Friday, May 19, 2006
It should come as no surprise that Will Davies loves to draw and paint nudes of beautiful women. What came as a pleasant surprise to Will was that many beautiful women love to be drawn and painted nude by him!
Sometimes it was a fashion model hired to pose for a commercial assignment, sometimes it was one of his students at the Ontario College of Art, sometimes it was a friend, or a friend of a friend. Once they saw the nudes Will had done, displayed around his studio or often simply stacked in a corner, those women could imagine themselves interpretted through Will's paintbrush as dreamy satin dolls, draped in languorous repose.
"This is the one that started it all." says Will, showing me the original below (I apologize for the lousy photo).
Will doesn't recall the exact date, but remembers, "It was during Watergate." TDF salesmanager Clayton Sloane had previously secured a few freelance assignments for Will from a Chicago art representative. The two men decided to take a few days to visit with that rep and see if more work was available. On that trip, Will showed Sloane a slide of the new piece - his spectacular nude - and Sloane suggested they try getting a portfolio interview at Playboy.
Will can't remember if they met with Playboy AD, Art Paul, but the magazine was very interested in using the piece. They kept slides on file and said they'd be in touch.
Two years passed and then, out of the blue, a call: did Will still have the piece? Playboy wanted to know. They still wanted to find a use for it. "But that was it," Will says, "after that, nothing. They never called back."
Not finding a publisher for his nudes didn't stop Will. He painted them for his own pleasure and showed them at exhibitions. They were much admired by all - Will's reputation for interpreting feminine beauty only increased.
But then came a controversy. Will had been teaching at the Ontario College of Art for some time. His figure painting class was a perennial favourite with serious students. During an awards dinner, the president of the college approached Will and asked him to do that year's open house poster. "I told him, only if I can paint a nude for it." He said fine.
I remember seeing that lovely piece in the window of a Toronto art supply store. A seated nude from behind. But there was talk that a militant feminist faction within the college had been outraged by Will's "offensive" poster.
"I was doing something in the school library one day," Will told me, "and this one girl [a female student] came up behind me. She says, 'You're the guy who did that horrible poster, aren't you?'"
In his own defense (and in a rare and tiny show of conceit) Will replied, "Sorry, but I'm too old and too big to care what you think."
Happily, what most people think is that Will Davies has a great respect and an even greater affection for the female form.
"And," says Will, "that poster went on to be the best selling one the college ever put out."