Tagged Portraits

Fight

Fight – a painting about masculinity and vulnerability combined.

“Fight” encapsulates the conflict between the portrayal of outwardly brutal masculinity with the vulnerability of the body affected by violence.

 

Fight, oil on paper painting by Lee Devonish, 2016. Masculinity and vulnerability.
Fight. Oil on paper, 2016.

In/Out of the series

It is part of what I call the muscle series, but as a portrait it stands outside of the main body of the group, not depicting the body or muscularity.

The idea of the series is to look at the body under transformation. It’s easy to see how this has become a theme that interests me, having been married to a keen amateur bodybuilder for several years now. He seems to naturally have a body that lends itself to being a model, being athletic and infuriatingly good at almost every sport without much apparent effort – but in fact his body as it is now is a product of a lot of very hard work in addition to any underlying capability.

 

Trauma

But this painting doesn’t focus on the body; instead, it focuses on the face and picks up on a point of apparent trauma. I could reveal the source of the injury, but perhaps it would be better to leave the air of mystery surrounding the event, with only the title to serve as a clue.

There’s clearly been some dramatic, violent event that has left its evidence, and it’s this visual punctuation that punches the macho façade of the strongman and shows vulnerability.

 

Movie men

But strength and vulnerability in men as depicted in visual culture are strangely contradictory, as often the transcending, larger-than-life heroes of the cheesiest action movies are the ones who are physically pummelled and beaten to ragged, bloody shreds. (Yes, I’m a child of the 80’s.) I wondered if women found these male types appealing as they are softened by pain and suffering, and if men also found these types appealing because of their transcendence over pain and suffering – it’ll likely be a combination.

It later occurred to me that some men just like to fight.

 

Masculinity and vulnerability

So this picture grew from the concept of fighting for the purpose of acting out that “hero masculinity” – seeking out and wearing wounds to display strength to society.

 

 

 

It’s now available in my store, and some prints are available at Zazzle.


Perspective

Perspective

Graphite on paper, 2011

I’ve always been attached to my artworks – I don’t churn them out, and I feel a strong sense of reluctance when it comes to selling them. There are a few that I’ll never sell though, and Perspective is one of them.

Drawing children

Children grow and change so quickly, and capturing them on a smartphone screen is understandably something that parents today can’t resist. (If you don’t have a baby bore on one of your social media feeds, then it’ll be you.)

None of our images are fixed, but their images are more precious because of being in such rapid transition. Speaking of rapid, it’s incredibly hard to draw children (or at least a child like mine) from life, as they’re constantly in motion and cannot sit still if they’re told to.

Still, drawing your child is a strange and enlightening experience. You’re able to employ and enjoy your love for them in an entirely new way.

The Arboretum

The image I used for this artwork came from a photograph I took of my son when we were in Boston, MA in 2010. It was the first time I’d been able to travel to the USA in 10 years due to visa restrictions on Barbadian citizens, and the first time I’d been able to take my son to visit his grandmother at her house.

On this day we took the bus to Arnold Arboretum alone. It was a good day for it – sunny and warm. When I think about it now, there aren’t many details, which is a bit sad; me, looking at horticultural labels and picking out postcards for souvenirs, and my little boy constantly racing ahead of me.

We reached a pond and stopped, and I snapped a picture of him looking out over the water. The photograph itself was nice enough, but I don’t know exactly what it was that made it stand out so much in my mind.

 

Perspective by Lee Devonish. Click on the picture to read more about the story behind this drawing.

Water

There’s the combination of dread whenever water and children come together, along with the way the water and the rippling patterns on its surface captured us both. It was a beautiful scene, but the idea of this young life spread out before us like the surface of the water (with so much unseen going on underneath) must have stuck with me.

I remembered us experiencing this and wondered about his perspective on the world.

The drawing itself is simple and sparse, with a lot left out, but that leaves the focus on the little boy and the setting before him, which may or may not even be water if you look at it for long enough.

This is one that I won’t ever sell. This memory feels as though it was yesterday, but looking at my child today, the boy in the drawing seems so small… at least I’ve caught that day for myself.

 

This drawing is available as a print from my Zazzle store.


Fearless John

Fearless John – the story behind a watercolour painting.

I was walking through a shopping centre in Ashford one day in the summer between terms at art school when something caught my eye.

There was something strange about the young man working at the mobile phone kiosk – I’d already walked by when my brain finally worked out that it was the handlebar moustache he sported.

 

Fearless John, watercolour painting by Lee Devonish, 2011 | handlebar moustache painting
Fearless John. Watercolour on paper, 2011.

 

A handlebar moustache painting was already on my mind…

I’d never seen anyone so young wearing a moustache like that, so carefully curled. It stood out to me because I’d been thinking about male facial hair a lot at the time, as part of a project on gender signifiers. (At the time, I was pretty oblivious to trends. I didn’t have a tv and I had no interest in fashion: both still true. I didn’t realise that soon, handlebar moustaches would be on everyone, even as jewellery and clothing prints on those who couldn’t grow them.)

After I got home, I started to regret not asking the stranger if I could paint his portrait.

 

It’s more than a bit strange, sure, but I decided to ask the next time I saw him, if there was ever a next time.

 

Of course, I did see him the very next time I went into town, but this time I was armed with my camera and business card to prove I wasn’t just a nutter. He was actually quite happy to be painted, which was a relief in that situation! I took my picture and scurried away as fast as I could.

 

 

Discovering my mystery model’s identity

After the term had started, one of my classmates saw my painting and recognised my subject as one of her friends and told me his name – John. I’d actually aged him up a bit. I now had a name (and a title) for my painting.

Still, he was very pleased with the result when I carried the painting down to the shopping centre to show him. That’s the last I saw of John.

 

The story behind this painting: Fearless John | watercolour handlebar moustache painting | portrait of a man

This artwork is available as a postcard here.

 


Postparoxysmal 1

Postparoxysmal 1

As its name suggests, this piece was the product of the aftermath of a fight.

Postparoxysmal 1 - watercolour on paper painting by Lee Devonish, 2014

 

The story

Not long married, my husband and I had – to put it mildly – a bit of an explosive disagreement, which fortunately was resolved before too long. It made a longer lasting mark on his already permanently scowling face, though, and somehow his hair had managed to whip itself up into a whirlwind – it seemed to be the outward expression of what was going on in his head.

It was so ridiculous that it broke the tension and made me laugh.

 

Of course, that didn’t go down very well, but neither did taking his picture and threatening to paint him. I did it anyway.

I liked the space after the paroxysm – a minute after a storm that makes you think, “what just happened?” and wonder whether it was real, or whether you imagined it… and wonder whether it will happen again.

At the time, I was struggling to find time and space to make any new work, after moving to Lancashire and being newly married, so watercolour seemed to be the medium that worked best for my life at the time. I started to experiment with writing in paint, and this led to my handwriting prints, which led to this painting.

The words

Why the speech bubble? I had to include it. The text element is more of an indication of my interest in graphic novels and the crossover between drawing and writing than an actual quotation, although the words were chosen carefully to reflect his character.

The words act as his portrait as much as the image does.

Click on the picture to read the story behind Postparoxysmal 1 - watercolour on paper painting by Lee Devonish, 2014

 

It’s a part of our family now, so although it has been exhibited, I’ll never sell it. I’ve made this piece available as a postcard print on Zazzle.


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