I’m ashamed to admit that, for most of my life, I didn’t quite understand nude painting. Whilst nudity seemed more than appropriate in other contexts, I could never quite make the connection between art and nudity. Yes, I know, I’m frightfully uncultured.
Still, since I’ve been trying to become more of an artist and learn more about art history over the past couple of months, it was only natural that the whole subject of nude art would come up eventually.
After a vigourous debate with myself, I decided to take the plunge and attempt to master this mysterious type of painting. And, well, I’ve had a lot of fun and learnt a lot in the process.
Still, I should probably warn you that nude painting isn’t for the prudish or the faint of heart.
But, if you’re interested, here are four basic tips which could come in handy:
1) Underwear still counts as clothing: A common mistake made by those who are new to nude painting is to ease themselves into it by painting in their underwear. Whilst this may seem like a relatively gentle and subtle way to learn the beginnings of nude painting, it is cheating. Not only that, the only person you are cheating is yourself.
Repeat after me – underwear still counts as clothing.
If you are painting in your underwear, then you might as well be wearing a three-piece suit for all the good it will do you. Do you think that Boticelli wore a pair of boxer shorts when he painted Venus? Do you think that Michelangelo was sporting a fig leaf as he sculpted David from a slab of the finest Tuscan marble?
Of course not! With nude art, it’s all or nothing.
2) Central heating: Another important consideration during nude painting is the ambient temperature of your studio. Be sure to crank the thermostat up a couple of notches before you begin painting in order to eliminate the possibility of any unwanted pointiness or shrivelling.
And, to all those hippie types who say things like “just wear a jumper, keeping your studio heated all day is bad for the environment” – you’re missing the point. As I implied earlier, jumpers are not conducive to proper nude painting.
Of course, others may object to cranking the thermostat for understandable financial reasons. Don’t worry, you don’t have to break the bank when it comes to creating the optimum thermal conditions for nude painting. After all, did our artistic forefathers have radiators? No, they didn’t. They relied on a good old-fashioned fire in the corner of the room.
A proper roaring fire is cheap, easy to construct and will also provide ample opportunities for roasting marshmallows whilst you are waiting for your latest masterpiece to dry.
3) En Plein Air: As even a novice student of art will tell you, there has been a long-standing and noble tradition of painting en plein air. In case you are of a more plebian disposition and do not understand even a word of French, painting “en plein air” simply means painting in the great outdoors.
However, if you choose to follow this grand tradition and paint en plein air, then care and discretion is advised. It is a sad fact that, despite the grand tradition of nude painting, the world is absolutely teeming with uncultured philistines who will blanch at even the mere sight of someone painting in the nude. In fact, some barbaric and repressive countries have even gone so far as to criminalise the activity!
So, like Caravaggio on the run from the authorities in Rome, you need to be smart. Personally, I would advise that you keep a trenchcoat on hand at all times. Wearing only a trenchcoat whilst travelling to the location of your next painting also saves you the trouble of stripping before you start painting (which can attract the attention of many uncultured people).
However, be sure to keep your trenchcoat securely buttoned at all times. I’m ashamed to admit it but, whilst taking the bus to the location of my third nude painting, I neglected to do this and caused something of an uproar.
I will spare you the details, but it ended with me having to emulate the Olympians of classical history as I heroically outpaced a contingent of seven burly gendarmes along the entire length of the Champs-Élysées.
4) Most importantly of all: