Sitting still has never been one of my strong points, unless, of course, it involves nodding off with a work of literature delicately balanced on my nose. So when portraitist Don Bachardy offered to paint me in 2004 it was a mixed blessing – on the one hand, it meant I would be immortalized by one of America's best known portrait artists. On the other, I knew a certain amount of torture would be involved in order for my immortalization to take place.
Bachardy is known for putting his models through their paces – namely, he likes to finish each entire painting in just one sitting. Which means each sitting can last several hours. In my case, almost six. Listen – I've done a 32-hour economy class flight to Australia, I've chugged along the tourist-jammed roads of Yosemite National Park on Labor Day, I've even watched Dances With Wolves – but nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for the almighty headfuck of sitting motionless for Don Bachardy.
I had assumed a comfortable position, one I thought would feel OK for the duration of the sitting – but foolishly chose a stance that involved me tucking a calf beneath a thigh. Within 15 minutes my leg had siezed up. Half an hour later I had lost almost all feeling in my right side. “Sitting for Don is kinda like taking acid,” author Carolyn See had warned me before my big day, and she was right. Strange things were happening in my brain. The peaceful silence of my thoughts had degenerated in to a deafening neural cacophony and I found myself constantly fighting feelings of panic, all due to the simple fact that I was not moving a muscle. “I'm not gonna get gangrene, I'm not gonna get gangrene” I chanted beneath my breath, praying that it would all be worth it in the end.
Which, of course, it was – I forgot my discomfort moments after finally being able to stretch my limbs. I was so excited to see the results of his colorful brushwork I barely noticed my pins and needles. It's a day I'll never forget, and an honor I'll take to the grave. Bachardy even went on to use one of the portraits of me in a retrospective of his work at Huntington Gardens.
You can see a short film about Bachardy by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Terry Sanders at UCLA James Bridge Theatre (Sunset Blvd and Hilgard Ave) tonight, at 7.30PM. The film is called The Eyes of Don Bachardy, and Terry Sanders will be there in person. In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here is one of Bachardy's portraits of yours truly (he did three in the end). When I saw it for the first time, I told him he'd made me look like a spoiled little princess. He looked at me, raised an eyebrow and laughed…
Posted by Caroline Ryder