By Federico León de La Vega ● September 2012
She arrived five minutes before the hour. Walking through the garden she came in, smiling. Raúl was not there; he was usually in time, but today he would not come. After checking her tiny, feminine watch she took it off and left it by her bag, took a few steps behind the folding screen, then appeared again, naked. She carefully folded her red dress over the chair. It was five after eleven. Not wishing to wait any longer, we started. This was each Wednesday’s routine at eleven. Ten 3 minute poses, to warm-up. I felt agile this morning, each stroke came out of my hand swift and precise. Classical jazz playing in the radio, sunlight coming across the door from the garden. Alone with her, I was privileged to call any pose without consulting with my workshop partner. When there is a naked body present in an artist’s studio there is an interesting feeling of human humbleness: no matter how perfect the body, there is a conviction of the fragility and the temporality we all share.
Half an hour went by and we took a break. She put on a bath rope and stretched with ballet-like movements. I offered her some lemonade while we chatted. She told me the latest about her dance classes and the theatre play wherein she had a significant part. The theater company was not working today, so she was not pressed by time.
We worked again. One more time silence prevailed, except for the sound of charcoal scratching paper. Her body, pale and light yet strong, reflected the light coming from the garden at midday. While I copied her forms in black and white, green from the backlit grass contrasted sharply with its complementary red on the dress she had taken off and left on the chair; it was a splendid combination.
Get dressed! I suddenly told her…and do anything you please. As a good dance artist she was immediately creative. Free from dictated poses, she raised her arms to let the dress slip down, then she took the director’s chair and climbed on it, looking defiant. This was perfect. I hurried for my easel, palette, brushes and oil paint tubes. We instantly flowed into that right side of the brain mode, timeless, where there is no consciousness of bodily needs. My eyes looked carefully at her, she felt them as they rested in each part of her body while my hand obeyed orders. We were both concentrated in the concert of creating something beautiful, yet keeping in mind no pose can be held forever. Two hours went by quickly. Stay! I begged her, while she stroked her feet trying to bring back circulation. Again she stretched with ballet movements. Then she smiled and accepted willingly, returning to the chair. I knew she was very tired, but she knew we were doing very well that afternoon. I say “we” because in this particular painting we shared all merit and she felt it. It was her who created the pose and the magic that followed.
At two-thirty that afternoon I declared our work complete! Instantly we felt a ferocious hunger, so I called for some sandwiches, we ate. I then paid her and she left. Seldom times had I felt so satisfied. That afternoon I did some final touch-ups and then signed. Three days later I received the unexpected visit of a business man. He was CEO for a music record company (EMI). The minute he laid eyes on this painting of the woman perched on the director’s chair you could see his decision was made. For me to part with this piece hurt, since I had contemplated keeping it for my own collection, but there were no doubts in my mind my price would be met. After all, I too have to make my living. This is the way “Caprichosa” was painted and soon departed from my studio to hang in an executive office.
Federico León de la Vega
Please Visit: http://www.federicoleondelavega.com
This is a chapter of a book I am writing about my adventures as a painter artist.
The Federico León de la Vega Estudio – Café is open to the public and is located in Paseo de la Marina 31, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sundays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.