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Friday, February 19, 2021

Drawing

On Dan’s blog there has been some discussion of the work of Barbara O’Toole. O’Toole’s work is well-known and her reputation is solid with Femdom fans. I myself enjoy some of her work, but I do so while recognizing it for what I strongly believe it is: high quality manip. I say this because of how the work struck me initially and then how that reaction was reaffirmed by certain pieces that are clearly doctored photos.

This is clearly a photo composite, and there is the "Barb" signature in the corner. Now look at the placement, expressions, and theme. Other than the handling of color and the lack of anything layered over the images, does this really look much different than any other O'Toole work? Put in a blank background, draw over the photo and ...........

....you have this more "classic" Barb manip. The faces are the same . the placement is the same. A typical Barb composition has the pronounced foreground figures with another behind them but rarely in a graduated way. 

Subjects have a way of occupying space, whether it’s in real life or a photo.....just look around your room. In painting, an artist attempting realism to some degree paints that cohesive atmosphere into the composition. Anything that ignores that relationship of object to space and to other objects risks resembling paper dolls laid on a background photo….or “Colorforms” for those who remember those. LOL

Colorforms Monster set from the 1960's.

Thomas Eakins' 'The Gross Clinic'. Not a photo or a manip but an oil painting that shows spatial depth and the relationship of figures to one another and to the space they occupy.

Now look how the accentuated outlines of each figure separates them from their environment....and in this case, what a stark, empty environment it is. The woman on the left in particular feels like a detailed Colorform.

Where a manipulated photo can appear more convincing is in situations where the depth of the photo is maintained and the underlying photo obscured.

This is very convincing as a drawing and if this was the only piece O'Toole ever produced I'd have a hard time claiming it was a manip.......but it's not the only piece and as I said to Dan, "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus". .

Does the boy's pose here seem convincing? Or that of the interior? And yet, look at the facial detail. Who renders a face so meticulously and then just slaps a bland roof panel across the top in a drawing? And can you spot the things that are remnants of the original photo sources and the things that were drawn? Look at the boy's face in relation to the women.

Does this feel natural? Yet look at the instances of individual realism. It is very suspicious for an artist to possess the skill to render a figure or background in such detail and yet not be able to paint them INTO their shared environment. So one is left with the question of "just how much of this is original?" Did this start out like any drawing or illustration or painting with a blank space that the artist then filled with their skill? Compare this to the Eakins.

There is also a kind of 'art logic' argument to my assertion that these are manips. If a person is capable of drawing like the example in the 6th image, why resort to the obvious photo use in the first? Doesn't it make more sense that the first is the basic modus operandi and that the 6th is just a more "artified" version of that same technique?  Does an artist change technique to render the same style of work? It just doesn't make sense that some are full-blown original drawings and others are traced and colored-over photos. They simply are ALL colored-over photos. 

I could keep going but I think you get the idea. And I can't say I've ever heard O'Toole CLAIM these were original, drawn subjects, so I have no issue with her. And......I even get a kick out of some of her stuff.......of which there is a LOT! So what's the point of my little image tour? Clarity. You can do whatever floats your boat, but people shouldn't confuse your 'boat' for an airplane. 

Some may think my objection is in using a camera for artistic purposes. Not so. Cameras and photos themselves are not artistic anathema. It's how you use that camera. My thesis work centered on nude figures in outdoor landscapes…...something very difficult to achieve in NJ from life. So instead I would get friends to pose for me outside and use my camera to get reference shots. Later, armed with a slew of poses and  situations, I would rework the images into paintings often quite different from what I shot. It was like using models except my models got to stay warm and go home while I could work until the wee hours in my basement.

An example of one of my paintings from about 1983 where the figure was based on a photo of a model, in this case someone I barely knew, literally a friend of a friend, who was willing to pose nude outdoors for me for free. Also my work at the time dealt with the figure in a kind of modern cross between aspects of Impressionism and aspects of Fauvism, without all of the elements of either. Despite the emphasis of this post on spatial realism, my work did not seek that effect, using a more Fauvistic approach to space. (If confused, check out some Gaughin.)

Even using a camera as a direct aid for art is nothing new.  Vermeer had his camera obscura and even my own father used an artograph to plot his paintings directly onto a paper and then onto a canvas. I myself may even resort to the same means for an upcoming painting. Why? Well first off, at least with Vermeer and my father, they are also the one finding and or assembling the subject and then personally taking the picture and using it as a guide for their own work….a work that in the end will be about more than merely copying a subject precisely. And a work that in the end is a PAINTING.....not a DRAWING. 

See, the other issue for me has to do with terminology and please keep in mind, just like “theory” in science versus its daily usage has a different meaning, Art too has its nuanced definitions:

Painting is an artistic expression using colored pigment as the primary medium. Drawing is doing the same thing primarily through the use of line. While a drawing can have halftones and shading, line is the master, much like color is the mistress of painting. Unlike painting which implies paint, drawing can be done with anything that can make a line, be it pencil, charcoal, ink, or other. But a tracing is not a drawing. So since the work resonates with so many, ( even as it also disturbs others with her youthful subjects), and is often of exceptional quality, let's recognize Barb O'Toole as the reigning "Queen of the Femdom Manip". It's a title that is not only deserved .....but accurate.



20 comments:

  1. You are quite knowledgeable about the art of manipulating.. I did honestly try to 'see' what you saw in the 'Barb' pictures - but honestly couldn't see it.

    I'm curious about something - you did a good job defending the photoshopping of photographs.. but seem to be upset by the way these drawings are manipulated...... can you explain why??

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    1. Yes, easily and logically. It's 2021 and "manips" are rampant and here to stay. I have no problem with that. So their existence is not my objection. Dan summed half of it up in his comment and I tried to explain the semantic argument in the post. Simply put: a "manip" is NOT a drawing, it is a coloring or tracing of a photograph likely not even one's own, and as such, a viewer should not be tempted to credit the artist behind a manip with superior drawing skills. It would be like me......as a math idiot.....getting credit for being a numerical genius in a competition with a mathematician who was doing his work in his head or on paper while I was using a calculator.

      As for photography, my argument was stated in that post as a kind of confusion over why it matters, in a technical medium, WHEN the technical decisions were employed? But what about taking this a step further: what if I took a classic Ansel Adams shot, put it in photoshop and colorized some of it, and then signed my name to the finished product? Not quite the same as my objection to manips being considered "drawings" ......but close.

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  2. KD,
    What is your opinion of her depictions of youthful male figures who may or may not be adults? Apparently some read "age play" scenarios into that while others do not. Your discussion re the possibility some of the work (at least some) is based on original photos makes the issue even more pointed. I am not the art connoisseur that you clearly are –but I would value her work much more if it depicted unambiguously adult males. Look forward to your opinion
    Alan

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    1. Hi Alan, I don't have the issue many seem to have for a few very reassuring reason:

      1: I simply don't believe the source material comes from minors. Any search of "twink" material will show young Gay males engaging in all sorts of tomfoolery but while they are clearly youthful "barely legals" they ARE "legals" nonetheless. These are guys who get hired as models because they can legally pose but look younger than they are. I am sure we all recall our time being 18 and how different 18 can be from person to person.

      2: If O'Toole was out to create BDSM art with male minors, she could easily do so and hasn't. She could simply source from almost anywhere (including Naturist sites) and alter the pictures accordingly as she does to a degree with these. If her kick was minors as clearly underage MINORS, there would be no ambiguity. Therefore the ambiguity you see is intentional and places a careful toe in the likelihood that these are boys of at least 18. If not she could easily find material to make them look to be 12 or even 9. They do not.

      3: She depicts all sorts of things, yet never once have I seen her depict a sex act with an underage male. Instead she depicts very neutral but (for a kinky person) very "loaded" activities between maternal figures.....like rectal temperature taking, medical exams, nudity, spanking, etc. By doing this she kind of puts the inappropriateness on the viewer. (very clever) So if you see a boy of 18 bent for an exam with his mother and doctor nearby, you could say "what an odd subject" or another could say "wow! How kinky!". Attributing sexual kinkiness to a medical procedure then becomes the viewer's issue not hers. And how can you say otherwise? She never shows anything sexual, so where's the evidence that these procedures are sexual....except in certain viewers' minds?

      So I guess it comes down to the viewer. You can see her work as inappropriate, weird, or sexy.....all depending on your POV rather than any graphic depiction. Just consider an artistic photographed nude minor. A nude minor is not illegal by virtue of just being naked. To be illegal the subject has to be engaged in something inappropriate. So what of a good nude photo of a minor, male or female? Is it art? Or is it a guilty pleasure for someone with a child-fetish? Kind of depends on the viewer, right?

      Do I think she has a "thing" for young boys? Absolutely. But I don't think anyone has arrested her yet, and they'd be hard-pressed to make such an accusation stick.

      For me personally? A lot of her stuff doesn't do much for me. But some does. And I guess what works for me is because of something in me more than what's in the picture.

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    2. Superb analysis and persuasive explanation. Someone said once pornography is in the loins of the beholder (or something like that) – and I guess that is true. But with the historical association of spanking with minors – and the all but universal condemnation of that practice today, I think eroticized adult spanking should unambiguously depict adults and adult themes.I know I am being judgemental. Maybe I should be spanked.
      Alan

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    3. Thanks, Alan. I do have a kind of weirdly split educational background: a BS in Biology and then an MFA in painting. So I guess that makes for a crazy duality of logical/artistic. LOL

      I don't think you are being judgmental, just expressing a preference. There's a difference and kind of a significant one.
      And only you know for sure if you need to be spanked. LOL

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  3. I enjoy her work very much, but when you show Judge Judy I would say that would be the one person I would not want to be spanked by. Jack

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  4. Politely steering clear of this other than to say that I don't particularly care for her "art."

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    1. Note that I wrote "art" and not Art.

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    2. That's fair. She definitely tends to polarize opinions.

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  5. KD, this is an interesting look at Barb as art. Your analysis makes sense to me. Whenever I’ve called it drawing, it was simply due to laziness. I wasn’t sure exactly what to call it, but it seemed something like drawing/tracing and compositing. With regard to kinky illustrations, I like more realism, with accurate proportions and shading, rather than line drawing and cartoons. The Barb manips, if that’s the term we’re using, appeal to me because they incorporate the more literal representation of a photograph, yet are staged for the imagination. They focus on the subject and, apparently, “Barb” puts the energy there. I’m far more interested in the subject than the art, and for me the subject is fairly well illustrated.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I don't disagree with anything you said other than where our preferences may lay. And that's as it should be.

      The "subject vs. execution" issue is another polarizing issue among people of all inclinations, with "subject" winning most of the time.

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    2. It’s not that I don’t love to see well-rendered art, at least what appeals to my aesthetic. With kinky illustrations, though, I’m viewing them first because of the kink, not that I was in search of great art. Of course, if a piece can compellingly illustrate an idea that fascinates me, and also be a display of much talent and skill, that’s double the pleasure.

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  6. I know nothing of this subject. if there was a negative value to knowledge of something i suppose i would be in possession of it in this instance. but i am very impressed at your essay! (I tried to follow along but art is just not something I am terribly interested in.)

    Still, it's great that you're writing off-kink stuff with kink subject matter. It's brilliant!

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    1. I'm sorry this isn't your thing. However, while I like credit as much as anyone, I can't in good conscience accept it in the case of the kink/off-kink blend. The discussion of her work just began on Dan's blog and all I did was put a more detailed analysis of why what viewers see, are not "drawings". But I'm glad you liked how that worked out. (I have tried to mix kink with real topics in the past though, with probably the most humorous being a discussion of stained glass windows and ended with glass butt plugs. LOL)

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    2. Ok then, it's great that you're CONTINUING discussions of non kink topics with kinky subject matter. :)

      Sometimes it works, and well, sometimes, you get stained glass butt plugs LOL

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  7. Just another test comment here to see if I can say something as "Anon"

    Prefectdt

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