Within the relationship between artist and model exists one of the more unique human bonds. The pieces move quite clearly and with simple grace. The model poses for the artist as an integral part of the creative process. The body as muse. Model as actor of self. Actor of dreams. In an attempt to create a work that communicates their intentions to an audience, the artist considers the model’s body and presence differently than the model does herself. This can be a relationship that physically only lasts hours yet exists forever. The face of the Mona Lisa is eternal, with the name of the model lost to history.
For the release of metal band Baroness‘ 2015 album ‘Purple,’ band frontman and artist John Dyer Baizley created a painting of depth and beauty to act as the album’s central art. His painting for ‘Purple‘ matches the sense of evolution that the record holds and at the center of it all are four female figures entwined in nature. Those four figures in the painting were based on model Hattie Watson, who posed for Baizley.
Watson herself is an engaging piece of art in the flesh, and now through Baizley’s hand she has been transformed into the ageless face that will exist in record collections in perpetuum. I reached out to Watson to discuss her role as model and working with Baizley on Baroness’ latest release.
ETDC: Did you know John before he asked you to model for him? How did he find you?
HW: I actually did not know John. I knew of John though because I am been an admirer of his work for some time now. One of my leg pieces was even semi based off his work.
John, I think found me through our mutual friends Sophi Reaptress and Jeremy Hush. I think it might have been after I had shot in some of Sophi’s clothing and he came across the images. He then contacted Sophi asking who I was and if I would be interested in modeling for him. Of course I was excited but kind of tried to put aside my fandom and know that this was serious and I only wanted to be the best for what he needed.
Were you able to listen to the album ahead of time? How aware of John’s art and the music of Baroness were you before you were contacted?
I have not yet listened to the album. I should probably do that. The Red Album was always my go to.
We chatted awhile back and you mentioned that you met with John to pose live while he painted as well as being photographed for him to work from. Did both the photography and live modeling happen in the same place? You’re in LA now, right? Did you fly out to John wherever he is to pose?
The first time John and I met for a session, he had a photographer photograph me as he did live drawings. This took place in Philadelphia, where we both lived at the time. Our schedules were both pretty hectic because of them recording and with me moving to LA so we had to figure something out that could work for both of us. The first session was about 5 hours I think, I’m not sure.
How long were the poses? Was he doing quick sketches or were these longer poses?
Well, the first shoot I was posing mainly for the photographer, but John was doing quick sketches on the side as well. If he saw something he really liked, he would ask me to hold it just a bit longer. Not really anything too long honestly, but I know we had talked about doing actual sitting sessions but we just both didn’t have the time at the moment.
How was the modeling directed? Did he have a clear idea of what he wanted from you, or was it more spontaneous?
He let me loose to do what I do and turns out it ended up being what he wanted. I was really happy that he was pleased with the way I modeled. The photographs were for reference later and he did do some live drawings but I know he would have much rather have done a lot more live drawing if we had the time.
The second session was in NYC, which was the last time I was there for about an hour or two with the photographer in his studio. It was a mixture of me messing around more with objects like birds or ropes so he could see how I would interact with animals or other things.
We did not do any other sessions because at the time, he felt like he didn’t need anything more. Which, honestly I felt good about. I know he definitely wants to work together again in the future but that will consist of me going there or him coming here of course.
When you’re in front of the camera or in this case, John, what’s going through your mind?
With John, it was about what weird and animalistic shapes and positions can I do with my body. It was more like the weirder or more uncomfortable, the better it was I think.
I’d imagine you’re very aware of your body in the moment — posture, facial expression. Do you notice those things in strangers? Do you see people out in the real world and ever want to give them advice on how to present themselves better?
I guess being observant in movements in interactions are normal in whoever you are speaking with. As far as other people, I don’t really pay attention to them and try to not make eye contact unless needed or unless I am actually doing some people watching.
It’s interesting to see John’s interpretation, or how he was inspired by you, for the album’s artwork. It’s you, but exaggerated. When I first saw it I immediately thought, ’that has to be Hattie,’ but his paintings are so deep with symbolism and dream-like imagery I assumed that girl in the painting was made up. It was a total thrill when it came out that you had modeled for the piece.
I know this is something we’ve traveled down before with the ‘In Reference’ show where there were 20+ artists all painting you, but it’s still an absolute joy to see how other artists collaborate with your image. Has that experience been strange for you? Does it feel natural?
Being painted and illustrated by so many incredible artists has been, strange isn’t quite the word, but rather astonishing and grateful. Being a part of any true artists work is always so humbling and I feel absolutely honored. I’ve always strived to be more in artwork than actual photographs.
Even the ‘In Reference‘ show was so much more gratifying and more of an achievement than being in any magazine. I couldn’t begin to thank or show my gratitude to the artists that choose to or have used me for reference for there work.
‘Purple’ has been getting a ton of press, showing up online and in print all over the place. How has it been seeing your face broadcasted on that level? Are you able to separate yourself from the you that exists, and will forever exist, on the cover of that album?
Am I able to separate myself? I am truly attached to it but it’s not me you know, it’s art, and honestly, others won’t know it’s me unless something is said. I’m okay with that too.
I do love being apart of it and being the cover of an album whether it’s an exaggerated version or not. I think I feel more comfortable with it being an actual art piece of me rather than a photograph.
Previously on Evil Tender —