Do you realize how difficult it is to come up with figure references for doing any kind of art that involves a plus-sized woman?
I’m not talking about finding candid photos of large women on the internet. You can find scads of those.
No, I’m talking about scouring the stock photo sites looking for certain poses in as simple as possible photo. Most often, in a nude photo – so that all you are seeing is how the skin and muscles interplay with each other.
Oh, I looked through Google images as well, but again, not much out there for an artist’s eye to look at.
Look at this particular pose, or one similar to it. An artist can view the interplay of muscle, skin, perspective views of assorted body parts, and other necessities that are involved in developing an image similar to this pose.
Now, think about the changes that obesity makes to a body.
The problem isn’t as simple as adding width to each of the body parts. Overweight people don’t all have fat in the same places. Their body shapes, just like their thinner fellow humans, differ from person to person. And, particularly if you are doing a self-portrait, it is sometimes difficult to find ways to take a photo of you in the kind of pose you wish to display. Even with helpers, some positions can be near impossible to portray in the real world for someone – particularly for someone with arthritis or other body related injuries/damage.
I’ve looked at different photos of myself, trying to visualize what I can to produce a realistic proportion to my body in a pose similar to the above. But, some of the realities of the pose make for different shapes in my assorted pockets of fat around my body.
For example, let’s take my arm. In the photo to the right, there is not only fat, but also parts of the upper arm where I have lost fat, but the skin has not gotten smaller.
In the case of my waist, and belly, I’m in a 3/4 view, which if you look at it from a geometric viewpoint, offers a far more “sleek” view of both of those parts. Not every fat person has a protruding belly in all poses. In fact, even at my largest, from a shape standpoint I could still proudly state that I had quite the hourglass figure, even with the fat.
If you look at me in a more head on type of view, the sleekness of the body becomes less apparent, and depending on the clothes I am wearing, the hourglass shape can be much less visible. In this pose, which I intentionally had done to evaluate my makeup for a theater production, I look far more rectangular in shape, because neither the pants nor the shirt are quite form fitting enough to give a reasonable view of the interplay of light and shadow, muscle and fat, and skin tone.
I have a few nudes of myself, mostly ones taken by men I have been intimate with. I have the interplay of light and shadow, of assorted body shapes, but again – none that include a similar pose to the one above.
I’m not the only artist out there who uses assorted photos as reference so that they can ensure the proportions of the body are correct. In fact, there are numerous apps out there, both for desktop and other devices, that mimic the assorted poses like a physical wooden mannequin.
But, again, look at the proportions. All this really does is give me the bones of the figure. There is no clue here as to how fat figures onto a body. There is no reference here for how gravity affects the human body. Hell, even for older women who are more toned, gravity still has an affect – and that requires in-depth study to be able to reflect that impact of gravity on the human body.
While there is a definite upswell of redefining beauty of the human figure regardless of size or shape, the art world (like the fashion world) has seemingly not kept up.
I’m NOT saying that each individual in the world must be attracted to anyone and anything, nor that they cannot find someone unattractive depending on assorted different reasons. What I am saying is that when teaching anatomy to an artist, it is unfortunate that they are not encouraged to look deeper into the differences in shapes that can be found in the human condition. That shapes beyond the basic minimalist shown above must be explored by an incipient artist.
We are inundated by views of the “ideal” body, whether it is male or female. Our society is only now starting to realize how unhealthy that choice is. It seems to me that there are cycles of this kind of problem throughout the ages. Our mothers and grandmothers were inundated with the same, sometimes leading to surgeries to remove actual bones in order for them to maintain the “ideal body shape” of their times. Our fathers and grandfathers too have had their bodies subjected to censure and derision based on their variance from the ideal.
Art cannot reflect life if such a large portion of the wonders of the world is ignored or swept under the rug. The beauty in a body does not end with a lowered BMI, or how much of your bones show through your skin. And art should reflect life, in many ways. It should offer us a view into the greater human condition.