Daniel Barkley | Blue Boy with Lightsaber
watercolor, 76 x 56 cm

I looked to Art History for ideas on how to represent this young model with his interesting demeanor. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy was an obvious example, and coincided with ideas on costume that I have been thinking about. Portraiture uses costume to denote occupation, status, virility and so on, and provides the artist with the challenge to paint silks, brocades and armor.

In my “Faun” series, I used black plastic deer netting, transforming it into tulle, the traditional costume of the dancer. The blue plastic poncho from Niagara Falls that I have been working with for years, lent itself perfectly to the task of transforming this model into the Blue Boy. Easily malleable and set into place with clothes pegs, the glossy plastic’s translucency adds the element that brings this subject into our century.

I found these intriguing toy figurines in a Montreal flea-market and immediately I wanted to paint them. Traditionally in the mythology of the Far West there are two types of villain: the Indian and the Mexican, who lose to the man in the white hat. I wanted to disrupt this stereotypical portrayal, the one we are getting at the moment from our American neighbors, and place them as the heroes in my simple narrative.
These desperados are very different from my usual subjects, and yet there is a transgressive allure to their masculinity, a certain swish to the violent poses, and close attention was paid to the carving of the buttocks that I find particularly appealing.