Thursday, June 13, 2013

22nd New Thing ~ In All Her Glory (The Prelude)

"Have my nude portrait painted," was on the list from the start.
Not in a salacious, tawdry way. (Can I count using the word 'tawdry' in a blog post, as a New Thing?)

You know, not trashy, but instead like the great portraits you see hanging over the fireplace in period movies and television: Jane Eyre, The King's Speech, Emma, Gone With the Wind, Downton Abbey, Gilmore Girls. (Okay, maybe not like Gilmore Girls.)

A striking piece of art.

Or even better, a moving piece of know? Like the portraits lining the wall of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Too creepy? Okay.

In times past, to have her portrait painted, a woman would sit for repeated sessions, hours and hours in the same position. This is not a common practice anymore. It happens sometimes, painting a live subject, but mostly technology trumps the romantic old ways. The romantic, traditional, tedious, uncomfortable, excruciating old ways. Photography has become the primary and practical alternative to the long sessions of sitting.

I made a call to my preferred professional photographer/painter/print-maker/reluctant 3-D animator and most recently, Pierce College Art Student of the Year, Darcy.
(Three cheers for Darcy!!!)

"Will you paint my portrait?"

It was together, we agreed that "sitting" for the portrait was simply not going to work. Aside from my packed calendar, her full-load school schedule, her work, her family, my family, my work and the impossible task of trying to find five mutually-free moments, she doesn't have a studio. She paints in her kitchen. Not exactly the most private of settings. Someday very soon she'll have her own art studio but until then, sitting for the portrait in her kitchen just wasn't going to work. Unless I wanted "Naked in front of Darcy's family" as another New Thing.

Darcy and I started discussing, planning, strategizing back in September/October. When people asked what was on my list for potential New Things, among other items, I said "Having my nude portrait painted." I continued to insist, "I'm doing this." My nude portrait. Yep, that's on my list. Absolutely. Nude painting. But I kept not committing. I was beginning to wonder if maybe I was all talk. Not deciding where and how. Putting it off. Darcy brought it up regularly. She mentioned how she pictured a backdrop of antiques. Something classic and traditional looking. A castle or museum atmosphere. (Let me call my friend, the prince.) I wasn't sold. Feeling like I wanted to keep thinking on it. Shall we do it in the forest? Down on the beach? Inside? Out? But I remained non-committal, the easiest thing being indecision.

Then one day I was in the Bath tub on the Deck . The day was so pretty. For a slow and gentle soak outside. The light, the color of the sky, the tint of my skin, the water of the Sound, the sound of the water, the reflecting water in the white porcelain tub. It was incredible but bathing on the deck usually is. So, I decided that it made perfect sense. One of my favorite New Things so far, is my tub outside. The association is powerful and peaceful. An image I'd love to have in a portrait.

Darcy drove out one Saturday. We talked about what I visualized for the photos and we got started. She went down to the deck to get an idea of the lighting and angles. I climbed into my swimsuit and robe, while the tub filled with warm water. It was early March. Clear but with a winter chill in the air.
I stepped into the water and slipped out of my suit.
Darcy started taking pictures.
After a few shots, me posed naked in front of her, I asked,"Does this feel weird to you?" 
"No," she answered from behind her camera.
"Yeah, me either," I said. "But is it a little weird that it doesn't feel more weird?"
"Yeah, a little."

It really wasn't awkward at all. I think perhaps the water felt like a buffer between me and the camera. I may have felt a little less naked than I would have otherwise.

Later I mentioned to a few people what I'd done over the weekend. Of the three men I told, two of them asked, "Was the photographer a man or a woman?" 
"A woman," I said
"Oh, well that's not so bad."

Wait, what? It's somehow a less brave thing because I did it in front of a woman instead of a man? I don't think so! When was the last time you posed nude to be photographed by a friend? Isn't it much more common to do the nude photography thing with a spouse, a partner or lover?
This felt much more brave to me than the cliche, heat of passion (or whatever), snapping pictures of each other as a form of foreplay. Frankly.

Can you tell this idiotic question and asinine conclusion rather pissed me off?

I told Darcy that I didn't want to preview any of the shots as we took them. You know that habit with digital photography: snap a picture, look a the display, snap a picture, look at the display. I wanted to avoid the temptation to scrutinize and review every shot. Just keep clicking.

One hundred and sixty-one shots later, I pulled on my robe and we headed back up to the house.
It was a little startling...161 shots.

Back in the warmth of the kitchen, Darcy looked through her work. "They're beautiful," she said. We had other things to do with the remainder of the day. She loaded the pictures onto my hard drive.

I didn't look at them until later that evening.
Not because I didn't have the chance to look at them but because I didn't have the courage. At least, at first.
I was afraid.
But eventually curiosity won out, as it often does and I sat down with my computer in my lap.

The pictures was mesmerizing. I loved them. They were stark and bold and stunning. I looked through the entire collection, repeatedly. Of course, some were better than others. Shots with my eyes half closed. My lips in mid-sentence. A furrow in my brow. Hey, I was completely naked, give me a pass here!

While scrolling through the pictures, I watched for the best one for a portrait. For Darcy to paint. I watched and clicked through again. And again. But as lovely as I found them, I just couldn't see the portrait I'd imagined. There was just something about the tub as a back drop. Turns out that even when the tub is outdoors, it's not all that remarkable to be naked in a bath tub.

So begging Darcy's forgiveness, I asked if we could do another photo shoot. One with a different setting. With different energy.
And so with some spontaneous research and on the spot resourcefulness, we worked out the perfect indoor location and just a few miles away, a delightful outdoor location. In one day, we hit them both.

I'll not name the indoor location in this post. I need to verify that it's okay to identify publicly. I told her I'd show her how the pictures turned out first. I'll get back to you on that.

The outdoor location was Elise's garden. While away to a family wedding, she & Jack allowed Darcy and I free license. (Thank you, good friends!)

My New Thing intent is the portrait: a beautiful, unique and personal portrait to hang on my wall. It has never been about posting nude photos on the Internet.

Darcy finished school this week. Today, in fact. "Done and done," she announced. But as hard as she's worked, I think she's entitled to say, "Done and done and done and done and done!" 

When the portrait is complete, I'll upload the image here.
Until then, I'll post a couple peripheral, family-friendly, casual shots.....just because.