Heroic

character_a_inkedStruggling for a post title, I went for a slight critique of the work I did on the character you’ve seen earlier*. She’s been grabbed from a panel showing her looking for a seat in a cafe where a conversation (about a physics issue) is to continue.

It is a large panel showing the layout of the cafe with all the people sitting and reading and talking and so forth, and she’s one of several small figures in it, so it is probably not that big a deal that she has somewhat heroic proportions here as compared to her more ordinary proportions in other panels.

Heroic here refers to the various choices of proportions you can give to figures, usually based on how many heads tall they are. You might have heard of people talking about how many heads tall a figure should be.

Well, there really is no “should be”, and different practitioners use different conventions… about seven and a character_a_paintedhalf heads is often considered the more ordinary proportions that you and I might have if you looked at a photograph and eyeballed the proportions. “Heroic”, often seen for superheroes and so forth these days, is more like eight heads and perhaps a bit… You see nine heads and so on in places a lot too, such as drawings of fashion figures and so forth (a lot of the extra height in the legs there). Leonardo Da Vinci is often credited with the eight-head hero, and I imagine that this is because of the famous Vitruvian Man drawing that everyone knows… Look it up. Anyway, my characters in this story are not meant to be heroic, at least not physically. They’re ordinary people. But sometimes, the pencil will go in that direction and I don’t always think it is necessary to over-correct. Sometimes it’s worth recalling that it’s not a photography project…

For more on The Project, see here.

-cvj

*As usual, the images here are copyright Clifford V. Johnson. All rights reserved, etc.

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10 Responses to Heroic

  1. Oliver says:

    I heard a very interesting viewpoint on heroism from the counter-tenor Andreas Scholl. For a counter-tenor, one might expect that heroic roles are rather hard to come by. But, apparently, things are quite the contrary. During the Baroque, he said that heroism was perceived as an ideal that transcended such mundane things as sexuality, masculinity and so forth. Consequently, it was not at all unusual for heroic male roles to be sung by men whose voices were far from what might be considered the modern heroic stereotype. Presumably, the logical extension would have been for male heroic roles to sung be women, but I don’t know if this was ever done!

  2. Clifford says:

    sketch of diana hunterAh… a very interesting take on it indeed. Actually, I don’t know of any examples, but of course in the visual arts both “high” and “low” and old and new the equivalent happens quite a bit, I suppose. Examples include various goddesses in classical imagery playing heroic roles in their own right that goes beyond mere sexuality (Diana, Goddess of the Hunt – I give you my my rather clumsy sketch of her from a statue in Madrid’s Prado done last Spring.) Then fast forward to recent times and look at Alex Ross’s paintings of Wonder Woman.

    -cvj

  3. Ele Munjeli says:

    I have been looking at schools to finish my CompSci degree and one thing that caught my eye at Smith is that they have a troupe performing musicals with women in all the roles, including men’s parts. The pictures are hysterical.

    http://sophia.smith.edu/lladies/about.html

    I really like that sketch of Diana- and the palette on your piece from the Project.

  4. Clifford says:

    Thanks Ele! and great pictures!

    Oliver… by a nice coincidence, I happened to be listening to Poetry Please on Radio 4 withing half an hour of my response above…. and they had Anne Sophie Von Otter singing the role of Orpheus, as part of a series of poetry meditations on the Orpheus tale. A splendid example of the sort you wanted!

    -cvj

  5. Amy says:

    In traditional British Pantomime, ladies did play male heroes. They were called Principal Boys. The actresses in these roles had to have terrific legs (from what my grandfather tells me!) because they wore tiny little skin-tight shorts with stockings. Apparently this was a big deal in a time when fashion kept women’s, well…womanly parts…hidden from view. And I have to say, it is pretty cool that those ladies got to flex their muscles in the big male lead roles. Now-a-days, an actress is lucky if her legs get her featured in an infommercial for a foot callus remover shaped like an egg.

  6. Oliver says:

    Bearing in mind that the TV license really amounts to paying for the BBC, all inclusive, I think it’s fair to say that I’d be happy to pay the annual amount for radios 3 & 4 alone. The amusing coincidence you mention further reinforces my stance!

  7. Clifford says:

    Amy! Yes, I’d forgotten about that… The gender of the roles and the players are quite fluidly intermingled there, aren’t they? Thanks!

    -cvj

  8. Clifford says:

    Oliver… Yes indeed! And these days I listen to podcasts from radios 2 and 5 a lot too, to the extent that they’re sort of a staple too. (More Mayo, and Kermode and Mayo’s film reviews…)

    -cvj

  9. Oliver: women in “men’s” operatic roles is extremely common ( a so-called “trouser role”). Most of Handel’s lead male parts are sung by women these days. This is partly because the roles were originally written for castrati. As I understand it, when the practice of having castrati faded, those roles were replaced by male characters written for women singers (especially in the mezzo soprano and soprano range), although of course there still are a number of roles within the countertenor range that can be sung either by men or women.

    –IP

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