Go Figure

painting of dark skinned male torso, shirtless, hands clasped in front of him; a grape vine twist gently around one of his arms

Why the human figure? Of the many things an artist can paint or draw, I always come back to figure drawing. Not that I don’t love a good, dreamy landscape or charming still-life. But time and energy are limited, and the flesh is weak, so I go where the urge, the need is strongest.

It’s all about desire, many kinds of desire. At the bottom of heap is your basic horny lust. Let’s just get that out of the way. Yes, this kind of desire has a number of outlets (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and art is indeed one I turn to. Variety is the spice of life. So, you might ask, am I responding to the deluge of thirst traps by making more? Yes, but they’re artsy, imaginative thirst traps. That’s gotta be worth something.

Not highfalutin enough for you? How about desire for connection? I’d say we all go through life with a longing to see and be seen, to express, to feel, to move, to give and receive pleasure. And the pleasures of the body can be some of the most delightful and leave strong impressions. Art involving the figure can become a physical artifact resonating with memories or echoes of these moments of pleasure.

As we climb this mountain of inspiration, we come next to desire for the impossible, the unobtainable, the just out of reach. Often, my art is inspired by something beyond the physical, just beneath the surface of an image or stolen glance. An undefinable essence, if you will. Making the art is grabbing some inchoate idea from the ether and trying wrestle it into physical existence. Always failing, really. There is no arrival, end point or success–just continual effort.

Finally we arrive the peak of the mountain and take in the wide vista. The desire now is for visions of justice. Figure drawing in my art often depict characters, characters who are in relation to each other and their worlds, whether inner, outer, or both. People are stories, stories are people, drawing one is drawing the other. When I tell you a story, even about the past, I’m trying to shape the present and the future by planting something in your mind. What is that future, what seeds am I sowing? Beauty, power, desire, growth, freedom, pleasure, ecstasy. I want to cultivate in the garden of your imagination a vision of a just, equitable, and truly free society powered by pleasure. Is it working?

The world is too damn straight!

two handsome men kissing

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Cover image: Beloved and God, No. 4 (2019, 6 in. x 9 in., gouache on paper)

Published by Edward Ficklin

Edward Ficklin (he/him), maverick artist not afraid to say gay, is a self-taught painter, writer, publisher and sometimes technologist. He creates sensuous and erotically-tinged queer surrealist art, publishes queer-centered sci-fi comix, and pontificates regularly on a range of topics in his Queer Quantum Dispatch newsletter.

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