charcoal drawimg of a lying girl

girls – girls – girls

not posted because of Halloween πŸ™‚

There was a long period in which I painted a lot of portraits. I also painted men, a task that was generally easy for me. Men usually have very distinctive faces, especially older ones. Much more exciting, however, was always the topic of women, and especially girls.

For outsiders, it might sound easier to portray pretty girls because they are inherently β€œbeautiful”. But it is more difficult for a painter – there are no wrinkles, no concise facial features, etc. and there is also the risk that the work will be too sweet, too pleasing.

The following portraits can be found among the very early works:

Some of my early oil paintings – sorry for the poor quality of images – scans after old photos.

So I mostly tried not to focus on the visual beauty, but on aspects such as charisma, the hidden, the mysterious …

Two or three times it happened to me that the person portrayed was not so satisfied because they did not think they were portrayed pretty enough. One time I was a little embarrassed because it was a commissioned work that I was quite happy with myself. But, many years later I had 2 ladies who assured me how happy they were now with the work and how much I had succeeded in capturing their essence.

different techniques

Over time, I have tried several different techniques, but through my intensive involvement with Chinese painting, Asian thoughts flowed more and more into my work.

This discrepancy (view as an artist versus view as a portrayed girl) is particularly true of life drawing, of course. I then hired models with 2 other friends, also to save costs, and to gain distance from the personal aspect. And later on, I painted almost exclusively from memory anyway, with my ex unmistakably popping up again and again.

Personally, I have a series of around 30 nude drawings on my heart, which I should probably explain. What was it about? If you’ve devoted yourself to life drawing long enough, if you’re generally familiar with anatomy, you don’t need a model when you represent a figure in general.

blind painting

I did the following. In a completely dark room, with my eyes closed, I began to draw the figure, mostly with a charcoal pencil set in wood. So you start, for example, with the face and trace the features – presented in the mind – very precisely. Now it is the case that you can create the details well, but you hardly know where you are on the sheet with your pen. This means that the figure is clearly disfigured when you open your eyes. To create a halfway compact representation, I then, with my eyes open, emphasized a few accents with colored pencils and thus kept the sheet from falling apart.

Of course, the whole thing has nothing to do with life drawing in the classic sense, the thing has become a matter of part pour part. As with me mostly when painting, music also played an important role here.

It seems to me that portraits, figure painting, and nude drawings no longer have a special meaning in our time and that is perhaps one of the reasons why I no longer devote myself to the topic. And yet, when I go through my work, I feel a great urge to try the thing again from a new perspective.

Some more: girls | nude drawing



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21 responses to “girls – girls – girls”

  1. mic avatar


    1. Zettl avatar

      Thank you so much! I just added 3 early oil paintings (upper part of the post) – I almost forgot about those.

  2. swabby429 avatar

    These are fascinating. I especially like the one with the small girl who is seated near a table and looking askance at the still-life on the table-top.

  3. Zettl avatar

    Thank you! Unfortunately this has a very sad component. When she was young we spent a lot of time together and I liked her so much. She was the daughter of a good friend. I lost contact then and many years later I was told that she died of an overdose….

  4. Sue Grey-Smith avatar

    These appeal to me a lot – inspiring work!

    1. Zettl avatar

      Thank you so much! I am so happy to hear you like them!

  5. Martha Kennedy avatar

    These are amazing. Here’s more useful criticism πŸ˜‰ I like these a lot!

    I see myself as a figurative artist though I don’t draw/paint that many people these days. I loved life drawing, particularly the gesture aspect, capturing motion which is where the life is. Your figures are full of life. For a while in Denver I had the chance to draw nudes for a couple hours a week. It was GREAT. My first show was almost all figures. Now? I live in a place where the nude body is dangerous and sexual. Sometimes I wonder why I’m here then I remember. $$$ πŸ™‚ Your comments about young women reminded me of something a friend said, “Young women are pretty; older women are fascinating.”

    1. Zettl avatar

      β€œYoung women are pretty; older women are fascinating.” Right! Old men are a drag – sometimes…..

      1. Martha Kennedy avatar

        I’m afraid I have no statements to make about men, older men or younger. Sometimes I think we’re all mysteries to each other (and our selves?) — probably regardless of gender. πŸ™‚

      2. Zettl avatar

        Sorry, my humor is somtimes of a strange kind. Anyway the “old man being a drag” refers to me only/mainly, of course…..

      3. Martha Kennedy avatar

        It’s ok. I knew you were joking and I got the joke. πŸ˜€

      4. Zettl avatar

        Thanks for the link, Martha! Oh yes, I think I can understand your situation quite well. But I think the majority of artists face similar problems in one or the other way. You don’t learn how to deal with that at academies either. As for the “amateur” – we are all amateurs and shouldn’t give that too much importance.

        As for life drawing, I would like to tell you a short story (late 1970s): At the academy in Beijing there was also life drawing. I had a colleague who was from the countryside – beyond nowhereland. When she visited family and said that she was also studying life drawing in the capital, the reaction was: “And then the model takes her own life?” She said no, of course not, and her family and neighbors struggled to understand how it could be that the model didn’t even think of restoring her honor through suicide.

      5. Martha Kennedy avatar

        Ah the Chinese. I’m sure if my mom ever knew I supported my “art addiction” through nude modeling she’d have wanted me to kill myself to restore my (her) honor, but she never knew. It was a good job, though. $10/hour back in 1971 was good pay.

        I remember reading a long time ago how, when foreigners first came to settle in Guangzhou (on Shamian Island) after the opium wars/treaty, they (foreigners) found many, many dead Chinese who’d killed themselves to escape the humiliation of foreigners settling along them. It was even a hard thing when I was teaching there. One of my students tried to kill herself by jumping out a window after the English students again lost a dancing competition. There was no way they could win; the language they were learning was already about 10 strikes against them and, of course, the Chinese language students had to win. Fortunately the window wasn’t that high off the ground and she only sprained her ankle. I asked permission to laugh when she told e the story, saying “I’m not laughing at your ankle or the reason you jumped, but that the window is so low.”

        “It’s all right, teacher. It’s funny now.” <3

      6. Zettl avatar

        And then all the painters and their models πŸ™‚ Some museums would be half empty ….
        Somehow it seems a bit strange to me that, in times when our children are already confronted with the worst porn, life drawing can still be an issue.
        As far as “honor” is concerned, one cannot be cautious enough when dealing with other cultures. The concept of honor is a difficult matter, but you know that. The clumsy demeanor of the western world, not only in China, has effects that continue to have an impact today and we don’t even need to go that far back in history. Abu Ghraib and recent history … and we’re not learning.

      7. Martha Kennedy avatar

        No, we’re not learning. I have a very “inclusive” sense of humor, a tendency to be happy, and a big smile. In China I had to learn that all these things meant something very different to my students. Fortunately, I had a class with whom I was very comfortable and they with me. One day they said, “Teacher, why are you always smiling? Do you think we’re funny?” I was stunned. I said, “No, I’m happy I’m here, in China, with you and I’m teaching. What could be better?”

        Raised with the idea of Maoist “struggle” and the hardness of life they never thought I might want to be there. One of the said, ‘You LIKE China? You don’t find it inconvenient and you don’t think we’re backward?”

        I was stunned again. I loved China so much. I loved teaching. They were spectacular, bright, eager, wonderful. I said, “I love China. I love teaching.”

        The were surprised. The State had TOLD the they would be English teachers. They’d had no choice. They couldn’t imagine anyone WANTING to do that. And loving a country that wasn’t THEIR country? What?

        Anyway, I learned a lot that day and so did they. I never forgot it. It was one of those spontaneous, life- changing, moments. I was primed for it, but…

        People need to get OUT there with an open heart and few preconceptions, but it scares them.

      8. Zettl avatar

        Another great story – and it sounds so familiar!

        Since we’re already at storytelling, one that ties in with my previous post and it’s one of my favorite stories:

        Germany, certainly also because of history, generally goes to great lengths to be tactful. And then there was an important Chinese state visit with minister and entourage. Now they wanted to come up with an original present for the distinguished guest and they deciden in favor for a sports jersey. The minister’s name was Wang, so print Wang on it. But what number? One of the wise guys knew that 8 in China is a lucky number. So be it Wang 8.

        And that was a mega-catastrophe! 8 is called “ba”. The Chinese minister and his people read of course: Wang Ba. (Wang ba is the turtle). One of the worst swear words. (also wang ba dan – turtle egg).

        They always manage to step deep into the faux pas …..

      9. Martha Kennedy avatar

        Oh man… It’s really impossible. We’re all going to do horrible things with the best intentions.

  6. Natalia Castelluccio avatar

    How are you?

    1. Zettl avatar

      Hello, I am fine, thank you! Enjoying a long weekend with painting πŸ™‚ Hope you have a relaxed weekend too!

      1. Natalia Castelluccio avatar

        Thank you very much
        For me, Its a quiete week end…
        , πŸ˜˜πŸ‘

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