To my readers......

Normal posting resumed for now.
Thanks for visiting mitchmen!
(Oct 12th 2017)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Wright

Ronald Wright belongs to the 1950's/60's when gay art and photography began to emerge from the shadows. This is the era of Physique Pictorial and other pint-sized magazines with names like Vim, Mars, Trim and Big. They circulated gay-interest imagery heavily cloaked with notions of healthy living, body building and Art with a capital 'A'. Quaintance was the colossus who strode that artistic stage, epitomising the idea that the naked, male figure could take the same place in great Art, the same sexual presence, that women had seemingly monopolised since the Renaissance (although in reality that's not counting Michelangelo, Caravaggio and a mountain of images of Christ crucified that unashamedly glorify the male body).

  
Ronald Wright - The Slaves

There was also much interest at this time in the ancient classical civilisations of Greece, Rome and the Middle East, which were perceived as more tolerant of 'boy-love', but also practised barbaric punishments and slavery, thereby providing fertile ground for those with S&M leanings. "The Slaves" (above) is Wright's contribution to that genre, unashamedly copying the ideas of Quaintance and indeed the Hollywood epics which were just coming into fashion. 

This image has some creditable technical features, the figures and their faces look good, there's a recognition of perspective and shadows and the treatment of the sky in the background (obscured by the quality of the reproduction) seems to be quite subtle. Despite that it doesn't really work as a composition. The subject matter no longer grabs our attention these days but it's very obvious that we are looking at an assembly of posed, standard beefcake images that don't quite coalesce into a coherent and interesting whole. The slaves look like a bunch of well-groomed boys on a beach whose sun-bathing and chatter has been disturbed by a tall dark stranger, rather than a group of fearful, over-worked, down-trodden victims under the lash. One senses they're more impressed by the guard's nudity than his whip. There's actually another more interesting picture hidden within this one, comprising the two standing figures only, try visualising it. Of course, either of these interpretations may be exactly what Wright intended the viewer to see, this is the age of 'hidden eroticism' (see label below for more).

Wright - Into The Pot

I present this picture as a historical curiosity. It's one of Wright's best known images but recognised as an unacceptable, derogatory stereotype these days. In it's time the image of a (fully clothed) missionary in the cannibal's stew pot was simply shorthand for 'an unexpected problem' and as such was standard, recyclable joke material for tabloid cartoonists alongside (for example) castaways washed up on tiny desert islands with a solitary palm tree and bearded, long-forgotten prisoners chained to the walls of tiny cells. These days the role of bogeyman has passed to imaginary aliens and the undead, but the thought processes involved are exactly the same so perhaps we haven't advanced as much as we think we have.

In adapting the idea for erotic purposes Wright undresses the prisoner and focuses on his vulnerability and the peril of his situation, at least superficially. His depiction of the strong, black captor is authentic and not at all disrespectful and if you disregard the background and fancy dress, you can see a straightforward homo-erotic pose with the captive's left hand encouraging more intimate action. That this encounter is between two men of different cultures (underlined by the clumsy stereotyping) introduces that thrill of the unknown (and forbidden even), which is no less potent now than it was back then.
 
 Wright - Sponge

Coming from an age of censorship and suppression of suggestive imagery, this relatively crudely-drawn picture is pretty astonishing. There is no 'cover story' that I can see to disguise the sexual nature of the scene, how else to explain a naked man sponging down his companion whom he has tied to a post? Just larking around? Hardly. There's no explicit detail (maybe a slight suggestion) but that hand couldn't get any closer and we know that all will be revealed as soon as his wet sponge makes contact with the captive's underpants. It would make a good video passage. The dripping tap on the left makes it clear that the sponge is indeed wet and also suggests general sexual excitement. There is additional significance in it's juxtaposition relative to the sponger's backside, connect that with the faces of the two men which have been given distinctly different, 'fem' and 'butch' slants.
  

This final image is another example of unfortunate racial stereotyping (bring on the aliens!), but the underlying storyline of being involuntarily dispatched into the unknown, stripped of all possessions has a universal significance that needs no explaining. 

This is a more accomplished composition than the others we have looked at. Apart from the discreetly obscured nudity, eroticism is represented by a rope sensuously twined around a leg and the suggestively-shaped piece of cloth draped across the kneeling man's groin. More interesting is the 'strong, male protector' theme going on between the two slaves which might suggest they are intended to be used for entertainment value rather than work. The potential buyers shown here certainly look wealthy enough to buy the pair of them (and their clothes demonstrate Wright's familiarity with fashionable art depicting middle eastern scenes). However, there's one potential purchaser who is significantly younger than the others and he seems to have caught the eye of the more masculine-looking slave. Is this the eternal triangle given the rather nasty twist of a partner abandoned to an unknown but probably unpleasant fate? Wright has even arranged the 3 men in a triangular composition.

This image was reversed for publication and I have swapped it back round.

Wright's art is a product of and an interesting reflection of it's time. If it is imperfect in execution it nevertheless has some intelligent content and interesting fetish ideas which haven't dated at all.
It's hard to find his work but a search on his name will throw up a good deal of biographical information e.g. Gentleman Homosexual  , Sir Gay

(All pictures in this article can be expanded by clicking on them).
 
For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Wood (Ken)

 
Ken Wood - Trip to the Woodshed -1

Ken Wood was a contributor to Drummer in it's heyday providing illustrations to accompany the raunchy stories published there. This one and that below relate to a spanking story, although without the title, that ingredient is less obvious than the erotic one. As we saw with Bill Ward such coyness can allow more subtle messages to surface and control freaks will enjoy the forced undressing that's going on here. Unfortunately the washed out scan does not allow us to fully appreciate the revealed flesh. 

The 'contrast-y', pointillist style (which is more apparent if you click on the pictures to expand) seems to be cross-bred with the appearance of water colour wash in these 2 pictures and it's technically very skilled. Note the detailing of the muscles and  veins on the arms which may indicate photographic source material. Some aspects of this image (like the man's hair) remind me of Rex's work

 
Ken Wood - Trip to the Woodshed -2

The belt here is the only clue to what's happened but the direct linkage of spanking and sexual pleasure in this way is not as common as you might expect in the imagery of this subject matter (click on the spanking label below to survey other contributors to the genre). Of course it's usually the victim's own belt that has been used to do the damage which adds a twist of humiliation but further distances the spanker from his handiwork as though to say "you've only got yourself to blame, you brought it on yourself". That stance becomes rather questionable if he then proceeds to take the opportunity for sexual gratification. 

In this confused, psychological stew, Ken Wood's 'vagueness' of style actually seems quite appropriate. The water colouring effect is more obvious here in the men's hair.

 Ken Wood - Illustration for 'Pisser'

The circumspection continues with this double page spread featuring an even more delicate subject. To do him credit, Wood does not shrink from explicitness (apart from concealing 99% of the source of the stream) and it's a pretty exciting interpretation featuring once again that sense of forceful compulsion. However, the cross hatching style he's adopted here doesn't exactly push the image into your face. Even allowing for publishing issues it's clear that he's much more comfortable with drawing the motorbike, even to the extent of showing quite clearly that it has also been christened in the same way. The carefully folded leathers on the bike seat are a hilarious but absolutely authentic detail.

~

Tom of Finland connoisseurs might like to note the width of Wood's motor bike tyres. They are accurate but Tom famously described how he deliberately widened his bike tyres for one image (below) to make them look more butch.

 Tom of Finland - Motorcycle Leather Man

You can see his point!

~
 
There is arguably an element of fashion in Ken Wood's style which might be described as 'selective detailing'. Bill Ward, a contemporary, fellow contributor to Drummer, did the same thing to show dreams or rapid sequences of events.

I don't know of a site for Ken Wood and searches don't bring anything up. If you are interested, a search of Drummer images might be a good place to start.
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All pictures in this article can be expanded by clicking on them.
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For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)

Friday, 22 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - WOODun Art

Woodunart - Killing You Softly (click to enlarge)

Woodunart is a relatively recent arrival on the scene and this image probably made the greatest impact on the fetish community. This aspect of his work is bondage-oriented with added torments. There's an undercurrent of danger and even brutality in some cases but it's not explicitly shown. The scenario is very like 'Inquisition' like, but is it just my fancy that there's a cross on the right hand wall?

 WoodunArt - Intimacy

WoodunArt's images mostly feature big, mature men like these and the idea of highly muscular men being forcibly abducted in their jockstraps is very fertile ground for S&M fantasies. The pictures are confidently painted with a finesse that must have been years in the making but see how the composition here augments the subject, placing the victim in the middle of a noticeably larger, dark space which tells us that he is isolated from any help.

 Woodunart - Something Warm

The source of the warmth is left to the viewers imagination. The depiction of the captives in many of these pictures suggest great strength but there's a hardness in the faces which seems to run deeper than the anger invoked by his their predicament. The tight cropped hair just adds to that sense of contolled aggression. It seems there are no 'goodies' in this universe.

Woodunart - Dinner Meat
 
This image reworks the idea of gangland abduction from 'Killing You Softly'. These two images standout because they have a dramatic sweep that is almost epic. Big though the captive may be, he is dwarfed by his surroundings. The unpleasantness in full flow in the first picture has yet to manifest itself in this scene but judging by the set of the captive's face and the smile of the henchman behind him it won't be long in coming. 

Like 'Intimacy' above, there's a play on that sense of the unknown danger, which the captive faces naked and unprotected. His vulnerability is brought out by such devices as the clothed state of his captors and their weapons of course. Also by his own minimal, vestigial clothing, shaved crotch and the shibari-style bondage which has been designed to draw everyone's attention to that most treasured and vulnerable part of him, his manhood.


My explorations in researching these articles sometimes take me to the most unexpectedly pleasant places and Woodun Art's work is one such with studies of men like these (based on photos) which are not only attractive but succeed in capturing some singular essences of manhood.


This more youthful example is softer in execution and there's a sense of uncertainty in the facial expression which is very evocative of the mysteries of becoming a man.

Woodunart - Gemini

I can't explain the title of this final piece, but it's a classic 'predicament' scene where the danger is very apparent but has yet to be set in motion. Presumably the battery on the side bench wasn't up to the job. The menacing shadow in the foreground is a nice touch but the captive seems to be looking in a different direction for some reason. Like all the other victims, he's been shaved for the occasion. 

This is probably quite a common S&M fantasy, with gothic origins. It's not dissimilar in intent to the (even more ancient) wedge punishment that I was featuring here a year or so ago (see wedge label below). It even featured in the James Bond 'Thunderball' movie in a slightly updated form with a laser beam substitued for the circular saw. This is one threat where the logical denoument is 'out of bounds' for all but the most determined sadist.  

WOODun Art (as he styles himself) has a blog Woodunart on tumblr
with lots of masculine art, but it's slow and quite difficult to access individual images, patience is advised but will be amply rewarded.
(Woodunart on blogger seems to have been abandoned by him).

All pictures in this article can be expanded by clicking on them.

For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - WithNoTitle

Another Japanese artist who practises the national, spiky style of drawing but with more softness than most of his compatriots. The fetish content is fairly mild for the most part but visits some interesting by-ways which I have sampled here.


 I admit to knowing next to nothing about the game characters who populate this artist's images, but Chris Redfield is known to me, his ample physical charms and interesting clingy outfits speak for themselves anyway. This image (like most of WithNoTitle's work) exists in other, more naked variants but I like the groaning underwear in this one. Chris has evolved a long way from his chunky look in the original game here.


 A more overt fetishism here, sadly impaired by the pixilation of the most important 'part'.
The agonised facial expression helps to make a distinctive image. There's a certain kinship here with the time-honoured tentacle pose but this picture is much simpler, with just one line of attack on the victim. If you look closely and screen off the far leg you can see the underlying image here is of a man seated on a ledge not the floor. I think retaining this pose might have made an even better picture, it brings out the way the captive is bracing himself.


Talking of tentacles, this is one of the better examples of the genre. It helps that the creature is given a vaguely recognisable, octopus-like form and the artist has brought out the daunting strength of the creature in those massive flailing limbs. It's a worthy challenge for a muscular hero and having to fight in the alien environment of the sea (which is surprisingly calm today!) poses another danger to him. 

The efforts of the creature to open out his legs represents a subtle sexual threat, but having suggested the vulnerability, the artist has resisted the temptation to show another tentacle directly attacking that area. I chose the clothed version of this picture because I like the body-enhancing effect of the loincloth (fundoshi) and it adds greatly to the simmering, erotic brew here. The garment has a ancient, primitive character that strips away any trappings of modernity, reducing the wearer to his animal essence. Yum!

I have introduced a new label for my posts, 'encounters-with-creatures' which links images where recognisable creatures are involved, not just disembodied tentacles (see foot of post for labels).


There's a suggestion of bondage in the arms-behind-the-back pose of the right-hand man here but I really selected this picture because it underlines the artist's skill in depicting tense, muscular interactions. It has a nice voyeuristic feel. He has used a more naturalistic style with the faces and bodies so it's intensity makes an immediate connection with our normal viewing receptors (whereas we have to process and translate comic/fantasy images like those above into our normal viewing 'language'). I'd love to see the octopus image done this way.

I haven't been able to find any recent images from this artist or a website
(your information is welcome via comments)

For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)

Monday, 11 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - WhiteBriefs

A brief (!) mention for WhiteBriefs whose obsession is what you might expect from his name but he makes occasional excursions into the fetish areas of slavery, ancient and modern.

WhiteBriefs - Becan The Catamite
This is an example of his most polished work. It's intensely detailed and decorated and the depiction of the chracters is often slightly strange with an unsettling a hint of the extreme if you examine it closely.   


WhiteBriefs - In The Cage
Personally I find his rough sketches like this one more approachable. The softer lines create a less stark image and give the prisoner's body more substance, his facial expression seems more real. The caged man is an intriguing idea about power and control but it doesn't always translate into an erotic visual image. The butch prisoner helps this one to work but I'm glad it's not in colour.

WhiteBriefs - Ready to Serve
 The rebellious mohican hair style adds a similar frisson - the hard man subjugated - to this picture. He's been forced to wear harem style, feminine, butt-enhancing pants as part of his humiliating servitude.

You can see more here - Whitebriefs at Deviant Art
including samples of tentacles and crucifixion art
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 For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A-Z of Fetish Artists - Bill Ward

 
1
Bill Ward must be ranked amongst the greats of erotic and fetish art and yet his name does not usually spring to mind when that question is asked. He produced a large quantity of work, which most of you will have viewed at some time, enjoyed and been turned on by and yet recalling specific individual images? That's another matter. This one (which I found at Daddyshere) is completely new to me but it's a striking and sexy image and I wonder why it's not better known. Military uniforms often feature in his work.

click to expand images
 2
I started this article with one of Ward's stand-alone pictures but the majority of his work that I am aware of took the form of raunchy, technically innovative comic strips which in the 70's & 80's were published around the world in the new wave of magazines (like Drummer and Zipper) which were pushing open the doors of freedom of expression for those with beyond-vanilla interests. In these stories Ward portrayed intensely masculine and confident gay men who were up for anything, totally at home with their sexuality and determined to freely express it. This little episode beautifully epitomises the revolution of gay consciousness conveying a tremendously positive gay image. The highly erotic final frame could form the lead-in to an entire porn movie, it certainly must have prompted thousands of wet fantasies! Ward does not elaborate in that direction. That's a concession to publishing constraints but it gives clear space for his point to be made. 

3
This comic strip picks up the military theme again showing a highly ritualised spanking, whose cause is unexplained until the closing frame when we learn that the hero 'Drum' has been hired to dress up like this and perform the punishment ritual for the voyeuristic, weedy-looking but wealthy man who is the owner of the lush surroundings. This unexpected twist is typical of Ward's work and sidesteps awkward questions about motivation and intent by deflecting them back to a member of the political establishment in an enjoyable flash of satire. The object of the punishment in this story is only shown in sketchy outline and his presence, paid or otherwise, is not explained. It lends an unreal, dreamlike quality to the scene, which is another helpful device for avoiding legal objections, however it does dilute the eroticism.

There's a tremendous dynamic energy in the way this episode is portrayed in a series of memorable frames. They interact visually in a complex way which is typical of modern comic art. It requires a degree of concentration to take it all in, but is all the more rewarding for that effort. You'd think that these dramatic images would stand up separately by themselves but look at the example below.


 4
Shorn of it's context (admittedly with crude digital surgery) the individual frame proves to unexpectedly simple and is visibly incomplete. The impression of a luxurious mansion and frantic action disappears. That is a tribute to Ward's artistic skill in assembling his comic pages, making them add up to more than the sum of their parts.

It's interesting to contrast this little story with Tom of Finland's 'Sightseeing the Guards' (Kake No 13) which on the surface has similar erotic ingredients. Tom's gay hero is punished by the soldiers after admiring them in their uniforms, teasing them and taking compromising photographs. His open gayness inflames the Guard's fear of exposure and blackmail. That he (and they) enjoy his subsequent homo-erotic punishment (in a suitably discreet dungeon out of sight of public view) is a rationalisation which is mildly subversive but also speaks volumes about social norms. In Ward's story however, the gay hero steps into the uniform and takes control of the punishment, even getting paid for it. The role played by his paymaster arguably demonstrates that fear of exposure never goes away for some gay men. 

 
5
Ward's skill in creating exciting, almost cinematic scenes is nicely illustrated by this page from a 'King' story, which is self explanatory. I love the drawing of the sailors in the bottom frame which has an authenticity and sexiness which recaptures the lusty joy of the Royale and Guys in Uniform Studios photos of the 50's and 70's. It makes me yearn to see what he might have done if he'd been able to give his erotic imagination full rein. The essential Britishness of Ward's work is plain to see in both the imagery and the language (although a Brit would never say 'swell', nor 'fag' for that matter as quoted in example 2 above – I assume the American publishers have replaced the original words which were probably 'great' and 'queer' respectively). Once through the gates King loses his hitcher but goes on to make hay in the Sailor's dorm (behind discreetly closed doors of course).
 
6
King is quite a neat leatherman but Drum's appearance in his cartoons is mature, slightly dishevelled, hairy, with torn and tattered clothing worn for sexual appeal rather than style. It gives him that 'real man' aura belonging to the bear/leather scene. Even so there's a degree of artifice in it all, the cut-offs worn here are a 70's fashion statement and consider the areas of flesh visible (but not shaded by Ward for some reason) through tears and gaps between his garments. 

If you review the images I've selected you'll also find plenty of clean cut, youthful types lurking in the background (as here) and they are not infrequently the object of the hero's desire when he wants to play the active role (e.g. the sailors in the example above). This aspect of Ward's art perhaps explains the the unexpected phenomenon of 'Zeke'.

 
7
The staple diet of many gay comics around this time was the cute, naïve youth going from one gay adventure to another, aware of his sexuality but not his allure and frequently used by other men who can't believe their luck in getting their hands on him (e.g. Billy in 'Poppers' by Jerry Mills, Bruce by Jonathan). Ward produced something similar in the form of Zeke, the well-built but inexperienced country boy who goes to the big city and is duly exploited without even realising it. In his pictures Ward links that clumsy innocence with a youthfully butch appearance which will clearly evolve into prime leather scene material in due course. Zeke had a short run and seems to have been an isolated experiment by Ward who still put his humour to use with his more mature heroes.

8
There's a glimpse of Ward's true capabilities in the 'Man Bull' storyline which utilises the dream device (or an unstated drug causation) to conjure up a mythological man-beast who subjects the hero to his lusts. Beastly involvement in sexual matters is dangerous territory for Brits, but there's a well-established tradition in descriptive arts for using such hybrid creatures to express the nature of male sexual desire - from Updike and Picasso (pungently) back to the Renaissance masters (more delicately). Ward's imposing invocation more than does justice to that tradition in a terrific full page image that delicately tip-toes through the legal minefield of explicitness with an ambiguous sun-ray effect.

9
In the follow-up scene Drum is subjected to a spectacular, spread-eagled suspension by the beast whose intentions seem surprisingly fetishistic and outspoken for a 1977 top shelf* magazine. Probably most of the general population would have assumed the fist was to be used for punching and not known about fisting. Ward's accompanying picture is cleverly ambiguous.

As a measure of Ward's ambition here, this story is contemporary with Tom of Finland's Kake No 20 'Pleasure Park' which features nothing more provocative than multiple sex in a public place between clean cut, conventional gay stereotypes.

*magazines in the UK at this time were only sold in Newsagents shops, alongside tobacco and sweets. The naughty stuff had to be placed on the top shelf of the display, out of reach of young hands.

10
As the story proceeds, Ward goes on to show a more explicit sexual interaction with the beast (including penetration) but it's jumbled-up detail in an eye-grabbing image and heavily disguised. Just in case it is spotted, it is deliberately placed in the most unsubtle way imaginable so as to be seen as a product of Drum's brain, a mere thought, a fantasy. Ward may have succeeded in sneaking provocative material past disapproving eyes, but the unplanned consequence is that the erotic impact is largely lost. Moreover Drum seems to loose his essential masculine earthiness in this picture, it's overwhelmed by the (impressive) techniques invoked to suggest his unreal state of mind.

Perhaps it's not altogether surprising that our recollection of these works is as ethereal as the way Ward sometimes drew them. His work is visually complex and does not deliver instant gratification but it requires closer study for full appreciation which is worth it for anyone who likes fetish art, probably more than most of the artists I showcase here.

As far as I know there is no official Bill Ward site although an intermittent attempt is being made to set one up at Bill Ward Archive. There's lots of his work available via search engines and a decent collection at Ward at Daddyshere


For more articles in this series click on the A-Z label below or search for specific artists using the index page or search boxes (top right)