Body Art - Illustration Process


The illustration below is my response to the body art and modification research I did recently. I was influenced by the tribal lip-plugs and neck extenders, that I saw in Pitt Rivers museum. Further, the concept of the female body as a canvas, in addition to being represented in art, is fascinating to me. The figure of the woman in my drawing is inspired by Rolf Armstrong's paintings. His glamour girls from the 20s are synonymous with the American "Good Girl" art (American Art Archives). I imagined how such pinup girl would look with body modifications typical of an African tribe. As discussed previously, such modifications may seem extreme to our Western culture, but are comparable to extreme plastic surgery, corset binding etc, found in our society. 

Sabina Radeva,  Body Art & Modification , 2015.

Sabina Radeva, Body Art & Modification, 2015.

Further, I was inspired by the "Hand Marks" fashion and surface design trend and the work of Laura Slater. I painted ink lines, dots, geometric elements and mixed those with tribal art elements. This idea shares similarities to Terry Hays's fashionable tribal patterns. However, my patterns are less dense and are stylistically different. One could also trace my inspiration to the YASCO nudes covered with Henna designs. Unlike these, the final look of my illustration is rather close to Pop Art.

My influences and inspiration, documented previously in this blog, can be recognised in the language of the final artwork. However, the illustration feels distinctly mine and departs from any of the examples that I collected during the visual research. To that end, I am satisfied with the process and will use it further in other self-directed projects.

Sabina Radeva,  Illustration Process - Sketches , 2015.

Sabina Radeva, Illustration Process - Sketches, 2015.

Pitt Rivers,  Haida tribe lip-plugs.  Photo by Sabina Radeva 2015

Pitt Rivers, Haida tribe lip-plugs. Photo by Sabina Radeva 2015

Sabina Radeva,   Illustration Process - Patterns  , 2015.

Sabina Radeva, Illustration Process - Patterns, 2015.

Body Art and Modification

Recently I visited the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford which contains a large selection of anthropological and archaeological artefacts. These objects are encased in Victorian glass boxes and are grouped by function.

The Body Art section made a strong impression on me (see images below). My area of focus is femininity in art and illustration. It is fascinating that the female body itself can serve as a canvas for art. Tattoos and body modifications can be an expression of personality, social status and cultural identity.  

Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, Body Art. Photos by Sabina Radeva, 2015.

Some body modifications, like the Haida tribe lip-plugs (see image above) may seem extreme. However, there are parallels with our western society where extreme plastic surgery, tattoos, corset binding and piercing may seem equally bizarre. In an article by Reba Maybury, in Sang Bleu Magazine, the author discusses how current trends and social media influence people's perception of their body. There is an increasing number of body modifications where people imitate the look of famous celebrities to attract attention on platforms like Instagram. The more unnatural and extreme the body transformation, the more viral their online presence becomes.

Next, I was interested to find how contemporary artists have interpreted the theme body art. I mainly found works incorporating tattoos. There are not many illustrations on the topic of body modification.

Terry Hays combines street art with tribal tattoo motifs. He paints with acrylics on wood and creates beautiful patterns. I was inspired by the bold colors and intricate details. I would like to incorporate more patterns in my own work.

Terry Hays, Pembina Highway, 2012.

YASCO, #39, 2009.

YSCO, #7.

YASCO, Odalisque, 2011.

YASCO, Odalisque, 2011.

Stacia Burrington, Little Legs, 2012.

Stacia Burrington, Little Legs, 2012.

Artist Yasmina Alaoui combines Eastern, Arabic influences, Tattoo styles and Henna patterns to create mesmerising body art. Alaoui layers her motifs on black and white nude photographs. I liked the contemporary feel of the Henna patterns.

I examined the work of Stasia Burrington, who combines cut out fabric flowers with pencil drawings to create beautiful body art studies. I liked the Kraft blooms with vivid colors applied on the delicate, simple drawings.

I was inspired by the theme Body Art, and the works I found by contemporary artists. The images which I selected in this brief research share similarities to my work. I am attracted to intricate patterns and surreal compositions. I would like to respond to this theme with an illustration which also incorporates elements of body modifications.