When I was a young boy, around 13 years old, I would sneak a look at my father’s Playboy Magazines. I was no different than any other boy when it came to what excited me. Then again I was different. The famous 60s supermodel, Veruschka, showed me that with these photos from Playboy that I first saw when I was perhaps 16.
Veruschka – Playboy Magazine, 1971
Seeing a naked woman in art and photography was not that big a deal to me, having grown up around the nude in artworks of all types in my grandparent’s and parent’s homes. But this was not a naked woman, this was a woman transformed into something other than herself while at the same time expressing an even greater sense of who she was. It was a revelation.
Veruschka as a Peacock
Veruschka in Pink
In that and other pictorials she also became men, Marilyn Monroe, unzipped herself and transformed from animal to vegetable among other things. No other woman transfixed my imagination as a youth like she did. All the rest came and went, but Veruschka stayed in my mind as a woman apart. Not a model only, not a muse only, but an artist.
Verushka as a Man
Veruschka the Redneck
Veruschka started out as Vera Lehndorff but was unsuccessful as a model under that name and so reinvented herself as the mysterious Russian, Veruschka. She actually was born in Prussia (Poland) before WWII and was a very tall and gawky 6’1″ by the time she was 14 years old. She was teased and made fun of for her looks and skinny angularity. She stopped growing at 6’4″. She, along with Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, were the first supermodels, dominating the covers and editorials of Vogue and every other fashion magazine of the 60s and early 70s.
Veruschka – Vogue Cover
Veruschka – Life Magazine Cover, 1967
One of the most amazing things about Veruschka was that she did almost all the creative work on her fashion shoots. She did her own hair and makeup, as well as have creative control over the editorial scheme of the shoots in many cases. If you look close at her early fashion images you can see the roots of her later artwork.
Veruschka – Early body painting work
Notice the ‘Flower Power’ body painting work from the late 60s.
Veruschka in Brown
Veruschka in Green
Notice how she creates a visual image in which she completely blends in to her background. It’s a life long obsession to blend into the background that you will see reach it’s apex in her artwork.
Cheetah and Veruschka
Early on in her modeling career she worked to incorporate herself as animal into her shoots.
Fast forward to the 1980s and I find a book by Vera Lehndorff called ‘Veruschka | Trans-Figurations’. It documents a 16 year collaborative art project between herself and the photographer Holgar Trulsch. During those 16 years Veruschka painting herself to match various surroundings, from oxidized metal in abandon factories to boulders to weathered wood to the sky itself. Finding the book was like finding a dear friend after many years and seeing the amazing things she had done with her life. It’s one of my most treasured books because it is that perfect combination of visual beauty, conceptual brilliance, individual creative drive and surprise that I love.
Here are some examples from that book.
Veruschka in the Forest
Veruschka Among Boulders
Veruschka and Electrical Box
Veruschka and Tree
Veruschka and Steel Pillar
Veruschka and Linen Closet
Veruschka and Window
Veruschka and Sky
If you are thinking you’ve seen this sort of thing done many times before, you are right. Body painting has become a big thing over the past 2 decades in art and media culture around the world. You can see it among celebrities, in sports and in fine art. There are whole groups dedicated to it now with annual conferences and events. Take a look below to see some of the influence Veruschka has had.
Sports Illustrated Body Paint book
Gotye video still – Somebody That I Used To Know – Emma Hack, artist
And finally here are some contemporary fine artists at work using the technique Veruschka developed.
Bookcase – Desiree Palmen
Bus Stop – Desiree Palmen
Qui Zhijie – tattoo 2
If you are interested in learning more about Veruschka or the evolution of the use of the body as a canvas start in google images and just type in Veruschka body painting and you will find plenty to investigate. Search under Qui Zhijie and Desiree Palmen to find out more about their art.
I first got to know the work of Albrecht Durer, who was a Northern Renaissance artist, when I took an advanced seminar course on printmaking at the Boston Museum of Fine Art while I was attending Brandeis University. I found his work harder to understand than the other two artists we studied, Rembrandt and Goya, but that didn’t make me appreciate his genius any less. And a genius he was. Take a look at his self-portrait when he was a very young teenager.
Albrecht Durer – Self-portrait at age 13 – 1484
He was raised to be a goldsmith like his father but was such a talent that he apprenticed the largest printmaking shop in the area instead. He traveled around Germany after that and eventually made his way to Italy where he drew some of the first pure landscapes in the history of Western Art.
Albrecht Durer – ‘The Great Piece of Turf’ – Watercolor, Pen & Ink – 1503
He was one of the first in Northern Europe to systematically investigate anatomy in detail, drawing hundreds of figures and diagrams to help himself understand the nature of the human body.
Albrecht Durer – Nude Self Portrait – Pen & Ink – 1503-1505
Albrecht Durer – Figure of a Woman Shown in Motion – 1528
Albrecht Durer – Studies on the Proportions of the Female Body – Woodcut – 1528
Albrecht Durer – Adam and Eve – 1507
His greatest fame though came from his printmaking. By his mid-2os he was famous throughout Europe for his incredible engravings and woodcuts. The engravings are what I studied at the Museum. They are deeply symbolic and allegorical in many cases.
Albrecht Durer – Melancholia – engraving – 1507
Albrecht Durer – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Woodcut – 1498
Albrecht Durer – Knight, Death and the Devil – Engraving – 1513
His detail and composition are always expert of course but it is his willingness to expose deep truths and fears of life that always grabs me the most.
Finally, if you ever look at artwork involving praying hands, such at the huge bronze sculpture of praying hands here in Tulsa, here you are seeing the foundational drawing that they all are rooted in. Probably his most famous work to the non art oriented public. Interesting enough, it is not titled ‘Praying Hands’.
Albrecht Durer – Hands of an Apostle – Drawing – 1508
Durer is well worth investigating, not just the images but his story as well. You can read about him at Wikipedia as a start of course. And the images here can be found at WikiPaintings.org, a great resource.
Hey Everyone, it’s wintertime again and that means I am going to restart my ‘Artist’s I Love’ Series. I will do an artist each weekend or so for a while. Let me know if you have a favorite artist, it might jog my memory and I’ll want to include them too!
If you want to see last year’s series, check it out under ‘Artist’s I Love‘.
Roger Brown Exhibition – 1981 – Catalog cover
First up for this year is Roger Brown. I first saw his work while I was a student in Graduate School at San Jose State University. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but I saw a show of his work and it blew me away. He combines humor, social commentary, great painting (and other media) techniques, fantastic color and spot on compositions. He is inventive, creative, always moving forward in exploring the possibilities of art.
I got this catalog from a Roger Brown exhibition that I did NOT attend. I was at a museum that had a few pieces of his and saw this catalog in the museum bookstore and had to have it. It’s been opened a LOT since I got it 30+ years ago, as you can tell by what shape it is in. He’s been one of my favorite artists ever since.
The Entry of Christ into Chicago in 1976 – Roger Brown
This image might be his most famous piece and it’s indicative of his imagery, high contrast and stylized into flattened patterns with repetitive elements. The subject matter is both contemporary and historical, which is also typical of many of his images. But there is a decided anti-religious feel to the piece, as if it is a tacky city-sponsored event.
‘Talk Show’ – Roger Brown
He frequently uses suburban scenes, most often with the banality of that world appearing to be the message. At the same time he uses it so much that I have always go the feeling that he knows and actually has affection for that world, even while leveling a sort of frustrated critique on it.
‘Devil’s Surprise’ – Roger Brown
‘Jim and Tammy Show’ – Roger Brown
As is obvious, he has no love lost for organized religion in this painting. The surprise that the churchgoers are the ones in hell probably has a lot to do with his being from the south and having been raised with that baptist fundamentalism all around him. His tacky, paperdoll cut out view of Jim and Tammy Bakker, preachers who fell from grace in the 90s, also give that message.
‘Post Modern Res Erection’ – Roger Brown
He has also played around (pun intended) with making light of America’s sexual obsessions, which isn’t unrelated to our religious ones.
‘Family Tree Mourning’ – Roger Brown
His social commentary wasn’t restricted to just two of the taboo dinner subjects, religion and sex, he dealt with the third as well, politics. Here he connects all our wars up until that time into a gigantic national family tree. He obviously felt that war had come out of and had overwhelmed the goodness of our founding.
He did a number of fine art prints and in this case made sure the viewer knew it was a print by saying so right on it. I like that cheekiness.
‘Twin Towers’ – Roger Brown – 1977
Brown delved into 3D work in his later career while not actually straying very far from his thematic and visual focus. This is obviously done much closer to the construction of the World Trade Center than it’s destruction, but it has a very moving feel to it, with the emphasis on the silhouettes in each window busy doing their work.
Here are just a few more I think are of interest.
‘Crater’ – Roger Brown
“City Expanding’ – Roger Brown
If you like his work you can read more about him at:
Finally Step 10!
Step 10a-10d: See 1a-1d
Step 10e: Get divorced after 20 years of marriage.
Step 10f: Start dating woman from church who is also getting divorced.
Step 10g: Stop dating woman from church and introduce her to guy in Sunday School.
Step 10h: Have woman from church say she can’t ever talk to me again because her new boyfriend I introduced her to is jealous.
Step 10i: Go internet dating.
Step 10j: Have some wonderful girlfriends who aren’t quite the right fit.
Step 10k: Meet woman on match.com, think she is cool and date her for 2 years, with a break up in there somewhere.
Step 10l: Meet woman from match.com’s daughter and think she is cool.
Step 10m: Ask woman from match.com to marry me.
Step: 10n: Get married to woman from match.com
Step 10o: Find out woman from match.com’s name is Linda.
Step 10p: Live happily ever after.
This is a great place to stop for a while. I will pick it back up later, maybe doing it once a week or so.
Concept, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman, who thought internet dating was fun.
Fact of the day
Approximately 1/3 of marriages in the US are step-family involved remarriages for one or both partners.
It sounds worse than it was, but it was bad.
Steps 9a-9d: Repeat 1a-1d
Step 9e: Watch as wife drifts away from relationship.
Step 9f: Watch as company where I have dream job goes bankrupt.
Step 9g: Become unemployed.
Concept, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman, who didn’t actually almost drown himself in a big reusable jelly jar glass.
Fact of the day
The average American spends 4 years at a job. In Portugal the average is 12.5 years.
Take a road trip with me across the country!
Steps 8a-8d: See 1a-1d
Step 8e: Give up looking for a college teaching job after 8 unsuccessful years.
Step 8f: Retrain yourself in computer graphics, using your family’s and friend’s computers during the day while they are at work.
Step 8g: Land a dream job in Tulsa, Oklahoma after you promise the company you will use your own computer as your work computer.
Step 8h: Drive sight unseen 1,692 miles across the country with your wife and kids to start a new life.
Step 8i: Start at entry level pay that is less than you made working four part-time jobs back in California.
Step 8j: Work hard and get promoted until 18 months later you are the Art Director and Producer at an educational software company.
Concept, Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman, who doesn’t actually have a cowboy hat but wants one.
Fact of the Day
Oklahoma originally was going to be 2 states but the Republican controlled congress did not want 4 Democratic senators added to their ranks. They made the two potential states into one so that only 2 would be appointed. Oklahoma was admitted to the union in 1907.
Yes, I am trying to draw you in.
Steps 7a-7d: see 1a-1d
Step 7e: Get a part time job teaching drawing at a community college.
Step 7f: Get another part time job doing the same thing at a different community college.
Step 7g: Get a third job doing the same thing at yet another community college.
Step 7h: Keep your job working in a restaurant, creating art and raising your family.
Step 7i: Apply for full-time teaching jobs at colleges and universities all around the country.
Step 7j: Repeat steps 7e-7i for 9 years.
Concept, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Trivia of the day
The teaching job I applied for that had the most applications was at the University of Virginia. There were 0ver 600 applications for one Assistant Professor position.
It’s a new week and we are graduating to step six!
Step 6a-6d: See steps 1a-1d.
Step 6e: Move 515 miles to first college out of high school. Miss first semester because of being blown up.
Step 6f: Move 919 miles to second college because first college closes down. Lose girlfriend.
Step 6g: Move 3,072 miles to third college because you can’t afford the second college. Get Religion.
Step 6h: Graduate from 3rd college. Get married, have kids.
Step 6i: Move 2,399 miles to go to graduate school. Have car crash that should have been an omen.
Step 6j: Move 2,431 miles to second graduate school because you get kicked out of first graduate school for being a crappy artist.
Step 6k: Graduate from Graduate school. Start looking for jobs.
Concept, drawings and commentary by Marty Coleman, who wasn’t really as crappy an artist as the professor said, but was still pretty bad.
Fact of the day
There are over 2,700 colleges and universities in the US as of 2009. My immediate family has gone to 12 of them and graduated from 5 (so far).
I know you have been waiting for this, so I am putting it on the table for you!
Steps 5a-5d: See steps 1a-1d
Step 5e: Get job at a restaurant.
Step 5f: Draw and photograph many of your co-workers and patrons (but not the ones you spill things on).
Step 5g: Meet art teachers, dealers and collectors and show them your work.
Step5h: Meet famous people and rich people and encourage them to buy your art.
Step5i: Repeat for 13 years.
Step 5j: Draw another waiter (not me, in spite of the resemblance, really) spilling food and wine all over.
Step 5k: Color in drawing of waiter. Use pretty colors.
Concept, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman, who never spilled wine or food on anyone but did drop a few plates.
Fact of the Day
The highest amount paid for a painting by a living artist is 34.2 million dollars at an October, 2012 Sotheby’s Auction. The artist is Gerhard Richter and the seller was Eric Clapton.
Here is a photo of the painting being sold. It's the colorful one.
I know you weren’t expecting this, but it was due!
Steps 4a-4d: Repeat steps 1a-1d.
Step 4e: Meet someone.
Step 4f: Marry them (traditional version)
Step 4g: Have sex with them (traditional version)
Step 4h: Get pregnant, or help at least (traditional version)
Step 4i: Have baby (traditional version)
Step 4j: Repeat 4g-4i as often as you wish.
Step 4k: Draw baby being born from memory. (don’t draw as it happens, that would be rude).
Step 4l: Color in drawing (be accurate)
Concept, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman, who contributed to this scenario 3 times (and added another in an untraditional way).
Trivia of the day
An average of approximately 3,000 babies in the US are dropped upon delivery each year.