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Temptation: My Latest Painting

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Already I am back with my latest artistic effort. This painting came together more rapidly than any I have worked on for quite some time. Two weeks total from start to finish: not bad for a painting that measures 80x44"... especially when one considers the unbearable heat and humidity in my studio as of recent.

I had initially intended a clothed figure... something perhaps based upon the theme of Isabella and the Pot of Basil (Boccaccio and Keats) but all of the preliminary drawings in this direction were lame at best. After several days of frustration I decided simply to return to a theme I was somewhat comfortable with... a single nude... perhaps "Eve" I thought... with a potted plant and an apple. I reasoned with myself that once the work got under way, I could then make certain formal decisions... pushing myself in terms of color or of abstract design... or some other aspect so that the work wouldn't just be more of the "same old same old".

At some point during the drawing stage, I happened to grab one of my books on Michelangelo off the shelf... a detailed look at the Last Judgment to be exact. One thing I have marveled at is just how the greatest masters always surprise you and inspire you... no matter how well you think you may know them. I was simply blown away by the manner in which Michelangelo's figures twist and turn in space... thrusting toward the viewer or rushing away. There was nothing quite like this before Michelangelo... a little quite like this after.

Looking around at the accumulated body of my work I recognized that in almost all of the instances there was very little or no complex twisting or torquing of the figures... and almost all of the the figures stood or sat parallel to the picture plane. In part this was intentional... as I have been really building off earlier traditions: Byzantine, Persian, Medieval, and Early Renaissance... as well as Indian, Japanese, Arabic, and other Non-Western art. I decided, nevertheless, that I would add... that I "needed" a second figure... and one which displayed a greater complexity of gesture and form. I intended this second figure to be "Eve" while I would change the standing figure into a male "Adam".

I limited myself to the use of a warm, analogous color scheme intended to heighten the warmth and eroticism of the subject. I employed warm reddish copper leaf as well as gold. I also made the conscious decision to avoid the use of black... which in most of my previous works in this series has been a key compositional element. Within a matter of days the background was done... and I was on to the figures. I probably spent more time on these two figures than on any previously. They are clearly stylized... owing much to not only the distortions of Michelangelo and Rubens... but also the Mannerists... who were so influential upon me in art school. There is also something of William Blake and the wide-eyed figures of George Tooker... but ultimately these influences have been digested and synthesized until they simply are how I draw. At a certain point the "temptation" theme moved away from the traditional "Adam and Eve" to two female figures... with whatever connotations that may inspire.:o

Anyway... here are the results:

Again the materials used are pastel, acrylic paint, gold and copper leaf on paper, 80x44".

Thanks for looking!


  1. qimissung's Avatar
    I think this is your best yet, Stlukesguild. I love it. Yes, they are stylized, but they are looser (no pun intended ) than the earlier work of yours that you have posted here, and warmer, and more playful, and I think that it is the infusion of that last quality that gives this its strong, emotional impact. The women are earthy, reminding me just a little of of the term "rubenesque," and I love your spin on temptation.

    I also very much enjoy that you walk us through your thought processes as you figure out what works and what doesn't and your desire to challenge yourself. I guess that is true of any artist who is striving to grow. That's what I do when I write, anyway, so that part seemed very familiar to me.

    Do you think, in this painting, you were influenced by the French poetry you guys are reading?

    Anyway, I love it. All your stuff is good, but this, I think, is special.
    Updated 08-15-2010 at 03:50 AM by qimissung
  2. Maximilianus's Avatar
    What a wonderful talent, indeed! It must take a considerable amount of effort to accomplish such an outcome
  3. Virgil's Avatar
    I do like this very much StLukes. I love the orange tones, the body positions, the facial expressions, especially on the one sitting down.

    Two things caught my eye that I would say that you might consider on improving, unless of course they are intentional for some point you are trying to make. First, the left nipple on each girl is as far as I can identical. As someone who has looked at lots of nipples. () everyone's nipple is different to some degree. The second and more important, I can't help to feel that each girl's hair is artificial in comparison to the rest of the work. The way the hair is arranged, the way locks split off from the main, and the way the ends splinter. Don't know if you intended that, or if it's just my eyes. But it kind of feels out of sorts.
  4. stlukesguild's Avatar
    Virgil... I grant you the superior expertise in the matter of nipples but the similarity was indeed intentional. In painting, like poetry, there is something like rhyme... shapes repeated for compositional purposes. In this instance it was not only the position of the beasts but the positions of the arms that were repeated... all with variations.

    The comment on the hair is more pertinent. On one level I have been pushing the hair in a rather artificial direction. The red color is far more red than any true redhead I have seen and I am toying with other more unnatural colors... even blues and greens. And there is a certain artificial manner to the way the hair twists and turns... perhaps not unlike Michelangelo's pubic hair on his David On the other hand... you may be right... I may wish to focus more upon the way hair truly twists and turns and falls. This may be something that was not as much of an issue with the dark brunette hair because it didn't stand out so much. Considering the artifice of the figures I may need to look a bit at how the artists who influence my figure drawing (Blake, Rubens, Tooker, Michelangelo, the Mannerists, etc...) approach the hair... as well as looking at hair and doing some life drawing myself.

  5. stlukesguild's Avatar
    Max... thanks for the comments. It commonly takes somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-200 hours to complete one of my paintings... although this one came together quite rapidly... perhaps 60-80 hours at the most.

    qimissung... thanks for the comments. I do think the drawing style on these is if not "looser" more gestural... which in a way is far closer to my natural manner of drawing... or so it has been in the past... With these paintings I have been somewhat honing in this organic manner as being too "Baroque" as I have been after something more "iconic" and flat... but I am coming to the realization that the two may not be mutually exclusive.

    While I have never liked the artist's statements in which the artist presumes to tell the audience what the painting "means"... or where he or she employs the usual artistic catch phrases used in art school ("I'm employing an ironic juxtaposition of images dealing with gender issues...") I do interested in where an artist is drawing inspiration... in his or her thoughts which lead to the work in question. I don't know if the French poetry has influenced my work... although it has long been among my favorite literary work... and so it is indeed possible. Certainly I can see links with regard to the unabashed love of beauty, eroticism... art pour l'art... but then again, this might be something of the "chicken of the egg". Did the French Symbolism influence me (and my art)... or was I drawn to French Symbolism because it employed elements that were already interesting to me?

    Thanks again for looking and for the comments.
  6. Virgil's Avatar
    Thanks for the response StLukes. You make a lot of sense.