Fundoshi 4 All reader Roger clued me in recently to the fantastic and sensitively-rendered artwork of Felix D'Eon. After seeing some of his erotic shunga-style paintings (many of which featured fundoshi-clad and unclad lovers in clear states of sensual ecstasy), I had to drop him a line and talk with him about his art!
Turns out Felix is a really great guy! It was good to learn more about what motivates his brush.
Tell me a little about yourself, and how you got to where you are as an artist?
I am a Mexican-American artist, born in Guadalajara and living in the US since I was a wee thing. I have always been an artist; I never had any other ambition. I feel incredibly fortunate that I was born in a time and place and under the circumstances to be able to follow my dream; my entire life has been spent in painting and travel.
I have a vague sort of narrative in mind when I am painting; more the suggestion of a narrative, really. I like the idea that possibilities are opened up by the painting; a story could be written about my paintings, even if one was not already written when they were painted. That's why I love the themes of sailors with samurai, or the fundoshi clad runners with genteel city boys; the possibility of intrigue and narrative potential. Someday, I really want to work with someone who can write, so that we can make an illustrated book. On of my favorite scenes from a 17th century book of homoerotic stories written in Japan told the tale of a woman who dreamt that a red fundoshi fell from the sky and entered her vagina; she miraculously gave birth to a handsome boy (who favored red fundoshi, of course), who was the protagonist of a dark and romantic gay love story. I think it should be illustrated.
I gather you spent some time in Japan. What brought you to Japan? What were your experiences like there? What sort of influence did your time in Japan have on you as a person, and as an artist?
I have always loved all things Japanese, and when one of my best friends moved there, naturally, I needed to follow along and visit! I have been a couple of times, and my time there has always been wonderful. I think Japan is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and the Japanese are incredibly welcoming and nice. Aesthetically, I was deeply influenced by Japan. All of life is lived beautifully there; every detail is always beautiful. I came back newly committed to making my own life an aesthetic thing in itself, which it has been, through the decoration of my apartment, my clothes, and of course, my work. Plus, inspired by what I saw there, I started a series of Japanese style paintings of gay love and desire.
Your erotic shunga series has several depictions of fundoshi, often partially untied from the wearer. How did you first discover fundoshi?
Well, I went to a naked festival in Japan, and was naturally enchanted. I bought a couple then, and they are just part of my wardrobe. And since I love to paint nude men, the fundoshi exposes the body, while erotically concealing it simultaneously.
[Felix gives a modern twist to these vintage-looking images: while the enormous phalluses and economy of line reference styles and tropes which can be accurately described as ancient, there's also a detailed and delicate attention to the idea of "vintage" at work. Small numbers and creases and stains dance effortlessly with the compositions, elusive and various. They're invisible at first, as the eye drinks in the lush figures, engaged as they are with one another in analingus, fellatio, frottage, or fully coupled in a tandem act of gay love. Or merely in a simple embrace! Once the libido has had its drink however, the eye is left to wander over these little loving details; the carefully arranged fundoshis imply careless fingers hastily unknotting them from their wearers, as scents of pine and cherry blossom and the sea-wind waft over these images...
It's not difficult to slip into an appreciative trance.]
I am deeply in love with Asian painting techniques, and totally respect the old masters who perfected them. Economy of line is of deep importance; I want my paintings to be erotic, romantic, and beautiful, but also to speak in a language which has a deep tradition, and to partake of it, even if from an outsiders perspective. Every element of a painting must be approached with the same love as I would paint a beautiful boy's thigh or face; the least pebble on the ground, or branch on a tree, for the painting to be successful. I always paint the faces first; they must be perfectly beautiful for the painting to succeed at all, and if they come out badly, I throw the painting away on the spot. Than I paint their bodies, laying out the general environment in pencil, and finally, I paint the ground on which they stand, the trees, the background, with an equal amount of attention I first paid to their faces.
The whole time I am very absorbed, and it must look beautiful at any given moment; if it starts to lose its beauty, I throw it away. I work quickly, because the strokes must be artless; close and detailed work ruins the spontaneity of a painting. The exception is in the detail of kimono patterns. Finally, I paint the whole. I usually contemplate my painting for 5 minutes or so, and than its on to the next one! I love what I do, and I am happy the whole time. I often smile as I paint, with amusement at the funny or charming things that I am creating. And I feel so blessed that I have the skills I have; if also cursed that I cannot paint like my great heroes, who make the most gnarled tree painted to the epitome of perfection seem completely effortless. My brush strokes will never have the mastery of Hokusai, for example.
What do you think about fundoshi's erotic potential? Your drawings of fundoshi are very sensitive to detail -- it isn't treated as a prop to the often tender sexual scenes playing out in your images, rather it seems an essential element. Do you personally find fundoshi to be a turn-on? What about fundoshi appeals to you?
I love clothes, and the fundoshi adds an erotic charge to an image; they are not merely naked. I do find it a turn-on; in part, because of its false modesty, its sensuality, its exotic appeal.
Do you do commissions?
I do, but only if I am really excited by the project. Ask me and I will let you know!
Felix's website offers limited edition giclée prints and original pieces, many of which are small and very affordable. Many giclée prints are in the $10-20 range.
Can you explain to an art novice what a giclée print is? What can someone purchasing your art expect to get?
It is a mechanically reproduced print, as opposed to a woodblock or etching which is done by hand. The giclées are made from high quality scans of a painted original, and sold in limited editions. They are on high quality paper, signed by the artist, and numbered.
In addition to your shunga and Japanese style art, you work in a number of other mediums and styles. Do you have a favorite method? What motivates your subject matter, and how do you decide what style suits it best?
I work in ink on Asian papers, mostly Vietnamese and Chinese, made from rice or bamboo or mulberry bark. The papers are handmade, and drawn with sumi ink and brushes. They are painted with watercolors. I actually use an Asian technique whether I am painting an Asian subject or not; I studied Chinese caligraphy painting in Guangzhou in Southern China, and that influenced my technique for the rest of my life. I mostly decide on the style based on what I want to paint; I always paint fundoshi in a Japanese style, with heavily pronounced brushwork. I also make Victorian porn; the technique is the same, but for boys in top hats I use finer brushes that are less expressive.
What's it like being an erotic artist? Are there challenges different than in other areas of the arts? Where else can people see your work firsthand?
Its wonderful to be an erotic artist! Although that is not usually how I think of myself; I make lots of erotica, but I also make images that are sweet and in which the boys are fully clothed. I consider myself more an artist of gay love, which sometimes takes fully erotic forms. I think there is an implication, a feeling, in all of my work, no matter how dirty, that the boys are in love. The only place to really see my work first hand is in my studio; I don't show in galleries. So if you are in San Francisco this summer, or Mexico City after September, come by my studio! I spend my year in Mexico City and my summers in California!
Here are some links to some of my various sites:
I'd like to thank him for kind permission to share these with you. These images are copywritten and all rights are reserved. Please do not share these images without his prior permission.