Music = Nostalgia/Memories

Music has been the background of my life ever since I heard Dionne Warwick playing out of my mother’s Victrola when I was 3 years old. As a teenager, I would play certain songs over and over as I loved them so much and some helped me deal with so many difficult times. And because of that, whenever I hear those songs now, I am brought back to the time.

I was iTunes shopping today and if nothing really new is out from my favorite artists, I always head back looking for the oldies – for me that is mainly the 80s – I was a true and true MTV child even if I did listen to everything ranging from the late 60s and 70s and then while in uni, the 90s. Still, the songs of the 80s fell smack into all of my troubled youth well into early adulthood.

The rock band Boston was a favorite of mine and this song came up which, for some odd reason, I didn’t have anymore in my music collection. This song played every time I was hurt by someone. I would sit in the car crying, sobbing and hating myself (which was often) and I played this. I downloaded this song today, at 51 years old, and over the last half hour, played it over and over. And the lump in my throat came back….

Cry for Dawn

In the late 80s/early 90s, I was a tiny bit comic book geek. Two comics that I collected and read feverishly were ElfQuest and the lesser-known Cry for Dawn.  Dawn – the hot, female liaison between Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil was who I aspired to be – especially who I wanted to look like, in spite of the knowledge that yes, yes, she is a drawn comic character, drawn by a male as an ideal hottie. Still, I gave in to my thoughts of “if only I looked like”…

I don’t remember all of the stories from the comics, except that she was always there when the internal conflict of good and evil came up. And she was there to talk to Lucifer to calm him down, and to be the voice of reason, I suppose. She was also there to show that one cannot exist without the other. I know the author/artist did not create her so simply but it’s what I have taken from it.

Artwork © Joseph Michael Linsner
Artwork © Joseph Michael Linsner

Because of my Catholic upbringing, the concept of good, evil, Heaven and Hell are ingrained in my mind. Although I don’t follow Catholicism, it is there and in so much of my artwork. It makes for good dramatic scenes, and I don’t deny that consequences to our actions don’t exist. It may not take the form of places in the afterlife – it could even mean karma – but the ideas can very much weigh on our minds.

The image that I created as Dawn here in 1998 only shows the thorny rose that she wore around her wrist. Oh the thorns, oh the rose. A very concrete symbol of good and evil and the need to have both.

Dawn © 1998 AnnMarie Tornabene

I believe that this image kick started the idea of using spiritual symbols in my work. It certainly took over images time and again:

A Feeble Attempt © 2016 AnnMarie Tornabene
In Caelis et Terra © 2014 AnnMarie Tornabene




Judgement © 2019-2020 AnnMarie Tornabene
Homage to Caravage © 2020 AnnMarie Tornabene
Saint Jerome © 2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

And while I may not nor ever look like Dawn, I have to thank the artist/author for attracting me to her enough for me to open the pages and read something of depth.

All images copyrighted by the artist. NOT FOR USE.


Large Models ≠ Classical Realism?

 “As the models from which the students worked were already idealized works of art, they helped to inculcate in the students a mannered vision of nature, which encouraged them to draw the live model in a conventional, idealized and non individual way. Although the anatomical idiosyncrasies of the human figure were a shock to the students’ unaccustomed eyes, the tendency to see the form only in abstract line and tonal gradations was already well ingrained. Models were commonly posed in noble stances derived from antique statues, which both aided the transition from cast to live model, and maintained the emphasis on the classical tradition.”  – Jose Parramón author of The Big Book on Oil Painting.

This quote is taken by a very interesting article about the definition of academic art from its roots to modern day and the role it plays. You can read the article HERE.

This topic of what ideal means, in art especially, has been on my mind for many years. As a self-portrait photographer, my life’s work includes the concept of self-acceptance and body image and as an artists’ model, that objective continues. In the 23 years that I have been posing, I have posed for only one or two actual art academies that teach academic, classical realism drawing. And in those academies, only once did I pose nude, full figure. The other times were all portrait sessions.

I know that the academic goal in art as to capture the real – to focus on the conventions of a body – the proportions, the forms, the way the light and dark cast on the body, the movement and to learn about the anatomy. The “goal” in learning academically, as states in the article, is to become a “master” – leaving out impressionism, expressionism, etc.  So sure, they all start learning from plaster casts that do not move and are perfectly sculpted to models that look just like the casts. A non individual way.

“The term “classical” refers to an idealized concept of natural beauty”


But why….why are the academies still so hung up on only studying what they consider still, after hundreds of years, a thin body, a non-individual body and call it ideal? Why not an individual body, first and in this day and age why not a large body? Does it have to do with the psychological thought that the larger body is not deemed healthy, hence not fit for being a standard for beauty? And what difference is it to draw from a cast that is of a naturally curvy body?

Do artists that want to learn classical realism really desire to only draw the same type of thin or muscular body? Maybe they do but I fail to see why it would not be beneficial for academic art academies to also use more supple, sculptural, fleshy models. I believe that we can be as good a learning tool for the students to master and maybe even more so as there are more challenges and more interesting aspects to look at.

Of course today, there are indeed more models that are larger and more artists that draw/paint/sculpt them/us. However, it’s rare that I see these works done by a classical realistic artist. Here is one example, from a renowned academic artist – Steven Assael yet he seemed to have left her body unfinished:


On the other hand, I will have to give kudos, I suppose, to a French academic artist Michel Lauricella for publishing a couple of books on the subject of how to draw large models academically, although on his personal website, there are no drawings or paintings as such:



So this is where we are in the year 2020 in the academic art schools. Perhaps one day, a contemporary master will open an academy, open his/her mind and include more of us in his/her curriculum. I adore the mark-making and the academic look of drawings and would love to be part of those collaborations in addition to the more expressionistic ones I am part of already. If only….



What a time…

I hope that those who are reading my blog are doing ok as the confinement continues. Here in France, things are evolving and not in the way I agree with. Commerce will be re-opening, as well as day care centers my guess is so parents can go back to work, although…what work?) but restaurants, tourism, cultural aspects remain closed. Masks are not exactly mandatory, except in the transportation, but strongly suggested and the attestation – the piece of paper that we must carry that authorizes our outings, will no longer be needed.

We have only been in confinement for less than 2 months. No vaccine or definite treatments have been made and while things are “leveling off” a little, it is certainly not enough to let the “animals out of their cages” more. Not when many of them are still too idiotic to respect the rules in place plus our country does not have masks to supply us so we have to look elsewhere for them, or make our own. But this is not what I really want to post about.

Because I have been out of work since the beginning of March and will continue to be until the Fall, I have begun creating online, weekly model sessions for artists who obviously do not have access to classes right now. Last week was the first one and it really is amazing that we have the technology to be able to do this. 22 artists participated and I didn’t have to leave my house! I put up a backdrop and with window light, created a nice chiaroscuro.

Having said that, the chiaroscuro was not as strong as I had hoped because the built-in laptop camera compensates for low light, constantly making things too light. In addition, as everyone is on the internet more than usual and especially using video conferencing platforms, like me, there is a loss of image quality. It is what it is.

Today is the second session and I am looking forward to it. While I have a lot of time to create my artwork, posing for others has always been part of that art-making. My posing for others has inspired my art and vice versa. It makes perfect sense, since I began the 2 endeavors simultaneously.

And as for my art, I am doing. I am thinking. I am repeating themes/symbols over and over to see if I get the images right.

Connection ©2020 AnnMarie Tornabene

Natural Elements

I always brought nature into my indoor shooting scenes. In fact, at this moment, I think my studio is beginning to look a little like The Blair Witch Project with branches and ropes hanging from the walls.

Joking aside, for me, the symbols of nature are profound – they represent strength (resilience), even in death – wood, natural fibers and bone. Unless fire is introduced, none will truly decompose. You can break them into a million pieces, change the composition but they are still, at the core, there true strong selves.

So I include them in many of my scenes as reminders that I am strong and resilient. I have been through many very difficult times in my life – I have been broken in mind and spirit and the outcome has led to anxiety and panic disorders. I also continue to have some difficult personal circumstances but I think I have survived a lot and there is inner strength. However, I do need these reminders so I bring the elements back into view.

Here, I want to share some images past and 2 from yesterday including some of these reminders.

Nature Morte
The Seer (censored)

website update

I updated my website. You can now click on an image to take you to each series via my homepage, however, click on Portfolio for more series as well. I also encourage you to sign up for my newsletter if you have not already done so. Thank you so much for looking and PLEASE SHARE!

J’ai mis à jour mon site. Désormais, vous pouvez cliquer sur chaque image via mon page accueil, cependant, cliquez sur le lien PORTFOLIO pour regarder aussi plus œuvres. Je vous encourage également à vous inscrire à ma newsletter si vous ne l’avez pas déjà fait. Merci beaucoup de regarder et partagez, s’il vous plait!

Screenshot 2020-04-09 at 16.12.20

During this Pandemic

I wanted to create a post today in order to preserve a sense of normalcy in what are difficult times. As the pandemic continues, I think it is necessary to keep doing as we do within the confines of our homes. Here, I continue to create. It is always a necessity for me and why would that stop now? I have also taken time to organize my studio space and print up some tests of my newer work to reflect upon (on the right of some old work). Here are some photos of my workspace from a converted bedroom. It works. Obviously, I use other spaces in which I shoot. (And no, the Gibson is not mine. ;))


Not on the boards are some other images that I could not print yet. I would like to share here a couple more. The Message is unfortunately censored a little for the social media morons.

“From Hebe”

fromhebe“The Message”themessagecensored

I also want to take this moment to say to my readers that we will get through this. Yes, it’s scary and makes many of us full of anxiety but, it might sound strange but maybe in a way, this was a sign for us to stop for awhile – stop moving in other places, think, create, be and also to allow nature and wildlife to renew..renew as Spring does. My love to you all.

New Update

Je suis désolée pour le retard. Honestly, it has been a long time since I have posted on here, simply because I am still not sure how necessary this platform is. If I didn’t share the link across social media platforms, I think it would sit here unread. Bref.

Oui, je fais un mix entre français et anglais c’est parce que je me prépare pour une exposition collectif en mars qui sera à Riedisheim – le sud d’Alsace près de Mulhouse. Je montrerai 12 images de ma série Les Peintures ainsi que donner une présentation sur mon travail de 20 ans. Et oui, je la fais en français! Yikes. Si vous voulez venir et obtenir des informations, contactez-moi! C’est les 14 – 22 mars!

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 14.50.10

In addition, I am slowly working on a new project and back to the classics. It started with this image “The Fall of Icarus” and now Caravaggio, DaVinci and others are haunting me. And I am back to strong contrast. It’s been awhile for that.


Et voici une dernière que j’ai pris aujourd’hui. J’aime jouer avec draperie et contre mon corps, il fait de beaux plis dans le tissu. And how awesome is that light?


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