Experimentation: Plate Surfaces in the Mirage Series

Experimentation with surfaces in the Mirage series of abstract art nudes.

The Mirage series has been about re-imagining the art nude.  I love working with the human form- it can be so graceful, pliable and surprising.  But nudes can just as easily be cliché.  I didn’t want to create a literal image of the body; it’s just been so “done” in the internet era.  Which is why I find the metal reflections so appealing.  The images are traces, abstract suggestions of the human form, rather than literal translations.  The treatment of the metal has been a major component of the Mirage series.  The polishing, scratching  and distressing of the sheet are an integral part of the process and the final image.  It got me thinking about how I might bring more texture to the metal surface.

I’ve been drawn to the work of impressionist and post impressionist painters.  I had been studying Degas for his rendering of figures when I noticed something about his technique.  You can see it here in “Woman Having Her Hair Combed” (Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY).

Degas. "Woman Having Her Hair Combed".  Source: The Metropolitan Museum, NYC.
Degas. “Woman Having Her Hair Combed”. Source: The Metropolitan Museum, NYC.


Degas uses short, vertical strokes of different color to render texture and a sense of surface.  Van Gogh uses the same technique in his “Portrait of Joseph Roulin” (Image via Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA).

Van Gogh. "Postman Joseph Roulin".  via Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Van Gogh. “Postman Joseph Roulin”. via Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I hit upon the idea of using the same brush stroke technique to alter the surface texture of a plate.  After cleaning, I smudged a copper plate using finger oil and spent polish, resulting in a dappled surface.

Mirage Abstract Art Nude
Mirage 16


I had to be conscious of the model’s position in relation to the marks.  But when the light, pose and marks came together the image worked beautifully!  I left the crop loose to keep the reference to the plate edges, but I may change it later.  The lighting is a combination of studio strobe and some LED strings.  Other than cloning out the clamps holding up the plate and adjusting exposure/contrast, there has been no manipulation of the image.  I would call this experiment a success!

Images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) and the Museum of Fine Art (MA) are reproduced in accordance with their Terms and Conditions for Fair Use.  No copyright of those images is claimed or implied.  Mirage 16 is copyright of Anisotropic Images, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu