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The Painted Jewels — where do we draw the line?

A good story doesn’t come along that often. This one is too good to pass up.

Having dinner with our children I mentioned an interesting phone conversation I had the night before. As I embellished the story, my son-in-law said I needed to pray. I laughed and said it is just a piece of cloth.

I have taken figure drawing classes with nude models. When I draw, I’m looking at the form, studying muscle tones and measuring an arm in proportion to a hand. I don’t have a problem with drawing nudes. That might surprise some people.

Once I painted a young college girl with the most beautiful, shapely body you could imagine. She had tattoos and body piercing and I just remembered thinking, dear girl, do you know how gorgeous your body is and how you have marred it with cheap things. For me, it was like perfuming the lily or gilding the gold. Did I step over the line by misplacing my values? Where is the line drawn for artistic expression?

After my son-in-law’s uneasy reaction with our conversation, it prompted me to search my heart. He couldn’t believe I was toying with the idea of doing the job, much less writing about it in the newspaper.

The job in question was this: Someone referred a young man to me, and he asked me about doing some painting for him. I have painted on about everything. I’ve painted on doors, walls, luggage, rocks, clothing, you name it. No problem, I knew I could do the job but did I need to? It was one of those jobs I could take or leave.

The young man had checked out other resources before calling me. The project could be sewn with jewels but too expensive; they could be embroidered but a three-week turnaround, tie-died was an option, but maybe painting them would be the best way to handle the problem.

The young gentleman was developing his portfolio for his modeling career. He wanted me to paint on five pairs of bareback briefs with the cup in front.

Yes, you read it right. As a flamenco dancer and performer, he wanted something on the white cup. In my mind, I was already thinking, where is this going? I knew exactly, right into the Sun News for my next column.

The more I talked with him the more I realized how sincere he was about his work. He told me that his body was his artistic expression. He was not cocky or arrogant but a struggling young model building his career. He continued by describing his body. He had a great physique, not muscular but streamline for modeling. Being Latino, he had dark skin and the briefs were too white.

I was in the middle of painting on a line of clothing so I knew the kind of paint that he needed for the job. If I could help out a fellow artist I would. I found it unusual but not weird.

He was modest and didn’t want to model them in a public place. He told me that he needed to try them on for me so that I could see how it tucked under. Whoa, hold on, my conscience checked in. No, No, No, too much information. I will take your word for it.

When I got off the phone, I brought Al into the conversation. Al said he must be in love with himself and I said, yes, and all artists are in love with what they do. We all want to show what we have done. Who can brag about their body being an artistic expression? Not many! Apparently he had a right to boast.

So where do we draw the line for artistic expression? I’ve also been questioned when I showed a naked breast in a painting. I didn’t budge on it; to me it was symbolic and needed to stay uncovered. Am I also guilty of stepping over the line?

If I can sleep at night and my heart is clear and I have peace then I feel like I am okay. But maybe I should be wondering if my neighbor has lost sleep over something I have done. Have I used my liberty causing someone else to stumble?

So where do we draw the line and where did this job go? Let’s just say, it won’t appear on my resume.

Final Brushstroke! When faced with a moral choice, check your conscience and your heart and proceed with caution.

Reader’s Comments: We would love to hear from you. Where do you draw the line?

E-mail bettyslade@centurytel.net.

Quote for the week

“We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”— Marie Curie, physicist.