Monday, June 10, 2019

Staying still like a statue

My daughter Trina modelled for this portrait bust twenty years ago. While I worked with Trina in the studio, her sister Tania had to help her mother do the housework. None too pleased at having to do all the work, Tania remarked, "It's all right for you". To which Trina responded, "So you think its easy staying still all day like a statue!"

Today's installment of my book Notes on the Nude has a section headed "Modelling isn't Easy". It begins: I am forever searching for a model that is not a model and a pose that is not a pose...

The note is timely as this week I will be working with two new models. While I feel certain that they will enjoy and value the experience (I have never had a model who has not) they will nevertheless find that to be ones natural self for the first time on the modelling stand isn't easy.

If you scroll down the side bar to "Extracts from the UK diary pages" you will find more about Trina's portrait. And below is a recent picture of Trina.

Friday, June 7, 2019

As difficult as it may be

Today's painting is one that I made a couple of years ago of Shani breast feeding her baby. If you go to pages 10 and 11 of my book Notes on the Nude you'll find Shani featured in the role of ballet. But whoever the model and whatever the subject - and as difficult as it may be - like Rodin, I can do no other than work from the live model.

I can only work from a model. The sight of human forms feeds and comforts me. Auguste Rodin.

This is why I am all too often disappointed with the current crop of artists whose subject matter is the nude figure. One artist that I have followed and admired for years - his drawings are in the vein of Egon Schiele - I now suspect works from photographic images. His bold outlines of hands, feet and facial features are too regular and accurate to be otherwise. In contrast, Egon Schiele's drawings speak of his struggle of getting the living and breathing model down on paper, mistakes and all.

My painting of Shani breast feeding her baby was one such struggle. At the time I considered the painting a failure. But I now realise that within my perceived failure, mother and baby are alive and well! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

If only...

If today's sketch seems far removed from the normal run of my posts, let me explain...

When for a period in my life I relocated to my native West Riding of Yorkshire in the mid 1990's my first sculptural commission was for pair of bronze heraldic deer for the gateposts of a Grade 1 listed building. My preliminary sketches were made from life in a deer park, and therein lies the link with my work with the female nude: not by way of photographs but by way of life. 

If only I could have remained content to work from animals rather than humans, how much easier it would have been to find my models - and naked at that, just as God intended. 

Whether it be a shy deer or one of my Daughters of the Caribbean Sun, neither stays still for more than a fleeting few seconds. A photograph can record the instance but not the life. Both demand getting it down on paper at a single stroke, as referred to in this week's serialization of my book Notes on the Nude.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The mood of the moment

The painting that illustrates today's post shared a similar fate to the painting that illustrates page 35 in the latest installment of my book Notes on the Nude. Their common fate being that I considered both paintings a failure and cast them aside. However, as often happens, what I first perceive as a failure in retrospect I deem a success. For this reason I never destroy work no matter how tempting my initial urge to discard and have done with it. 

My watercolours of the female nude are as far removed from a photographic likeness as you can get. In a matter of  minutes my task is to capture the mood of the moment. Just as I seldom recognize my models outside of the studio, I sometimes have difficulty - unless I make a note on the day of the session - relating models to paintings. In this case I am almost certain that the painting on page 35 of my book is of Annabelle and the painting above is of Saryta. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

In Pursuit of Beauty

This week's installment from my book Notes on the Nude touches upon the pursuit of beauty, which in turn involves my endless search for models. 

A hundred and fifty years ago artists in Paris had the advantage of a weekly model market from which they could pick and choose. Alas, there is no such market on my island of Dominica but a like Rodin, Renoir and scores of artists from the past I have found many of my best models serving behind the counter in a five and ten cents store. 

When I looked in at one such store this morning I didn't find what wanted to buy - I've even forgot what it was - but I did find the attractive young lady pictured below. She is now on my list of potential models.

Irving Berlin beautifully expressed the virtuous attraction of an attractive young lady in his lyrics for the score of the 1920's Broadway Revue "Ziegfeld Follies".

A pretty girl is like a melody
That haunts you night and day
Just like the strain
Of a haunting refrain

She'll start upon a marathon and run around your brain...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Rapid response

A reoccurring message in my book Notes on the Nude is the need for a rapid response to the model's moods and changes. Whereas a watercolour might take me twenty minutes, the line drawing above was put down in twenty seconds. But either way, there's no time to worry about right or wrong. Better to capture the fleeting moment and leave moral judgement to the critics. 

My painting titled Model with hand to Pudendum featured in this week's installment of the book is a case in point. How glad I am that I seized the moment.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sensuous similarities

There are similarities between the beauty of the human form and church architecture. Like many artists before me, I am passionate about both. I touch upon this in forthcoming installments of my book Notes on the Nude. But for now I will leave you with the following paintings. 

First the human beauty of the standing nude and alongside, similarities in the drama of church architecture.

And second, the similarities in the peace and tranquility that I find within my studio and a churchyard. This holds true even though the church rubs shoulders with recent town center development, as does the Halifax Parish Church.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Body and Soul

As I stated in my dedication to Notes on the Nude without my model's contribution to the creative process my paintings and sculptures would not exist. They have given their body and soul to my work. 

This week's serialization of the book features paintings of my models Peal and Annabelle. Here they are captured by my camera. Whether by painting, sculpture and photograph, their remarkable beauty shines through. That isn't to say that I am searching for beauty queens. Many of my best models you would pass on the street without a second glance. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and the artist is the beholder.



The photographs were taken as the model's reference for the pose for a sculpture. 

A recent message from Pearl reads, It was a pleasure working with you.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Why Nude?

The latest serialization of pages from my book Notes on the Nude ends with the question "Why Nude". 

The note refers specifically to my attempt to rid Afro-Caribbean women of foreign concepts of facial features and dress. But the question has a broader significance.

Dress is subject to fashion but the beauty of nude remains constant. What is deemed fashionable today becomes out of date by tomorrow.  

The question "Why Nude" was raised when a party of primary school children visited my studio as work on my sculpture for the City of Leeds was still at the preliminary nude stage. During the visit one girl put her hand up and indignantly asked: "My Burnett, why are your statues so RUDE!" There followed an informed class debate on why the artist works from the nude. Their eventual understanding could have put many art degree students to shame.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Spot the difference

First Image

Second Image

Two images: I invite you to spot the difference.

Both are works on paper. The first is an original; the second is a lithograph print, number 19 of an edition of 100. 

The first has remained unsold at US$625.00 since 2001 and the second sold recently at Sotherby's for US$6,250.00.

A CLUE: The first is by Roger Burnett and the second by Tracey Emin.

The first is included in my book Notes on the Nude.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How to keep a secret

There is a saying on my Caribbean island of Dominica, that if you want to keep something secret, publish it in a book!

While this blog daily attracts hundreds of artists and art students from around the world, the sidebar link that takes you to the on-line serialization of my book Notes on the Nude is seldom clicked and the exploits of artist and models remain a closely guarded secret.The secrets this week include the agony and the ecstasy of giving birth to a painting that has involved a struggle against the odds. 

Now for another secret! 

My book Townscapes is finally available from Amazon. 

The book begins with my native town of Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire and ends with the towns and villages of my adopted Caribbean. Between the two I take a brief sojourn to Portugal and revisit Birmingham’s restored canal network. The book ends with a series of essays that express my concern about the present trend in Caribbean townscapes. 

For further information go to:

Saturday, April 27, 2019

To begin at the beginning

My love affair with the nude dates back to 1971. In that year I was seduced by Enzo Plazzotta’s sculpture Jamaican Girl. The infatuation was such that I followed my temptress to the land of her birth. Thereafter, the Caribbean became my adopted home and the islanders, my subject matter. 

Enzo Plazzotta’s sculpture Jamaican Girl.

My book Notes on the Nude traces my work as a painter and sculptor of the female nude figure. The images that illustrate the book are from my series: Daughters of the Caribbean Sun.

The title of the series is taken from a poem by the Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman (1958-1991). Sheila gave me the courage to explore the sensuous. I timidly began in the 1980’s from my studio in the British Virgin Islands. A Portrait of Alice is collection of red chalk drawings that depicted the beauty of the Afro-Caribbean woman. Alice is discreetly veiled in my drawings, for I had not then the courage to work with the nude.

The above illustration is taken from my book and shows Alice with one of my first tentative drawings. In advance of publishing a large format collector's limited edition of the book I will be serializing the contents week by week, page by page, over the next few months. To access the pages to date click on the sidebar image for this book or go to:

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The best of both worlds

As you'll on the sidebar, I have begun serializing Notes on the Nude in advance of publishing a large format, high quality, limited print edition. This gives my followers the best of both worlds. First: it makes the contents available on-line for art students in every corner of the world and second: for collector's, a hard copy, the details of which will follow. 

I will be serializing the book week by week, page by page, over the next few months. To access the pages click on the sidebar image for this book or go to:

To quote the reviewer of a draft copy:

Roger Burnett’s account of his life-time’s work as a painter and sculptor depicting the nude figure will forever put traditional life classes in the shade. The pages radiate with passion, both from the artist’s and model’s standpoint. I know of no other book on this subject that comes close. It is brave and beautiful…

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What have we done wrong?

Today's sketch might well express the dejected feelings of my models whose paintings and sculptures are featured in my book Notes on the Nude. I share their dismay: what have we done wrong to have our work "blocked" by the publisher of our choice. My models gave their body and soul and together we worked in all innocence to elevate the beauty and profundity of the nude.

The thousands of artists and art students that follow these post from every corner of the world do so in order to develop their understanding of working from the live model, and in doing so continue a practice that has been on going for centuries. 

Notes on the Nude is unique in giving an insight into the creative process from both the artist's and model's perspective. Moreover - and relevant to what we are presently up against - it records the battle of censorship in the arts since the time of Michelangelo. 

But one way or the other we will publish and be damned. One option is to publish the book on this blog in serial form, together with a high quality, limited edition print version. 

We're working on it!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

It beggars believe...or does it

My last post ended with a reviewer's comment:

It is artists like Schiele who blaze a trail for future generations of artists to create work without constraints limiting what they can do.

It would be wonderful if that were so. But alas, in today’s world it is the likes of Facebook that have set themselves up as the guardians of morality, and it seems that all others meekly follow suit. The “F” and “C” words pass muster, as does violence and hatred, but the innocent beauty of the nude is censored. 

The content of my forthcoming book Notes on the Nude is presently suffering a similar fate and has been BLOCKED by my first choice of publisher. 

It is somewhat ironic that, in a society where sex appeal is used to sell everything from perfume to cars, artistic representations of the nude are regularly banned from being shown in public places. But this is not a new development: notwithstanding the fact that, historically, the nude has been one of the central subjects of art, it has been subjected to regular censorship attempts.
On its unveiling in Florence in 1501, onlookers stoned Michelangelo’s “David,” breaking off an arm.  More recently, in California the penis on a reproduction of “David” was masked with a fig leaf - as it was in London at the time of Queen Victoria - and in Florida, a replica of David was dressed with a loincloth after community complaints.
I give credit to The National Coalition Against Censorship for serving as the US watchdog on these issues.