This blog often prints non-political posts on the weekend. This one's more discursive than most.
My hell-hound Bella is very stoned. That's because she's very sick again: Lethargy, refusal to eat, distended stomach. The vet prescribed a drug called Metronidazole, which is supposed to cure whatever is ailing her little intestines. But the side effects of that drug are lethargy and lack of appetite, which puts us right back where we started.
Another side effect: My dog is higher than the International Space Station. She looks at me as though she has no idea who I am. On the rare occasions when she rises from her bed, she's obviously listening to an extremely spacey rendition of "Tomorrow Never Knows" that no-one else can hear.
The doggie-doctor doesn't think she has cancer. I hope he's right about that. If I could allow myself any belief in the supernatural, I'd ask for help from my favorite saint
. She had a sheepdog named Pigou and would no doubt sympathize with my worries.
Art and...photography. (Nudge nudge!)
Although my schedule is pretty busy right now, one of these days -- soon -- I'd like to justify my miserable existence by picking up the brush again. As readers know, I collect oil paints
. Maybe it is time to put that collection to use.
But there's a problem. In an age characterized by the Hypersexualization of Everything
, how does an artist find models?
I don't want to paint nudes. Honest. Sure, there was a time when that sort of thing had a certain appeal, but now that my beard has more salt than pepper, my concerns are elsewhere.
Nowadays, alas, anyone who says "I'm looking for a model to photograph" is automatically presumed to be a letch and a fiend -- even if he simply wants reference photos of ordinary people doing ordinary stuff.
In our sick culture, everyone's default mode is set to "Eric Idle": Nudge nudge. Wink wink. Say no more.
"Reference photos?" you ask warily. "Isn't that cheating?"
Oh, come on. Wipe that look of disapproval off your face. Realistic artists have used reference photos since cameras were invented, and it's no use pretending otherwise. I once saw the photo used for St. Joseph in this painting
, and that takes us all the way back to 1849. True, some American giants -- N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker -- didn't use photo ref, but Maxfield Parrish and Frederick Remington did. The trick is to do it right
Norman Rockwell was quite open about this practice. Here's one of his most famous images:
Now, I think I could do a picture like this. It ain't easy. But...maybe
. What I can't
conjure up is the reference photo:
image is the true miracle. It cannot be recreated in today's world.
Think about it: How would a modern Norman Rockwell go about finding models and setting up the shoot? It's pretty easy to guess how the scene would play out...
21st century Norman Rockwell: First thing, I'll need a model who's a really big guy. Dressed like a cop.
21st century Everyperson, in Eric Idle mode: Say no more. Going all Village People on us, Norman? Looking to paint a macho, macho man? Nudge nudge. Wink wink.
21st century Norman Rockwell: And the other model I need is a little boy, about eight. Butch haircut, Buster Brown shoes...
21st century Everyperson, in Eric Idle mode: Woah! Say no more. Literally. The NSA is probably opening up a file on you right now, as we speak. For shame, Mr. Rockwell!
In today's culture, staging that photo would be impossible. Impossible
Okay, maybe you could do the job in Los Angeles -- if you can prove that you are a reputable television producer, and if you have a ton of money. But Norman Rockwell was just an average guy who asked other average people to pose for him. He always slipped them a few dollars for their trouble. The photo shoot would take maybe an hour, nobody went into Eric Idle mode, nobody accused Norm of being a perv, and it was all No Big Deal.
(Side note: When I first saw a reproduction of the "Runaway" painting, I was roughly the same age as the boy in the picture. What really fascinated me were those silver chairs. They seemed so real. If you carefully study the original photo
, you'll see several people reflected in the silver, including what appears to be Rockwell himself.)
So let's say I decided to paint a picture of my favorite saint in the meadow with her dog Pigou. (Would I actually paint so sentimental an image? Yes -- if money were involved.) How does one go about finding a model? And once one finds a suitable 12 year old girl, what does one say to her parents?
"I just want to take a few shots of your daughter. But she has to be dressed a certain way. I'll pay...!"
(Sound FX: Door slamming in face. Or maybe fist slamming in face.)
Yet Norman Rockwell, in his day, could put together a photo shoot like that quite easily. He did it all the time. That was his job.
In today's world, Norman Rockwell simply could not do business.
Once again, the Hypersexualization of Everything makes it impossible to do anything
. Why do we live in such a bizarre, restrictive society? We had more freedom when people didn't talk about sex.
I noticed something odd while watching the clip embedded above. At no time does Eric Idle actually say "Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more." Like "Play it again, Sam," that's one of the great lines-they-never-actually-said.