dekePod Episode 016: Hello, friend. Let’s you and I get all collegiate and stuff and engage in some intellectually stimulating free-word association.
For example, I say High Renaissance. You say, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael. Very good!
But you’re not done. You say, an unrivaled time of creative energy and unabashedly accurate representation of the human form. Ooh, I like that, keep it coming. The advent of secular humanism, say you, The rebirth of Classical Ideas!
Damn, look at you go! But I have a few words for you, too: Ongoing feudal primacy. There’s a good one. Or how ‘bout Entrenched peasantry. Or my favorite: Nary an Olive Garden or Taco Bell on the entire planet. Your average person ingested precisely 0g of trans fat in an entire lifetime. And what few calories Jane or Joe Peasant did manage to devour went straight into fueling the engine of the body of the labor class.
In other words, your everyday average citizen was a hard-bodied hominid: a reedy, lithesome, agile quicksilver of sinewy homo sapien. Which might explain the fine art of the time. Michelangelo and his ilk rendered men as bulging, vein-popping, pumped-up hunks because, after all, the protein required to build large muscles was exceedingly rare. Only the ruling class could afford a lean cut of meat. Meanwhile, Leonardo and his brethren rendered women as pillowy plush, largely boned, generously fleshed dumplings because the milk, butter, and cheese went to the First Ladies of the Entitled Lords. Imagine yourself as an indulgently proportioned person in a world full of thinly skin-wrapped skeletons. You would naturally stand out as the ample belle of the ball!
And so it follows: There is no such thing as an objective standard of beauty. What we love at any given moment is the novelty of the ruling class. In an era of thinness, we worship the wellfed. In a time where the cheepest and fastest food is genetically engineered to force-feed calories into our ever-accepting intestinal tracks, we idolize the reedy quicksilver of our ancestors. And so, at the apex of our overconsumption, we so crave thinness that we judge each and every person by the slightness of his or her impression on this most fragile of all possible worlds.
Here’s the official marketing description:
They say you can’t be too rich or too thin. So how about getting rich by making others thin? Plenty of experienced retouchers make small but enviable fortunes shaving body fat off already lithe models. But rather than showing you a present-day example—honestly, how many times do we need to see underfed waifs made skinnier?—Deke takes us back to a time when ideas of beauty were very different: the High Renaissance. In those times of mean circumstances and manual labor, body fat was a thing to be envied. How best to take a well-fed model rendered by the likes of Raphael and turn her into a slim, trim, big-eyed beauty?
Conclusion: Beauty is an ephemeral quality, ever flirtering with its peers and embarrasing itself before its progeny. And as such, beauty is forever and always the paramount quality of the moment. Which is why I encourage you to explore these links:
- For a high-quality QuickTime movie, right-click here and choose Save Target or Download Link or the equivalent.
- For an M4V file that you can play on an iPod, right-click here and choose one of those same commands.
- Or you can subscribe to dekePod via RSS or iTunes.
Oh, and if you want to follow along, click on this link to download the very image used in this dekePod along with my preferred Liquify filter settings. Then decompress the ensuing file, which will be called Maddalena.zip.
And don’t forget, you can explore this very technique in exquisite, painstaking detail in Chapter 20, “Transform, Warp, and Liquify,” of my comprehensive video series “Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced,” now available from lynda.com.