Today (on Tumblr) I came across what was clearly intended as an erotic photo. I’m not sure whether it’s an old photo, or a recent one emulating an old one . . . Anyway it features a woman in her underwear, standing next to a harp. Her head is resting on the against the top part of the harp, and her hand on what should be the pillar (I think that’s the correct terminology). One shoulder strap is half way down her upper arm. Her bare thighs and upper chest and neck are highlighted by the pose. The harp has nice curves. So does she.

But several things bother me about the photo—probably not helped by the fact that I’m heavily involved in music:

  • Something is wrong with the column or pillar. To be precise, what’s wrong is that most of it is missing. What we’re seeing is basically part of a dismembered harp.
  • It appears not to have any strings, except for a few of the long ones at the bass end. They are hanging loose, adding to the sense that what we’re looking at is not a musical instrument, but the remains of one.
  • She looks as though she’s never had anything to do with a harp in her life.

Basically I look at the photo and think “Oh my God—what has happened to that instrument?!” For me, this is not an erotic thought.

But the most puzzling thing for me is the choice of pose. I think the photographer intended the way she’s standing, and touching the ex-harp, to be sensuously suggestive and erotic. Because if she were merely playing the harp, she wouldn’t touch it like that. And she’d almost certainly be wearing more clothes. Clearly we’re meant to think that she’s imagining touching something else . . .

The only thing is: the normal playing position for a harp is far sexier than the pose in the photo. So if you’re used to seeing someone play a harp, the photo feels as though she’s carefully trying to avoid the sexiness by just standing there and keeping her distance from it.

Was this intentional—was the photo taken at a time when the photographer felt that the combination of underwear and a normal playing position would be too risqué? Were the photographer and model simply clueless about musical instruments? Or just unconcerned about the possibility of anyone with a music background seeing the photo? Whatever the reason, the result is a photo which at first sight seems as though I ought to find it erotic, but which actually . . . feels like somone standing awkwardly with a piece of wreckage.

So, what do we learn? An unexpected message, maybe:

  • there are actually situations in which reality is sexier than fantasy
  • real music is sexier than fantasy music.

. . . well, perhaps.

Why am I posting this here rather than to my mainstream blog? I’m not sure. These aren’t really “naughty” pictures, just very beautiful and very sensuous. To me that makes me experience them as quite erotic too, though I’m not sure whether the artist would see them that way. Neither am I sure where the boundary between the two lies, if any.

I suppose I have a certain shyness about letting my real-life friends and regular readers know that I enjoy that kind of sensuality. Again, why? How could anyone not enjoy it? Well the shyness is clearly something for me to work on and that sort of thing is why I created this blog; meanwhile, let’s talk about the pictures.

They are by Bec Winnel, some of whose stunningly beautiful drawings can be found on this gallery page and others scattered throughout her blog. Mostly they are beautifully expressive drawings of women’s faces, with eyes so deep that you try to read their minds, so well drawn that you totally believe you’re looking at a real person with real thoughts. The shading is delicately done so that inessentials merge seamlessly into the background and your eyes are drawn to the eyes in the picture.

© Bec Winnel 2009

My Gemini Heart. ©Bec Winnel 2009

In Bec’s words this piece “explores my two sides, one is strong and wants to care, nurture and protect, the other is weaker and wants to be nurtured, protected and cared for”. I find it fascinating they way the eyes do in fact bring this out. But also, in my words, “Wow!”

Here are two more: The Illusionists and Farewell.

The Illusionists. © Bec Winnel 2009

The Illusionists. © Bec Winnel 2009

This is a lovely example of the shading away which I mentioned. We see precisely as much as is needed to communicate the expressions, the beauty and sensuality; any addition (full outline of the heads, maybe) would be a distraction. So would a noticeable boundary between the skin and hair and the paper they’re drawn on, but there is none: the smoothness of the skin is reflected in the smooth transition to the background. There’s no “jolt” to the sensuous feel of the drawing.

Farewell. © Bec Winnel 2009

Farewell. © Bec Winnel 2009

I’ll admit that these three pictures are a biased selection: they’re all quite similar since I’ve chosen the ones that I particularly like. 😉 So visit her site to see what the others are like, find out about exhibiitions of her work, discover what sort of art she likes, and see some intermediate stages of the drawing process. And if you want to get your hands on some of these women, so to speak, prints of her work are available at her Etsy shop.

All images in this post used by permission.