The painting is drying, the client is happy, and now its time for me to tell you more about this gorgeously erotic mysterious painting.
The client contacted me a few weeks ago wanting a painting done, he wasn’t fully sure what medium though, or whether he should be wearing a red Venetian feathered mask, or bare faced. He did know that he wanted to be seated on a red leather settee, and he did know which of the photos he sent me that he wanted as the basis of the painting. He had a good selection of photos to show me which helped me to create the picture he wanted although in his favourite photo he wasn’t seated on the settee, so I had to place him there which meant only one viewpoint would work in the pose he wanted.
Usually when I am asked to give advice to a client regarding which medium to create a painting in, one more than another will be obvious, but in this case I knew it would work beautifully in all of them whether it was watercolours, acrylics, or oils. What was important was getting that striking red as the backdrop and focus point in the picture. I knew it didn’t need anything else cluttering up the rest of the picture.
So to help the client decide, I did two half sized watercolour sketches to scale, one with the mask and one without. I knew which one I preferred and was delighted that the client chose it… the one with the mask of course! The mask instantly changes the picture from “life pose of naked man on a red leather settee” to “sexy erotic man of mystery in a dramatic Venetian mask showing his masculinity and possibly waiting for his lover whilst hiding his face, and maybe his playful side, behind the mask”. (Oooh, you can see which one appeals most to me! 🙂 ).
The client decided that he wanted the painting in oils on canvas (good decision!) and when the canvas duly arrived from the art materials supplier I started work on it. I drew it out and block painted the canvas in acrylics to get the strength of background colour down. That of course dried quickly, and was quickly applied.
Just to get the first layer of oils on, I replicated the same colours in a thin layer of oils over it. It dried within a day or so, although as always with oils, some colours dry quicker than others, and I’m never sure why when they are all painted on the same day. It must be a chemical thing, but the reds remained wet for a long time after the other colours had dried.
Then it was time, that glorious time, when the painting is created, the different areas built up, and the joy of the way I like to paint, in that there are subtle changes of colour within each part, the walls behind the man have little nuances of colour, as does the settee, the floor. They are not flat colours, they are live colours even though they are not the important part. They are the support for the focal point, of the man. When I was happy that I had them in, I could start painting the skin of the man. Skin is always wonderful to paint, because the more you look at flesh, the more subtle shades you can see in it, hints of blues, pinks, purples, browns, reds, yellows, peaches and creams, and almost black in the deep shadows. I spent a whole day just painting the body, and wanted to do it in one sitting to pick up the same shades within the body to keep it harmonious, when one particular tone is made up of reds, blues, yellows, burnt sienna, raw sienna and white, its incredibly difficult to find that happy mix again. The daylight was starting to go as I finished the last part of the leg in the foreground, but I had got the important parts together.
The next day when I was able to paint, and this is the slightly annoying, if that’s the word, part, with oils, that you have to wait for bits to dry before you can get to the next stage, even when you’re full of momentum, and excitement for it, you have to wait. And I made myself wait for the best bit, the bit that I was aching to paint…… the mask!
The mask had to be painted last of all, as it was on the mans face, over his shoulders, and infront of the wall. The wall and skin had to be reasonably dry before I could start the mask. The client wasn’t wearing the mask in the photo he sent me, but he did send me a photo of a beautiful Venetian mask to show me what he wanted, it had fine gold and red details on the mask, and scarlet and maroon feathers which were gorgeous and rich and solid colour but soft feathers too. I didn’t want to draw each individual feather but hint at their softness and featheriness. I put dabs of green in the feathers as a nice contrast to the red, and adding interest within them.
Then, happy with that, it was just a case of pulling the whole lot together, the shadows under the bum, legs and hands, the high lights on the settee where the light catches it. Those tiny details can take a few hours of looking, and adjusting, and making sure it all flows together within the picture.
I love this painting, I love the eroticism of it. I love the air of erotic mystery it evokes. I have called it “Man of mystery”. You have no idea who he is behind the mask. He could be someone famous, someone you know, your boss, your neighbour. Tomorrow when you are on the tube, at the theatre, watching a film, in Tescos, you will be wondering, mmm…. is ….. that him…..
So, my question now is, would you pose – whether you are man or woman – in this pose, naked, if you were wearing a mask like this, that hides your face totally…?