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The Luxury of Unpopularity

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It is a rare even these last few years when I've put the last paint to a canvas and called it finished. I finished a painting the week before last, a portrait of a female bodybuilder. I expect it to be wildly unpopular: with lovers of visual arts, with bodybuilders, unpopular with virtually everyone. But I am happy with that outcome, because it is exactly what I wanted to paint.

Even among relatively hardcore bodybuilding fans, at a website I frequent, 98% of the male membership scorns muscular females. So, this painting can only possibly appeal to a niche-within-a-niche. For more mainstream folks, the case is even stronger against this painting. Revulsion is the normal reaction I get: That looks like a man, or Why would any woman ever want to look like that?, or Why would you choose to paint that!? These are common reactions. I was at the NPC Nationals bodybuilding contest in Long Beach, California, in 1990. Two oil painters had their paintings of female bodybuilders on display. One was a better painter than I am; one was not quite so good. Both were ignored. I even overheard a comment by one of the female competitors, regarding one of the paintings: What the hell is that?

So, in short, the intersection of those who appreciate the beauty of female bodybuilders and those who appreciate the visual art of painting is incredibly tiny. It is the target I am shooting for, nonetheless. I wrote up a two-page treatise explaining my choice, for future posting on my website, modelled after John Bunyan's The Author's Apology for His Book, which is his preface to The Pilgrim's Progress. Mine is not (yet) in verse, as Bunyan's is. But, at the end of the day, it just seems like useless words ... words which will convince no one. One of Bunyan's chief excuses for writing The Pilgrim's Progress was that it pleased him. To a large extent, I use the same excuse. Bunyan needn't have worried, since his book rose to a level of popularity rivalled only by the Bible. My paintings, probably not so much.

However, I want to thank God for the luxury of being able to make unpopular paintings. If not for my (mostly despised) engineering career, I would not be able to make unpopular paintings. I would have to be driven by market forces, and paint what patrons wanted to see. So, I am thankful to have made this painting, and hope by God's help to make more like it.


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Hey that looks like Michelle Brent. We've done photo shoots with her. Sorry to hear people don't like the painting. If you like to see more of her we've featured her on our website and we also have Pastor Candy Canary who's a female bodybuilder of Faith - http://www.genexmagazine.com

Hi Gene. Yes, it is Michelle. I am going to paint one of Vicki Nixon next, and after that, not absolutely sure (I'm sending you a PM on a related note).

Welcome to Arts & Faith, man! I have known about and admired your photography since the mid-1990s or so. You are one of the best there is in women's physique photography; everyone says so. I typed that last sentence in orange, just for you.

Thanks for commenting. I hope to see you around here again!

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