I have crashed a party exactly once in my life.
It was New Year’s Eve and rumor had it THE most fabulous miniature gay man on the face of the planet –I mean he out-Capotes Truman Capote– was having a little shindig and I’d heard so much about his legendary house I simply HAD to go or I would just DIE.
So I charmed, finagled, and finally begged my way into being someone’s plus one. The big night came, my ticket had to bail. Well. By that time I was already in sequined cocktail gown and white Dior tailcoat and by GOD I was going to this party, so I waltzed in with my lynx coat and hastily gift-wrapped box of Walker’s shortbread and I crashed that party like a pro.
I cannot even begin to describe to you this house, other than I accidentally knocked my handbag against one of the many Picasso harlequins on the walls that were tessellated floor-to-cathedral ceiling with art. Because why have ONE Modigliani when you can have three, plus some Dali etchings to fill in the spaces and a few Cecil Beaton photographs OF YOURSELF just for good measure.
Above the story-tall fireplace in the great room was a huge painting of our host as a young man, painted by his brother who apparently was something of a Big Deal back in the 30’s. My friend –who had also finagled his way into a plus one– commented:
“It takes a certain type of person to have their own portrait hanging in their living room.”
to which I replied, slightly hurt but for no good reason “Hey! I have my portrait hanging in my living room!”
“…Of course you do.”
And this is why I’m of two minds when it comes to the art of Les Toil, the artist behind the Toil Girls, a series of mostly individually-commissioned drawings of plus-size women in the pin-up style.
Francesca was a fan. I am definitely not.
On one hand, I totally get it.
I understand why women –maybe women who don’t necessarily get a lot of positive feedback about their desirability– would want to be transformed into a cheesecake cartoon. Lord knows I’m all about the vanity and as far as vanities go, it’s a relatively cheap and harmless one. On par with those tack-o but inoffensive Glamour Shots you get in the mall.
On the other hand…sheesh. Low. Brow. Now I understand that for some unknown reason you all aren’t required to share all my tastes YET (say what you will about Fascism, at least they had a unified aesthetic) but…sheesh.
BUT, all indications to the contrary, I’m not here to hate on Les Toil.
He seems like a decent enough fella. He certainly loves the big girls and, perhaps more importantly, is willing to monetize that love. More power to him. It takes all kinds.
And who knows, maybe he’ll be the next Art Frahm and then someday you can entertain your grandkids with the photo the same way Frahm’s models (if indeed he used models) probably tell their grandkids about how they had to pose drop-knickered with a bag of celery for a five cents an hour.
This whole thing just smacks of yet another case where instead of getting what they really want –say an oil portrait of your reclining nude self– big girls settle for what’s available and acceptable.
Houses settle, bets settle, benches settle.
You? Don’t have to settle. Not about most things, and certainly not about this.
If your soul yearns to be a Toil Girl and only a Toil will do, by all means, get one. Get a dozen and make a freakin’ calendar and cherish the crap out of that hot kitschy mess. BUT if what you want is a mixed media painting of yourself in the nude (and I firmly believe all women should sit for a nude painting or drawing at least once in her life) then kick the kitsch to the curb and get what you want.
“But what about the money?”
Mister Toil charges between $400 and $500 and to me that’s perfectly fair. I know some women have this idea that if you sit for an artist you are being his muse and not only will he probably fall madly in love with your beauty, he will paint you for free.
These women are high.
BUT, getting a fine art portrait (I view Mr Toil’s work as illustration, and there’s certainly no shame in the illustration game, but fine art it ain’t) doesn’t have to be that much more expensive. It just takes a little legwork.
If you want to drop a grand or more for a traditional oil portrait but don’t know where to start, you might try calling your city capitol building. Ask a docent who painted the portrait of the sitting governor. If he or she isn’t taking commissions, you might ask who they would recommend.
If you prefer a hipper more impressionist –though potentially less polished– portrait, go to the coffee shops, teensy galleries, bars, wherever they display local artists. If there’s an artist you just loooove on Etsy, ask them if they’ll take a commission. Heck, even Craigslist works if you live in a relatively artsy town.
Meet with your potential artist, get a feel for the artist’s work and personality. I’ve found many if not most artists genuinely prefer to work with women with a more traditionally voluptuous build. If it clicks it clicks. If not, move on. It will help if you’ve got an idea of what you want and what you don’t want.
Just don’t settle.
In eighty years you (or your children or your great grandchildren) will love to see how gorgeous and vibrant you were in all your beautiful curving glory. Make it something you want them to see, especially above the fireplace.