painter.
I also paint portraits of humans and animals, houses, scenes and various objects, cats and dogs, horses, tigers and other big cats, children, mythical beasts, and fantasy pictures. But youâ€™re not interested in that, because no one ever is! I donâ€™t know why, but people are always far more interested in the fact I do Erotic art, more than anything else! And for some reason, I always seem to sell more erotic art than the â€œnormal stuffâ€. But then what is normal? For me, erotic art is.
Iâ€™ve spent all my life painting. Iâ€™ve never stopped since I first picked up a crayon as a toddler, and I had my first commission at the age of 13 for my history teacher at school, and I’ve painted many things for many people, but the artwork has changed a bit since then! So Iâ€™ve always had the talent to paint within me, but I like to push my boundaries a bit, and like a challenge, and love to be creative so for that reason I am probably unusual in that I will paint any subject matter, I donâ€™t limit myself to just painting flowers, or landscapes, or people. Or to a certain style. I love to paint in watercolours, acrylics or oils. And to draw with pencil or pen and ink. And I do surreal, abstracts, fantasy, camouflage art, as well as representational. I am a painter rather than an illustrator. In that I try to catch the essence and feel of the subject rather than a totally true representation. You can use a camera for that. But the image will be more stark. Painting is softer and more accepting, accentuating the good bits, and lessening the bad bits.
I know I am unusual in that I am a woman doing erotic art. But I love doing it, as an artist painting other people and making them look good. I love to see women in art, and painting art for women, as a woman artist. I believe all women can look erotic, regardless of their age, or body size. We all like to feel attractive, itâ€™s that that I try to find, to pick up on, and put the essence of it into the painting.
I am most inspired by Caravaggio for his dramatic use of light and deep darks. And I also love the work of Dali, Jack Vettriano, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, Josephine Wall, Jim Warren.
I must admit, as far as jobs go, there arenâ€™t many jobs where itâ€™s perfectly normal for people to take their clothes off for you â€“ but my job is one of them! People feel at ease when I draw them. They take their clothes off, and I just keep the eye contact, and whatever they look like is ok. They will only find it strange if the response is negative. To me itâ€™s a positive experience.
Having said that, as far as Iâ€™m concerned drawing a human body is just the same as drawing a bottle or a vase of flowers, I look at the lines, and the tones, the form, where the light is hitting the body and work out the best composition. People sometimes ask me if Iâ€™m turned on by looking at the erotic images, and are probably surprised when I say that I am not. Its just work for me! Because itâ€™s just an object Iâ€™m drawing regardless of what it is. But, what I have to bear in mind when I draw an erotic image is that I donâ€™t feel sexy when Iâ€™m drawing the picture, and the model might not even feel sexy if itâ€™s a difficult pose and theyâ€™re trying to keep still for me. But, what I need to capture is that certain something, the essence, that will make the viewer feel erotic when they look at it. And that is such a subtle thing to capture, and is something that may be different in all of us.
The way I describe â€œeroticâ€ is that it is something that makes you wonder…… what has that person done beforehand to now be in that position and place and time, and what are they going to do next? The way I describe â€œeroticâ€ is this â€“ if I draw any one of you sitting here as you are now, it would be a portrait. If you were sitting here in the same position stark naked, then it would be a life drawing pose. If you were sitting here stark naked doing something graphically sexual (and Iâ€™ll leave that to your vivid imaginations!) then that would be pornographic. But that leaves nothing to the imagination. But what I draw is the erotic â€“ the sensual, the sexy and the suggestive. And I can draw an erotic image where the woman in it is fully clothed, because it may just be the look on her face that makes it look erotic. And erotic is becoming more acceptable in main stream. Weâ€™re all used to seeing erotic images in magazines and on the telly â€“ and donâ€™t tell me that Nigella Lawson isnâ€™t promoting erotic, because she is! Her cooking is a by-product! Itâ€™s the enjoyment of sensual things â€“ whether its food, sensual experiences or erotic art.
How I started being an Erotic Artist was by attending life drawing classes about ten years ago, and I found that a strange experience to start with, until I realised that although the room was full of people, and one of them was totally naked, it was all quite normal, and the naked woman was an object, like a beautiful vase, and not something that was considered dirty and rude, so I just got on with drawing, as was everyone else in the room, and I realised how difficult it is, because if you draw a tree, it doesnâ€™t matter if the trunk is a little too wide, or if one of the branches is too long, but it does if itâ€™s a human body, the measurements have to be right, and the arms and legs need to look like they are all connected to the body and that the head sits on the shoulders. But after a few weeks of being at a life drawing class and looking at the work Iâ€™d done, I wondered how I could make it look more interesting, and life like, and I realised that itâ€™s what I was leaving out that made the picture more interesting, as it leaves it to your imagination. And I drew with white crayon on black card instead of black pencil on white paper and that made it more dramatic. And it evolved from there.
I love it when someone contacts me and wants me to paint their passion, because then I can put my passion into creating it for them. And it doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s erotic or not, I just love painting!
But as well as erotic art I love painting secrets â€“ and have done some erotic landscapes (see, I told you I was a landscape painter!). I had a commission a few years ago from a chap from Windsor, who asked me to paint a picture of the New York skyline at night as the typical picture but with an erotic couple hidden within the painting so that people viewing it wouldnâ€™t know unless they looked closer or had it pointed out to them. And also that very same week (and there must have been something in the air that week!) that he asked me to paint that picture I was commissioned to do a painting for a woman in Dorset who wanted an erotic picture to hang over her bed that her four year old son wouldnâ€™t recognise as anything other than a landscape. She wanted me to paint an erotic landscape where the couple are actually the geography of the land – the picture is based on Lands End â€“ there is sky, sea, cliffs, a beach, sand dunes, a cave, and a tree, and a bit of a phallic lighthouse in the distance. And to innocent eyes, this picture is nothing more than that. But to less innocent people, it is far more than that. You can see the man and the woman within the picture, and you can see what they are doing. It is both erotic, and a landscape. And itâ€™s the thing that I am most proud about, because it took three months of hard work to design it. And innocence only sees innocence in my work.
But as well as that I love hiding the subject matter within my art too â€“ like in the set of erotic feminine abstracts that I have painted that just looks like brightly colourful abstract shapes, but are actually a very intimate picture although most people looking at it wouldnâ€™t have a clue â€“ which makes it the ultimate conversation piece as far as I am concerned! A female Sex Therapist told me that a lot of her patients have issues with their body image, and seeing my beautiful and positive paintings might help them to over-come that. They have empowered the women who have participated in them, since they find them therapeutic and spiritual, and a little bit naughty as well! They are currently hanging on walls in America, and England, and a woman contacted me from New Zealand in raptures over them and what they stood for. I love the fact they are affecting women world wide. I painted one for a woman in Canada whose young step-son described it as â€œthe sky diving pictureâ€, because that was what it looked like to him. Again, innocence only sees innocence.
And from doing those pictures I was asked by a woman in California to paint a body portrait of her in the style of the feminine abstracts . She rang me specifically to tell me which tones and shades of which colours she wanted in it, and which she didnâ€™t. And that’s how I developed the â€œLiving Flameâ€ pictures. They are pastel colours glazed one on top of the other to create pretty and translucent shades which everyone seems to find very appealing. Iâ€™ve painted a chap from London in this style, as well as a couple which I sold to a collector of my work, in Chicago. I love the fact that one painting might lead on to another one because of one aspect that evolves into another and so on. The ideas for the art flow on and I love that aspect.
And I like to hide messages within my art too â€“ like when I was asked to do a watercolour painting for a couple from London of a particular village in Southern France that they had visited a lot, and I suggested that they might like their initials hidden within the buildings itself. They loved that idea, as it made it far more personal to them, but I knew we were going to have a problem, as did the woman when I mentioned it. So, I had to just put in just their initials, and not the â€œandâ€ part â€“ since otherwise it would have spelt out â€œM & Sâ€ or worse still â€œS & Mâ€!
I have exhibited a lot in the East Midlands, and with the Guild of Erotic Artists who are based in St. Albans in the Hertfordshire. I am featured in their second book, and have copies to sell if anyone is interested. Itâ€™s an international group and they actively try to promote the acceptance of erotic art. Having said that of course, itâ€™s becoming more and more acceptable when you open most glossy magazines, or look at the adverts on the telly. But itâ€™s a really nice friendly group to be part of and they are very supportive to everyone in the group. I have exhibited twice at Erotica (the liberated lifestyle event) at Olympia in London, which was an eye opening experience and great fun! I got chatting to a guy there who asked me â€œWhy is a nice girl like you exhibiting here?â€ and the answer I gave him was that if I could sell enough vanilla artwork then I wouldnâ€™t need to sell erotic stuff! But, I do love doing it, because itâ€™s difficult, and the most challenging of art to do, because of the subtle nuances of it. It’s my niche market, and its one I love.
I am on Facebook. I have a website which promotes my art worldwide, and I write a blog about being an erotic artist, and some of the very strange conversations I have with people. Someone once thought I was an erratic artist. And someone else thought I was a neurotic artist, I donâ€™t know how one of those paints, very shakily, I suppose!
I have had a number of people brought to tears through a special commission that theyâ€™ve asked me to do, and when that happens I know itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve touched their soul with mine. I know that people like to see what they look like through another personâ€™s eyes, and I know I have been good therapy to some of the people who I have drawn, because theyâ€™ve told me so, with emotion in their voices. Someone I drew with a perceived lack of confidence says Iâ€™m good therapy because she was surprised I wanted to draw her and that she was so inspirational for me. Her elderly mother got emotional because when she saw the images as it reminded her of how she was as a younger woman. I have seen within them and itâ€™s deeper than looking in a mirror.
And Iâ€™d like to think that I have brought a lot of pleasure to people through my art. I know I have done so far, and I hope to continue to do so. I try to touch peopleâ€™s hearts and hope that they feel more enriched through knowing me. And I hope that I am an inspiration.
What I love most, and try to paint, is the thing that I think is most important in the world. And that is the power of communication – whether it is through the spoken word, touch, empathy, painting pictures for other peopleâ€™s pleasure, or for my own, the written word, or just the look between two people. And as a woman, I think thatâ€™s important for us all.