Having developed my idea for Cruel and Tender and although there is still some more work to be done (and I may still go opt for a backup project – see my first post on the project), I now have to focus on the other two aspects of the project – classical still life and a classical portrait. I was actually going to attempt the still life on holiday using fruit from Thailand to bring a tropical aspect to it, but to be honest I could really be bothered with the ‘hassle’ of choosing fruit and then creating a mini-studio in my hotel room, taking the shots and then eating the fruit…  C’mon peeps, I was on holiday 🙂

So now I have been thinking about this more and I do want to use food as the main component of my still life picture. I am, however, still drawn to using tropical foods as the basis and what better food to use than what I’ve grown up with all my life. So I will head out to Shepherd’s Bush Market next week to get some food for the studio session in class after half term. I’ll decide on the day what to get so as to make it somewhat spontaneous and it means I will not be disappointed if I want something and they do not happen to have it…. watch this space for the pictures.

Now the second component is the classical portrait. And inspiration sometimes comes at you from the strangest angles. I had purchased the exhibition book Beyond Caravaggio (1) from Amazon as there no copies left at the NPG when I went to see the exhibition. I put aside time today to go through the book for inspiration and came across a few images that I thought I could interpret.

This first one by Giovanni Antonio Galli is of Christ displaying his wounds and I had a few thoughts about making this more contemporary… possibly someone displaying a tattoo or piercing… yes people parts of project one rearing its head again 🙂


Then there is this painting by Jusepe De Ribera of Saint Onuphruis which I mentioned in an earlier post. For this one, I was actually thinking of making a self-portrait, although I can say that my skin is not yet so aged….


But I am now thinking of interpreting another painter instead – Francisco de Zurbarán. I had briefly mentioned him in my first post for this project, in the context of portraiture. Having done some more digging on the interweb (as I like to call it), I discovered that he had a thing for cloaks… yes I am being irreverent. But what I like about these paintings is the monochrome feeling evoked by them, there is not much by the way of colour. There is quite of a darkness in them and I am not just talking about the negative space in the picture. These are not what you would call, inviting pictures. You are drawn to them but not because they are pretty or uplifting, but more likely because they are so devoid of happiness and sound as a warning, through the symbolism of memento mori (see below).   The use of the hood to sometimes obscure the face makes the portraits all the more interesting, dark and a little menacing. Now, I don’t have a cloak… my dressing gown is closest I could get, but I do have a dark grey hoodie, so I am thinking of not necessarily doing a full-length self-portrait, but maybe half length.

The other aspect that has drawn me to these pictures has been the use of memento mori – in this case, the skull to represent “mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life” (2). Now I do not want to use a skull as a literal translation of momento mori, so I will choose something more contemporary to represent this and I may well be more than one item. This brings into play the concept of semiotics that Zig raised with us back at the beginning of term and which I have been pondering in relation to his part of the project in a much more obvious fashion that for Cruel and Tender – that is not to say that semiotics will not play a part there too, because it will, however, it will be more obvious in this part of the project.

I’m still thinking about whether I want to be kneeling, standing or sitting, but these things can be ironed out during the shoot. And classmates… be warned, I may well want to model for me in the hoodie too :). Again, pop back by the blog in a couple of weeks to see the results.


  1. Beyond Caravaggio , Letizia Treves, The National Gallery Company Limited, 2016
  2. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/m/memento-mori
  3. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm
  4. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/still-life
  5. http://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-painting-zurbaran.html

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