The Female Gaze

There is a simplistic idea going round in erotica marketing that women respond to words and men to pictures.  This sounds true, judging by the sales of erotic novels to women and videoclips to men, but I think the truth is more complex. From some conversations with dominant women who had taken it upon themselves to tell me what I ought to be doing (bless them), I learnt that they aren’t generally interested in femdom photos or videos simply because it had no “eye candy” for them. Instead of focussing on a good-looking male this media tends to linger on the dominant female actress, which is off-putting for them, and any males in the scene are secondary, certainly not chosen for their looks or acting ability. There are notable exceptions, but as most visual content is produced for men any content designed for women tends to get ignored and women seem to stop even looking for anything appealing.  So it was initially surprising for me but on reflection quite logical that for them gay porn was their choice of viewing. I understood this but could not see how I could do anything to affect the disparity.
But these ladies could be persuasive and so, at their instigation, I tried to address this with a few pieces for what has come to be called “The Female Gaze” – that might appeal to this untapped female market and give a few new subscriptions to the member-site I was running at the time (2004-14).
Drawing in this way was an interesting process, like driving on the opposite side of the road – familiar landmarks and same direction but a different focus and view, through guessing what the female might prefer rather than just knowing. This series was one such -“Down Below”

My friends expressed satisfaction with this series – they particularly liked the suffering eyes – but I felt no immediate desire to continue working this way.  I knew my core market was men and straying too far from that would alienate them. I put up a few pieces now and then “for the ladies” such as this -“Moonlight”, but let the matter rest as I felt it was for a female artist to develop it further.

Moonlight

So I was pleased recently to get to know about a new venture called Dreams Made Flesh run by a Canadian lifestyle domme . It is run on the patreon system whereby the contributions fund artists and writers who are developing this field. As you can see it’s not just Female Gaze then but Female Ear too, but I believe it’s not just for women anyway. Men can enjoy this focus equally and if they care anything about what women like (I mean-isn’t that the scene ?) then it is something that should be sponsored.

www.patreon.com/DreamsMadeFlesh

here are a few thumbnails of previous drawings – there will be more in coming months.

 

Patrons

Patrons -those who commission artwork – are the enablers of the professional artist.

Increasingly in the age of instant gratification on the Net we lose sight of the fact that behind many professional images and videos there has been someone, somewhere to finance it happening . This has become obscured by the freedom with which anything now is stolen copied.

Before the web this was self evident. Patrons paid for the services of creatives – not always well – but understood that expenses were necessary or nothing would happen. Throughout history if an artist was not paid, there would be no culture, so princes, popes, etc. would dip into their treasure chests to finance creative projects. Sometimes they paid huge sums to secure the services of the best artists in Europe, like Rubens or Bernini. Others like Vermeer were largely neglected, and had constant money problems. Yet still there was the general understanding they needed to be paid. But still now some do not recognise that artists have bills to pay like everyone else and if they can’t make it pay then the art won’t happen.

I grew up in a creative family and money – or rather the lack of it – was the root of many problems. Our human needs were the same as everyone else, shelter, food, bills to pay and yet art was not considered “real work”, presumably as it didn’t make a profit for any shareholder. Constantly around us our family was met with the same incomprehension. Art was considered a leisure activity, and not expected to earn anything. You’d be right in assuming I was encouraged to do any work but art! 

In my own career I have been paid to contribute to magazines (remember them?), femdom member sites, my own member site (sardax.com 2004-2014) and now mainly working on bespoke portraiture. In all we were reliant on people making a financial contribution. I have been fortunate in mostly having a public (often creative themselves) who understood this. Generally artists do not become professional to earn a fortune. If that happens – fine …but I don’t think many start with that in mind. They soon discover it’s not that easy.

So as a farewell to 2017 this post is a thanks to all patrons who have tried to keep me afloat financially however much they can manage, so I can concentrate on what I do best – doing the artwork. 

This is not a post about my own work but here is a photo of the Last Judgement from the Sistine Chapel for which have to thank not only Michaelangelo, but also Pope Julius II who had the vision to commission it.

(In this post I use the term arts but it could apply equally to any creative endeavour)

 

Venus in Fur

No, not “Venus in Furs” !

It is  “Venus in Fur” without the ‘s’.

It is not a play of the book. Well it is, indirectly.

This is a stage play – and a film now – about a stage director who is auditioning actresses for his own adaptation of the book “Venus in Furs”, and almost in despair of never finding the right one, allows a final audition to an outwardly trashy actress, who not only surprises him by her amazing acting  as the play progresses , but also completely turns his life around.

Confused yet? I was when I first heard of the play. Like many outside the theatre-going public it was when film director Roman Polanski announced he was going to produce his own adaptation in a French translation, with his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric in the lead roles. I naturally assumed it was a dramatisation of the book itself. In fact there are only two actors in the entire play so when I first read about it and then later saw the stills from the movie I was admittedly cool about it.
After all, how could the whole of Venus in Furs be dramatised on stage with only two actors?

Of course I did not make the distinction.

But people kept asking me what I thought of the film (because of my translation and illustrations I was now thought of as some authority, maybe) so in the end I relented, thinking I had to base an opinion and so I sat grimly through the first few minutes. Rather like the director on stage Thomas Novachek (not the director of the play itself, by the way) who gradually warms to the personality of actress Vanda Jordan, I warmed to the script as I realised that the play’s author David Ives really understood the book itself and I started to enjoy the way the two characters reacted to each other and was thoroughly won over as the film ended.

So when the play finally came to Theatre Royal Haymarket in London I was enthusiastic to see it. In company with Mistress Tess and her admirer, we saw Natalie Dormer as Vanda and David Oakes as Thomas in a production directed by Patrick Marber. I was pleased at last to hear it in English instead of subtitled from the French film and it quite lived up to my expectations. Lots of great comic and insightful moments that really reflected the whole dynamic between Severin and Wanda in the original book. On speaking to other mistresses I learnt how it had affected them:-

Mistress Harpsichord  “Venus in fur genuinely moved me to tears. There was something so powerful about the performance that I struggle to put into words. It was honest, relateable and devastatingly beautiful.”

Lady Lola “I adored Venus in Fur, it came as no surprise as I am a big fan of the movie.Incredible performances and overall tone. Close to the bone on many occasions but all done with a playful dialogue.”

Marti “A teasingly plotted entertainment with plenty of pleasing eye candy for the Dominant Woman.”

 

See the Play Website

Thrones

The throne is a recurring motif in much of my art.

One of the first line drawings I made as Sardax was this goddess on a throne. This was actually sold as a limited run of postcards at the Skin Two shop back in the early nineties – if you bought one then you’re lucky ! Throughout the years the depiction of the mistress in her throne has been a useful way of displaying her regality and authority, raised up above her slaves , looking down . In this selection of portraits there are different types-some elaborate, some simple:-

Portrait of Maitresse Renee


Mistress Akella with the ermine


Laylah from Snake portraits

 

Reminiscences of Wicked Old Soho

This nostalgic post will not mean much to most people – except perhaps to men of my generation who had to live through such a deprived era and have seen how the Internet has changed everything we know.

sohomapNow in my sixties I am sitting outside a cafe on Old Compton St in London’s notorious Soho district. Or it least it was notorious. Today, much like Times Square in New York – as I understand – it is completely cleaned up and un-notorious with only a few shops remaining of the once prevalent sex trade, now mostly catering for the gay pound. It changed not through any heavy legal crack-down but, like a lot else, through the changes brought by the onset of the Internet removing the need to go out to buy porn magazines, books and movies.

Over thirty years back it was completely different. Then I would never have sat outside a cafe and would have been very cautious of even coming in by daylight – but then I had a guilty conscience. A shopping trip to Soho was a furtive affair usually made under cover of darkness, armed with a shoulder bag, and planned with a clear itinerary so as to quickly move in and out of doorways.

My own particular interest here was for books, magazines and the predecessor to DVDs and videos – Super 8 films.

Moving swiftly inside the shop you’d be pressed against a heaving mass of tightly pressed male flesh with barely enough room to jostle your way through to the shelves. Many men – it was always just men- were simply browsing with no intention of buying. Occasional ineffectual calls from management failed to shift them. Of course I always bought something – even at the outrageous prices they changed. Kink commanded higher prices with 10 pounds being usual for a magazine -a lot for a young man in those days.

With my burgeoning interest in kink and the bizarre I had my own favourite haunts:-
1. Swish publications
My main port of call. CP with a femdom bias selling their own “Madame” magazine, “Sadie Stern” magazines and even a few ripped-off and pasted together collections of Namio Harukawa drawings.

swish2
Site of the Swish shop-now fashionable dining : Greek St.

2. Janus Bookshop
Mostly catering to CP erotica with more of an emphasis on subfem, stocking its own magazines including Janus, Roué and others.

janus
The Janus shop- now a trendy clothing outlet: Old Compton St

3. Lovejoys
Commanding a presence along Charing Cross Road, the ground floor was nominally a book shop but a discreet staircase downstairs led to a wonderful treasure trove. Not so much kink but best stocked general erotica.

lovejoys
Site of Lovejoys -still an adult shop but not half as interesting! : Charing Cross Rd

4. Unnamed
I cannot remember the name of this one. Cut off in an alley in Chinatown it was one of the first I discovered and may have been Swish before they moved. Can anyone enlighten?

swish1
Kinky sex shop -name unremembered-now Chinese souvenirs: Newport Court

5. Original Soho Bookshop One of the last bookshops now standing, stocked mostly with DVDs and a few magazines or books. Very little fetish and most gay-oriented. In the spirit of “research” I bought one product for old times sake but without much enthusiasm.

soho_original
The Original Soho Book Shop: Brewer St

 

Figure Drawing

Every few years or so I like to spend a few months reviewing my knowledge of anatomy which forms the basis of my figure drawing. Starting from the head down to the feet I test my knowledge by sketching all the bones and muscles in the human body.
I think it is imperative to be able to draw any human figure from imagination if need be. If you can find good reference so much the better but you cannot be reliant on it. These days of course reference is abundant and free…you search the big G for “man bending over to kiss woman’s heel” and there is the photo or even video, with or without the original creator’s permission. Previously the model for such a subject was simply not available so you’d draw from imagination. A reference though will only provide an indication to work from. Unless you thoroughly understand what you are drawing  you might slavishly copy the outlines but it will fail to look convincing, distortions that the camera might make will not be understood and the drawing will look inexplicably wrong .
So how do you learn to draw human figures? By studying human anatomy -there is no way round it. The books that were published when I started learning many years ago were and are still of varying degrees of usefulness. My all-time favourite is “Figure Drawing” by Richard G. Hatton (1904). I foolishly lent and never got back my original hardback but still have a now well-thumbed paperback Dover reprint.
hatton1
The well-thumbed Hatton
hatton2
A typical page from “Figure Drawing”
Other books will teach you basic proportions but I found most rather lightweight and insufficiently detailed. There is a recent vogue for books teaching you how to draw figures in Anime style or superheroes. I am no fan of either but I think it is necessary to be able to draw figures as they are first, then modify the features afterwards to a style rather than pursuing the style first.
On no account attempt to learn artistic anatomy from a medical textbook. This will not distinguish which parts of the body are relevant to figure drawing. You’ll only get distracted by features that have no relation to what an artist needs to know, and may even imagine you have “every ailment except Housemaid’s knee”.
Figure drawing at art college often involved a human skeleton with an amusing name like Harry. We mused whose bones he might have been in life before he was hung up for our benefit. It was useful to examine his bones to understand their form so he may be reassured his bequest to us was not in vain.
One development I recently discovered, which would have been very useful when I was first studying, are apps that allow you to see muscle insertions and skeletons at any angle by rotating a 3D model. One in particular -Visible Body -is highly commendable.
I recommend these however as adjuncts to an explanatory book or website to further elucidate what is not so readily understandable in print.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite figure artists – Watteau, 1684 – 1721. A consummate French draughtsman equal to many of the Renaissance artists  but a greater lover of female beauty and more delicate.
watteau

SNAFU

Situation Normal All Fouled Up*

This post is about things going wrong. You may imagine -at least I hope you imagine -that paintings roll off the Sardax production-line effortlessly, fully formed and perfect. Nothing of the sort of course.

These days things do generally proceed well but that is because I have learn a few things throughout my career that have helped me to foresee problems and minimise unexpected trouble.

The best way to a successful outcome, as any ship’s captain will tell you, is thorough planning. If you do not plan sooner or later unforeseen events will come and blow your brave little ship off course. It is very tempting to just set sail hoping for the best. Many times I have foolishly done so -I’m a bit of an impetuous sort driven by the fire of inspiration – and bitterly regretted later not spending a little time planning in advance, thinking about the steps I would proceed through. Previously I would have to imagine in my head how things would work out but these days it’s so easy to make a digital rough that there’s no excuse before the brush even hits the paper.

But even with good planning if things start to go wrong you can still find ways of getting out of trouble and at least disguising the mistakes that have been made.

There are many ways of ‘wriggling out” but take this portrait of retired Japanese dominatrix Mistress Waka as one example.

mistresswaka

As is often my way I will start with the face and get this correct before continuing with the rest of the painting; after all why expend effort on the rest if the main focus is wrong?

So I pressed on but found out that the watercolour paper I had chosen was bringing out blotches in odd places-thankfully not the face-but I perhaps had spilt water on it previously and I was left with needing to cover the rough patches but looking like I meant to in the first place! So the chequered pattern on the panel in the background actually disguises some bad blotches and to a lesser extent the marble effect on the right hand wall. Thankfully after that was done I could bring the painting back on course but it was a situation that depressed me enough to consider ripping it up and starting again -a lot of cursing that day!

If you cannot retrieve the situation you may have to burn your bridges and go back to the start, something I have not had to do very often but which is quite humiliating. However it is not so bad as you have learnt from your mistakes what NOT to do and the result is far better than if you had pressed on with the previous effort. Though a lot of time has been wasted.

But doesn’t that all sound too rigid and what about freedom of thought and inspiration? Yes, of course you need that too and the unbridled imagination should come in the development stage but in the final painting it needs to be reined in and at that stage the head has to rule the heart.

Mistakes will occur..that’s understood but planning first will minimise trouble. If all else fails just start over!

* a more polite version of this popular acronym.

(Mistress Elizabeth Swan also makes her own blog-post about what goes wrong in her line of work)