Polaroid of Victoria Lowe. Circa 1989.

I love people. I love the human figure. The body is a magnificent creation and I enjoy celebrating it in my art. Much of my imagery conceptually begins with the human being. The body is universal, timeless and immediately relatable. Throughout my illustration career I fought to use a nude body whenever possible in my images, because it strips the human down to a symbolic physicality. This way the art can represent everyman, or everywoman.

I have worked with a lot of models. Family, friends, neighbors, professionals, and strangers have graced many of my creations. Many times I became the model, sometimes turning myself into another being, a child or woman perhaps. What is most fascinating to me is watching the person transform into the model, then the model becoming art.

In the 80’s and into the 90’s the SX70 Polaroid was my camera of choice to shoot much of my reference. It was fast, maddening and magical. Sometimes the images would not develop properly and the film was wasted, other times it would create beautiful unearthly photographs, some of which you see here.

I would also cut up the film and collage them together to help me see a composition more clearly, other times I would integrate them into the final art.

On some occasions the models were people who happened to be in the area where I was working, like this fighter (above) who was at the Sugar Ray Leonard gym (Sugar to the right), or a dancer from Paris.

How the photos of Sugar translate into a piece of art (this was for Sports Illustrated).

Another example of cutting up the Polaroids. This technique was used to illustrate different articles, two are below on debating the abortion issue, and unnecessary surgeries.

Polaroid of Michelle Barnes who modeled for many of my illustrations in the 80’s, including the “LuLu” opera poster created for the San Francisco Opera below.

Susan Steinberg was a continued source of inspiration in the 80’s. We experimented a lot with the SX70 and she modeled for many of my illustrations.

This Polaroid of Tricia Oricht was used straight up for the CD cover of Bingo Durango.

Here I painted over the Polaroid to more clearly define shapes. Lisa Tate was the model for the classic, “The Visions of Vespertina” image below, early 90’s.

Above is a selection of some favorite Polaroids that were printed in the, “Art of Greg Spalenka” book. Here we see my brother and his wife, as well as lovers and friends. It is a joy to celebrate these moments when the line blurs between the purpose of the model, and the art they become.

*This is the first in a series of posts that honor the people that have modeled for me, inspired me and helped me bring more beauty into the world.


Janice L Mayer

Janice L Mayer said:

Can you please tell me what awards the San Francisco Opera Lulu poster received? The Marketing Director who commissioned it has passed away and we want to include this information in his memorial. He was very proud of that poster.
Thank you,

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