Aaron Nagel Returns With Lie Down with Lions

1xRun Thru Interview
Lie Down with Lions by Aaron Nagel

1xRun: Tell us a bit about this piece, what materials did you use to create this piece?
Aaron Nagel: This piece was part of my show, “Sovereign” at Lyons Wier Gallery in New York City last year. It was one of two pieces that were setup like a landscape, rather than a traditional portrait, which was something I hadn’t done before. I found it really fitting for reclined poses without much background. It is oil on canvas, and was completed sometime during the fall of 2012.


1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Aaron Nagel: The idea came entirely out of a shoot I did with the Rosie, the model that posed for this painting. It was the first time we worked together but we were shooting in a friends house in the Hollywood Hills, which was filled with cool furniture and nice views. The couch, which is actually red, just looked great as part of the shot.

1xRun: How long did this piece take?
Aaron Nagel: I think about 3 or 4 weeks, but I was working on a few at the same time so probably a lot shorter in actuality. This one went pretty smoothly as I remember, not too many frustrated hours staring at it…which doesn’t happen too often.


1xRun: What is unique about this piece?
Aaron Nagel: I think the composition is a little out of the ordinary, which was unintentional — but I like how the feet and the one hand are cropped.


1xRun: Why should people buy this print?
Aaron Nagel: Only buy it if you have to have it and will regret not having it in your life. That’s how you should buy art, I’m a firm believer.


1xRun: This is your third RUN with us, each one captures a different beautiful female figure, where and how do you find your models?
Aaron Nagel: I find models a number of different ways, but usually it’s through a friend or another model. I’ve been doing it long enough at this point, and have found the model community to be pretty insular, so models hear about it from other models, and I’m fortunate enough that some of them are really into the final product and supportive of the arts in general. Because I don’t plan out shoots too thoroughly, collaboration with models is super important, so finding beautiful talented people who in turn have ideas and get inspired by the process is great. Every once in a while I’ll work with a model that just really works — I’ll come out of the shoot with a ton of great reference shots, instead of just one or two good pictures — so I’ll try and work with those people over and over. Rosie, who modeled for this one, and three others from this show (and a few more after that) is definitely one of those models.


1xRun: What are your photo shoots like? How many photos do you typically take, and how many photos do you usually work from on a given painting?
Aaron Nagel: That is a good question. the shoots are pretty relaxed, as i’m really not a photographer — and like I said, I try and involve the model as much as possible. It’s all very trial and error. we’ll normally just try things, poses, locations, lighting, until something starts to jump out at me. usually, the more we get into it, the more good material we can come up with, and the general direction of a possible composition/painting starts to become more obvious.

I probably take anywhere from 400-800 pictures…maybe more. A lot of that is probably due to my general lack of a direction initially, and my trial by fire method of taking photos (which is something I hope to refine in the future).

I will generally mess with the photos digitally when I have a few that I want to use. sometimes it’s as simple as tweaking the light and contrast a bit, and then doing everything else on the canvas. More often, I will actually switch out hands and heads, to get the perfect pose — so the final reference will be a composite of a few different shots. I’ll also typically add changes as layers in photoshop, so I can toggle them on and off as I paint.


1xRun: Obviously the female figure has always and will always be a subject of a ton of artists work, what is it that appeals to you, either technically or viscerally, about painting these female figures in some of the positions/contorsions/poses that you do?
Aaron Nagel: I’m not sure really, I don’t read too much into it generally. I’m always trying to both paint something I find aesthetically pleasing, and that has the right mood. A lot of the poses are influenced by imagery from Iconography; The Omnipotent Being, The Saintly Figure, The Martyr … but other than that, it’s all about the mood. (I’m probably more aware of what I don’t want to convey with the poses; I try and stay as far away from “sexy” or “cute”, or anything that could be conveyed as a sexual fetish of some kind as possible).


1xRun: You recently hit a little snag in your moving plans from Oakland to Los Angeles, what happened?
Aaron Nagel: I did indeed. the short story is that I spent the better part of a month packing up my apartment and studio — doing all the stuff necessary to move out of a house you’ve been in for 6 years — in preparation for a move down to LA. A couple friends helped me load a U-Haul, and because my new landlord couldn’t meet with me until the following day, I spent the night at my girlfriends house (which is in a real real nice area of Oakland btw) — when I got up to head down to LA the next morning, the U-Haul was gone…and unfortunately, not towed. So, about 95% of my earthly belongings, including ALL of my art supplies, reference shots, camera gear, photos, etc — were all packed up nicely for some asshole to steal.

1xRun: Anything else we may have forgotten you want to touch on?
Aaron Nagel: I did want to mention, and as many people know, I setup a campaign at the behest of some very good friends so that people could donate towards new art supplies in light of the theft. The goal of the campaign was $10k, and currently, a week or so later, it’s at almost $14k. The level of support that I have received from the artistic community has been unbelievable. So not only do I want to thank those people profusely, but I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see so many with a “we have to look out for our own” attitude. The art world is a tough one, and it’s next to impossible to make a decent living making art, but I’m so proud to be a part of it, knowing that kind of support is out there. I’m very much looking forward to returning the favor. (Read more on Aaron’s blog here.)

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1xRun: Where else can people find you?
Aaron Nagel: WebsiteBlogInstagram @aaronnagel