Thick-Thighed Lady Stood By Car


A corner of my hard drive holds hundreds of photographs taken by an American called Vivian Maier. For decades she worked as a nanny around Chicago but led a quietly obsessive life taking more than 150,000 photographs. She hoarded the unproduced rolls of films along with her lifetime's possessions in storage. When she couldn’t pay the storage bills her stuff auctioned and her thousands of photos documenting 1940-50s American street life came to light.


She walked the streets snapping anything that appealed - a discarded doll (minus the head), a squashed pigeon, sleeping tramps, naked mannequins, etc. She took one of a woman with big skull-crushing thighs stood next to a car. The photograph is in black and white but with oil paints I could add colour. Here it is.


I started this in the lounge, drawing out the basic shapes with washy acrylic paint. The sense of proportion was fine enough for me to start. As usual I filled in the colours with quick-drying acrylics and - happy with that - followed with oil paints. What is the woman doing? Is she considering how she's going to get those wondrous thunder thighs into that small car? Is she admiring it? Is she perhaps watching a bird that is eating a chip on the roof?


I'm not a keen fan of blue and brown together but I used these shades on the car and the lady' skirts. I didn't expect them to blend well but they dwelled together quite well. I pressed on and moved up into my bedroom to carry out. Thinking that pavement rather featureless I was about to add a tiny poodle or shih tzu but decided not to in deference to Vivian's photograph.


Vivian died penniless and in obscurity aged 83 and was buried in some bushes where she'd let her charges run around and pick wild strawberries. A private person I doubt she'd have favoured the vortex of publicity that her photographs have brought. She'd provided subjects for me though - I think this is the third or four painting I've done based on one of her photographs.


You may have swatted a big bee on your bedroom wall and the red and black stain ingrained in the flock wallpaper may need covering up. This painting would be ideal. You could hang it on your wall for £18,442 and some days even have it facing the room. Let me know your address and tomorrow I'll posted it off to you after I've been to the Royal Chronic Flatulence and Diarrhoea Clinic.