I did this because I have the idea that these magazines might be a good source material for painting beautiful women. But it's a little more involved than that, really, because it's not hard to find images of beautiful women online, or in Playboy or Penthouse magazines (I have quite a few of those). You see, I believe there's something fundamentally different about the attitude expressed by the women in fashion magazines from the attitude expressed by women in erotic media.
I find myself quite interested in these subtleties. (In much the same way that I have, in the past, found myself interested in the subtleties of posture and style of dress in their capacities as means of communication - consciously or unconsciously - about who we are, who we want to be, and who we want to fit in with.)
In fact I was disappointed and perplexed when I tried to google variations of 'differences in facial expression porn vs. fashion magazines" and came up with nothing. This seems like a viable topic for a scholarly dissertation... to me anyway.
So here is my opening statement, my hypothesis, the assumption upon which I decided to purchase the Numèro magazines:
• The range of facial expressions, and posture for that matter, affected by women posing for erotic media tends strongly towards 'demure,' 'seductive,' and 'submissive.'
• In contrast, the range of facial expressions and posture affected by women posing for fashion tends more towards 'confrontational,' 'self-assured,' and sometimes even 'aggressive.'
One obvious observation to make here is that erotic magazines and fashion magazines have different target audiences. Erotic media is primarily targeted at men, presumably men who are interested in sexy women, and so it follows that female models who convey with their body language and facial expression that they 'want' to be with these men who make up the audience will help sell more magazines.
Conversely, fashion magazines are marketed to women, presumably with the idea of selling clothing and cosmetics to these women. And so what's being sold here is a fantasy of self-assertion, strength, and even beauty that the female audience might be able to attain by purchasing the items on sale therein.
Something interesting that follows from these points is that both magazines are selling fantasy; and that beautiful women are the locus, the vehicle, the blank canvas for that fantasy. It's all very aspirational, in a way that feels sort of private and personal and possibly a little bit shameful.
I believe that feminine beauty is a kind of mirror, reflecting back at us a lot of hidden data about the culture we live in as well as our own hidden psychologies.
Can you tell which of the following images came from fashion publications and which came from erotic media?
My guess is that you CAN tell. The facial expressions are fundamentally different.
(Unfortunately, there are also a lot of other clues in these images which you may have consciously or unconsciously noted, and which made the determination easier. I tried to 'even the playing field' by only using fashion images in which the shoulders were bare.)
If I relax the requirement of having bare shoulders, the following images from fashion publications illustrate the point more clearly, I think.
These facial expressions, at the 'assertive' end of the spectrum, shall we say, are simply not found in mainstream erotic media.
So by now I have spent quite a bit of time thumbing through the Numèro magazines in search of interesting faces and interesting expressions, and I have some data on which to evaluate my original hypothesis. The truth is that the range of expressions on display is really very broad, and encompasses pretty much everything from angry or annoyed all the way to demure and seductive. At first glance, I find the inclusion of 'demure and seductive' to be a bit mystifying, but I might have a sense of why this is... a new hypothesis if you will. Perhaps it is the case that fashion magazines are presenting a broad and inclusive fantasy so that all women can see some version of themselves in that 'paper mirror,' whether they are feeling angry or assertive or romantic or submissive... albeit a better-dressed version of themselves.
Erotic media, for the most part, does not need to bother with this wide range of expression. Men are seeking out this type of media for a narrower set of reasons. (I imagine that there are dark corners in the landscape of erotic media catering to niche tastes, and that a broader range of facial expressions can be found if you look for them.)
So there is a lot more overlap between these types of media than I'd originally assumed, but if you're looking for images of beautiful women wearing any facial expression other than demure and seductive, high-end fashion magazines are a great place to start. I don't regret my purchase.
In a way, this entire 'experiment,' or 'inquiry,' really just serves to underscore the potency and importance of facial expression in terms of its ability to evoke a psychological or emotional response in the viewer. We humans have, after all, evolved over eons to respond sensitively to infinite subtleties in the faces of our peers.
Fashion media, erotic media, and many other kinds of media for that matter are just taking advantage of this instinctual human ability in order to engage us in a fantasy of one sort or another (depending on what sort of media we choose to engage with) and the type of face most often used to sell this fantasy is the face of the beautiful woman. Because, to (almost correctly) quote Peaches, "The girls want to be her, the boys want to be [with] her."
So what sort of facial expression do you respond to? And what does it say about your psychology? Are you looking for someone to show you a 'better' version of yourself? Or just to accept you? To nurture you? To protect you? Or to challenge you? No matter what it is, there's a facial expression just for you, and you can find it in a magazine.
For me, personally... I like the intense faces, the strong ones, the emotional ones. Long-time readers of this blog will already know that. And what does that say about my psychology? Well, I think I sorta kinda might know the answer to that, but hey... that's a bit personal, don't you think? If you want to 'read' my psychology, you'll just have to wait for my paintings.
And speaking of that... there is an interesting question floating in the ether which is "why will I not share images of my paintings in progress?"
The simple answer is that I do not want anyone's opinion, be it positive or negative or anywhere in between.
To once again quote the great painter Andrew Wyeth,
"People only make you swerve. I won’t show anybody anything I’m working on. If they hate it, it’s a bad thing, and if they like it, it’s a bad thing. An artist has to be ingrown to be any good."
*Very slight shift of topic... Another thing I really like about high-end fashion magazines is that some of the photo spreads can really reach the level of art. One can only assume that these magazines have decent budgets for these spreads, and in the hands of visionary photographers or production designers, these photos can be very interesting...
OK, there you go...
That's all I have to say!