Je Suis Humain – Nude and Möbius

Another painting concerning our common humanity, ‘Je suis humain’ is a French phrase implying ‘ that we are all one and should support one another. A female nude is embraced by the protection of a Möbius – effectively science as the protector of humankind rather than the deceitful hand of religion and all its double speak and bullshit. You work out the details for your self but science is supported by secular humanist values, whereas religious intolerance and dogma, often supports oppression, a little spoken of example being the catholic church’s support, for the Nazis during the 2nd. World War. You religionists can dress your Popes and your Imams in all manner of jewel bedecked cloth but your fairy tales become no more believable.

‘Je suis humain’ is a ‘shout out’ to all who reject fear and superstition and instead recognise our common humanity, the title is a call for justice for all. Who we are at our best, is represented in this painting by the beauty of womankind and all that womankind means to the nurturing and continued existence of our species. The female figure stripped of artifice, represents knowledge, the transcendent, freedom from the tyranny of ignorance and the super-natural, and the building of hope for our species.

So I start with a blank canvas, I bought the 130cm x 90 cm frame from Jackson Art and stretched a cotton canvas over it. I then sized it with rabbit skin glue, two coats for the front and one for the rear. I wanted a fairly smooth surface to enable the rendering of fine detail in the figure, this is achievable on canvas if you know how. My method is to use a primer, called ‘distemper’, I discovered it after reading the blog of the sadly murdered young artist Margaret Muller, I always think of her every time I use this primer and I am seriously grateful to her, as this primer is fantastic R.I.P. Margaret.

The distemper is made from water, oil, egg yolk and pigment, I apply several coats sanding between each to achieve a lovely silky smooth painting surface. I applied six coats for this painting. I then go about sealing the canvas and primer from the oil paint to follow. Firstly a light grey imprimatura, translucent  in this case is applied, followed by the toned ground for the painting, here it’s a mixture of burnt and raw umber and titanium white, applied thinly. I then complete an under drawing, putting in as much detail as necessary to help me finish the painting. I seal the ground and the under drawing by spraying on three coats of skimmed milk, using paper towels to wipe of the excess milk. The canvas is then ready to work up the paint layers.

As my method is to use C.S.O. paint, all layers are fat, this is another benefit of painting solvent free.
After the under drawing was completed and sealed, I experimented with different techniques of applying the turquoise paint to the canvas, sponges, knives and brushes, eventually settling on knives with some sparse brush work. Sometimes you just don’t know what is the best way to achieve a particular effect and it’s necessary to dive in and use your experience and imagination to find the solution. This a real problem for auto-didactic beginners but we’ve all been there, my advice is – don’t be afraid of making errors, just paint!

I wanted to preserve the form of the Möbius fairly accurately so I made the job easier by masking all around it.

the next stage will see the fundamentals of the Möbius in place.

Palette for the Möbius is : Rembrandt burnt senna, M.Harding phthalocyanine turquoise, Old-Holland, hookers green lake deep extra and some black and lead white.

Palette for figure : Blockx lead white, M. Harding lead tin yellow light, M. Harding venetian red, Daler Rowney ‘Georgian’ burnt umber, Daler Rowney ‘Georgian’ ultramarine, Winsor and Newton raw umber (green).

Continuing to build the painting via grisaille, it’s just a simple, elegant method for creating an accurate representation of the reality trying to be recreated on the support.

Further progress on 18.12.17, should have the painting finished by Xmas.


I’ve been unwell quite a lot so I haven’t made the progress on this painting that I intended to but – I have ordered a new camera, A Nikon, DSLR camera, so touch wood, once I get to grips with it, I’ll be able to post progress on this work, in some sort of decent quality.

13.2.18, so here’s the finished item, I haven’t had time to set up the camera properly but I think this photo is a reasonable representation of ‘je suis humain’. From a painter’s perspective, there are a few things I could have executed better but each painting presents different artistic and technical problems, that often need to be solved ‘on the fly’, so to speak. Overall, I’m fairly happy with the emotional content of the painting and its technical execution.