Back when I was an earnest, young art student, I studied figure painting with John Foote. He was the spitting image of Peter O’Toole and a brilliantly eccentric portrait artist with a flair for the dramatic and passionate about his craft. We didn’t often have male figure models in class, except for the occasional portrait study sessions with craggy old men looking for easy beer money. One day, John brought in a young man, likely a dancer, to pose for us. We set to work for a three hour pose. After about an hour or so, John walked over to my easel, plucked my canvas up high and bellowed to the class, “Ladies and gentlemen, this man has a penis!”
It turned out that no one else had noticed the appendage. Mysterious shadows and Freudian Voids abounded. I guess no one wanted to appear to be fixated or even interested (the Eighties were a different era, even for hip, open minded art students). As a result, John demanded that everyone paint in the model’s penis immediately. The poor fellow suddenly found his bits to be the subject of intense scrutiny by a roomful of people. He did not look happy.
I very rarely paint male figures as my work tends to be autobiographical and my naked relationships have always been with women. But when I do, they always have a penis.