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

 

Madame Caramel’s marriage proposal

madame_caramel

It is always a great pleasure when my commissions bring two people closer and this portrait was intended as the ultimate gesture – a proposal of marriage from Joris to his wonderfully ebullient mistress Madame Caramel, who is the founder and organiser of the renowned Femdom Ball.

Originally the idea was simply to show the situation of Madame Caramel being presented with a card, regally seated on the throne in her dungeon – a very well-equipped premises, by the way – but then we came up with extending the idea by adding a message to this and covering it up with a paper flap for surprise.

Joris presented the portrait card to Madame Caramel during a special surprise holiday in May and she tells me that she was very happy with it and better still, unhesitatingly accepted the offer of marriage. I am so pleased that I was able to play a part in this happy event and wish the couple many years of happiness to come.

What people say to artists

Having been an artist/illustrator all my life  it is not easy to put my mind in the position of someone who cannot draw. You think to yourself “Why can’t everyone do this?” It has always been a talent I’ve had which was thankfully though inexplicably encouraged by parents. You become ‘top of the art-class in school’ until you go off to art college and then discover you were not that good – all the students are there who were best at art in their school. I can however empathise with unskilled art-lovers as I love music in its various forms and have always wanted to play on a musical instrument, but failed miserably in my attempts, so that I feel astonishment and envy at anyone who is proficient that way. I recognise too that it is not just about talent but about hard work, endless practice, an individual style, knowing when to stick to rules and when to break them, etc. All the skills that any creative artist needs to function at best.
So here are some common things folks say about my work:-

“How long have you been drawing?”
General

If we are talking about actual drawing – since I could hold a pencil and from watching other ‘tops of the art-class in school’ wishing I could do better. Femdom artwork from my late teens . See “The Lightbulb Moment”

“How long does it take to do a drawing?”
General

The classic “how long is a piece of string?” It varies enormously depending on subject, composition and technique. Some take a few minutes, some weeks. I don’t like to come back with “how long is a piece of string?” as it just sounds too abrupt to an innocent question, but really it is exactly that. Every one is different.

“What do you think of this modern art?”
Old guys watching me drawing outdoors

This used to be very common, asked by older members of the society but has tailed off in recent years. Perhaps we no longer care about art we don’t understand. It really is such a broad subject as, like most people I expect, there is some modern art I like and some I distinctly don’t like. But usually the tone of the question suggested I give an unfavourable response and so I obliged quite often with a negative view which led to much satisfied agreement .

“My  –insert obscure relation here- is an artist”
Young kids watching me draw outdoors

Well it happens .Those ‘tops of the art-class in school’ have to fulfil their dream somehow – and you go out far enough in any family you’ll find one mad enough to imagine they can earn a living as an artist. How to respond…positively, encouragingly (of course!)

“Money”
Other artists

When two artists meet do they talk about the latest exhibitions and wax eloquent on the refined palettes of the great painters? Do they hell! More often then not they moan about money, payment and the lack of it!

“I like your art – you can draw me if you like”
Vain but beautiful princesses

So drawing is a pleasant way to earn a living, but it is also my work and as such needs to be properly remunerated-a fact which is difficult to comprehend to some people who imagine that just drawing is so pleasurable it should not need any payment. So, vain but beautiful princesses, why not consider a commission of yourself and please the artist too?

Art is a cruel mistress….

cruelmuse

Oh, cruel muse!
Who do I draw for if not for you?
You come to me with your haunting visions and compel me to draw them for you.
I am just your vehicle on earth, a mere slave to be used for your ambition.
I draw, and draw but you demand ever more.You can never let me rest!
Then guide my hand and if I never satisfy you, at least let me draw as well as my strength allows…

 

 

Sketch portraits

Working on a commission it helps, so far as is possible, to sketch the subject from life – face-to-face. It allows me a much better idea of the subject’s facial expressions and character than any photo that might be provided. Months after you can see things in it that you could never have understood with a photo.

Sketching is very different from the actual painting or drawing itself. As it is unplanned you never quite know what is going to come out -while the finished art is like a well-structured musical composition, sketching is like improvised jazz where it evolves almost without thought – almost, but not quite. When it turns out well and you see the (hopefully) happy and surprised face of the subject it’s a really worthwhile feeling. But there is also the risk that it won’t -you’ll just get it all out of perspective or perhaps can’t capture a likeness. A line or two a fraction out of place and it’s gone. (I’ll explore the whole issue of likenesses in another post) If there is time I try again but I have to bear the uncertainty that it might not go well at all.

When Club Pedestal -“the playground for the dominant woman” – first opened, I used to keep a Pedestal sketchbook (which still exists) and would freely make quick 20 minute portraits of some of the ladies attending that evening. Though it was a pleasurable activity for me and for them, certain factors hindered the drawing, such as irritating strobe lighting or guests (usually male) bumping into me or standing in my way -one even spilt a drink over me!-so that after a while I abandoned the idea. All the same the sketches were popular and introduced me to many interesting people.

Last week I had the pleasure of sketching Mistress Elita Darling, dominatrix resident in London and Lady Mephista from Germany, whom you will already have seen in a previous blog post. This is what I came up with – as luck would have it the results were pretty satisfying.

elitadarling_sketch
Mistress Elita Darling

ms_elita_sketch

 

ladymephista_sketch
Lady Mephista

lady_mephista_sketch

 

Here are three other sketches associated with commissions featured on this blog:-

elizabeth_swan_sketch_small
Elizabeth Swan
morrigan_sketch
Morrigan Hel
ninabirch_sketch
Nina Birch

 

 

 

Sketching at the Femdom Ball

Much as I enjoy sitting at my work, escaping from the drawing-board once in a while is always a pleasure and Madame Caramel ‘s long-awaited Femdom Ball was a simply unmissable event . She had been preparing for this event for months and it was really one of the best-organised parties I’d ever attended. At a secret and very opulent location in Central London beautifully dressed mistresses gathered from all over the country to celebrate together with their male submissives/slaves. The rules were that while mistresses enjoyed themselves eating and drinking, the men were required to serve them in any capacity they pleased and were neither to eat nor to drink. As my own contribution I sketched three charming ladies from  Mistress Ezada’s House of Sinn , coming all the way from Romania for the event.

(You will recognise Mistress Ezada from other portraits on this site)

lilse_ezada_yna_tressa
Photo by Bobette http://www.crossingtherubicon.co.uk

Now, on-the-spot portraits are unplanned and a leap in the dark – you never know how they will turn out and can be disappointing if they don’t work out well. But it’s a “party trick” for me by now, having made quite a few at London femdom “Pedestal” club and generally they don’t often turn out too badly. They sometimes miss accuracy but I try to convey the character. In this case I had a little champagne to help things along -which I was not really allowed “as a male” but well – artists need a little encouragement 🙂

miss_tressa
Miss Tressa
ms_lilse
Mistress Lilse
ms_yna
Lady Yna

Pleased to say that all three were very happy with their portraits and I look forward to the next party when I hope to perform a similar function.

How to draw a high-heel shoe

So someone asked me to show how I draw a high-heel shoe.
High-heels are not easy to draw. I’ve seen the most adept artist stumble over them. The problem is the subtlety of the curves and an understanding is needed of the shape of the foot which they cover.

(Understanding foot anatomy needs an article in itself-even a book -so that can’t be tackled here)

Let’s start with a simple sandal.

Find or buy – or beg for -a shoe and examine it.

A high-heel, like any shoe, is a platform for resting on a level surface.The foot rests mainly at two points – the ball of the foot and the tip of the heel.

These two points are a constant distance apart, in the same alignment and in the same plane, whichever position the shoe is in .

Understanding this is the key to drawing a high heel in any position.

The front area itself will be a roughly pointed oval shape, flattened behind following the shape of the foot . It is not symmetrical – rather flattened on the inner side following the shape of the foot.

The back area (the heel tip) is a much smaller round area often squared off in front.

Any drawing of a high-heeled shoe should start with a rough representation of these areas.

hh1

1)A line to indicate the direction of the shoe should be the first.

Then place in the two areas in a correct perspective (you don’t understand perspective?-come back when you do!)

2)Then you can decide on how high the heel is to be and draw a line roughly perpendicular from the heeltip, and begin to work out the shape of the heel itself. It tapers gracefully downwards at the back. Then you can start roughly sketching the area where the heel of the leg itself will rest – for now you can make this an oval. On higher-heeled shoes this will need to be steeper sloping.

3) Now connect each side of this oval to the lower ball-of-foot area.

Note that the resultant line is curved differently according to its being outer or inner side. Just like the foot itself , the curve is gentler on the outer, more pronounced on the inner.

So now we are almost there for the foundation. If we are drawing a high-heeled sandal the matter is almost finished-simply show a thickness to the sole.

hh2

Follow the same principles for court shoes and other but build up walls from the sole and a covering for the tip of the toes..

Observe the countless ways straps are employed – some very simple, others extraordinarily complex.

(Unless I become a teacher this is the only free lesson I can give – it was a lot of effort to put it together, simple though it seems.)

Instead of a photo…

For a number of reasons a pro-mistress may not always wish to reveal her face on the Net. There are ways of giving an impression about one’s looks without posting a clear image – blurring a photo, for instance, or wearing a hat in a disguising manner or even a mask. However a portrait can convey the personality of the sitter particularly well instead of a photo and is the perfect solution for one who wishes to keep her privacy while engaging her clientele. ms_elizabethswan Mistress Elizabeth Swan is a case in point. Photos cannot convey the liveliness of her expression and her sense of fun, and certainly not blurred ones. This commissioned portrait set out to do just that – so I tried to incorporate the smile, or rather the wicked grin that her clients rave about while also emphasising the attractiveness of her figure. But she can be serious too and the other preparatory sketch here gives an impression of her natural good looks in a more sedate pose.

elizabeth_swan_sketch

Moreover with a portrait you can invent a completely fictitious setting, historically or geographically different from the standard photo shoot…and incidentally Mistress Swan does not possess such a crazy electrical device. But she’d use it if she did!

Mistress Elizabeth says… “I choose to hide my face for a few different reasons. One is the other work that I do when I’m not wielding a whip. I run workshops for vulnerable women and I write. Not displaying my face gives me a separation so I can dip my toe in all worlds and I get to keep my anonymity. But the main reason is I just don’t want to display my face on the beast that is the internet. Maybe I would have more clients if I did, or perhaps I would have less!  That is why Sardax’s portraits are so important for people in the business such as myself. He captured my personality perfectly but at the same time didn’t make me instantly recognisable. Which is exactly what I wanted. Also he can draw me in whatever setting his or my imagination can think of. Next up will be ‘A Dommes Progress’ which will be based on Hogarth’s work. But with a much happier ending! So if any of my clients/slaves would like to commission it let us know.”