BigGirl started as a challenge on a Yahoo mosaics group I belong to
Every month there is a theme to do a project around. One month the challenge theme was Something New. The idea was to try something you hadn't done before. Use new materials, do a design that radically differs from what you usually do, if you've always worked on flat surfaces, try something 3D, etc.
Basically, most of my mosaics at that point had been mosaic collages. I would take images from pieces of china that I like, break them up, and then put them back together in a way that I think is aesthetically pleasing. For this, I decided to do something representational, i.e., a picture of something you could recognize. I figured that if I was going to do do something artsy, I wanted to do a nude. What could be more artsy than that? Besides, I'm a man, and I like naked chicks.
The first order of business was to come up with a design. The piece to the right is what I came up with. I've tried to teach myself how to draw a number of times over the last 15 or 20 years. When I really work at it, I can get pretty decent results, but it never comes easy. I have found that I do better work with an illustration program, because you can adjust the drawing as much as you like and end up with something clean. Anyway, I own dozens of drawing books. I went through them and finally selected a piece from the cover of art book, a compilation of various techniques and media, by different artists. The life drawing section was done by Arthur Zaidenberg, and the picture from the cover was his.
I scanned it and created a vector layer on top of it, and traced over Zaidenberg's work. What I ended up with a very nice clean piece of line art to the right. There was just one problem. I didn't really like it. It just looked too much like something out of a life drawing book. It was a very classic pose of a very classic looking model. To me, it just looked like any of a hundred different drawings in my stack of art books. Go figure, I copy it almost exactly out of a drawing book, and gee whiz, that's what it looks like.
Part of the problem here is that, I don't like the concept of what is currently accepted as the ideal of feminine beauty. Now, I will be the first to admit that Americans are way too fat. I'm one of these too fat Americans. But at the same time, what our society has selected as the ideal female form is incredibly skinny women with big fake breasts, not something that does a whole lot for me. Here's the perfect example. Arguably, the most recognizable icon of feminine beauty from the 20th Century was Marilyn Monroe. If Marilyn showed up in Hollywood today, they would tell her to lose 20 pounds and get a boob job.
I wanted to do a nude that was beautiful and sexy, but at the same time not what our society was telling us is beautiful and sexy. I looked through dozens to books and magazines looking for the right model to work from. There were a number of hopefuls. I have a number of reprints of vintage girly magazines and erotica. The women tended to be built more like Marilyn Monroe than today's skinny women with big fake boobs, but nothing really jumped out at me. I have some erotic photography books, and while there were definitely some models that had promise, everything seemed to be too blatantly sexual. I even looked at underground cartoonist Robert Crumb's work. In my opinion, no one can draw large sexy women like Crumb, but the Robert Crumb material I had was mostly sketchbook stuff with odd shading or perspective--way over my head artistically. I finally found the perfect subject in a magazine that showcased natural (surgically unenhanced) well-endowed women, I think it was called Mammazon. The model was a girl named Via Paxton.
I scanned the photo. It was about the size of a baseball card. I then opened it up in my illustration program, created a new vector layer and started to trace it. This time it was a little harder, since I was working from a photo and had to decide which lines were important and how much weight to give each line. The end result is on the left.
By the way, BigGirl is not the title of the piece. When I started working on it, I needed something short for a file name and BigGirl seemed to work, and the more I worked on the piece, the more it stuck in my head. The real title of the piece is Via on the Beach. If you're the type who likes to skip to the end and see the finished piece, go here.
Otherwise, see the step-by-step progression. Next