What’s the most intimate gift you can give to a partner? It’s the question artist Skye Holland’s daughter, Emmanuelle, pondered before asking her mother to paint a ‘boudoir’ portrait
Most of us are pretty vulnerable when we are scantily clad or naked, but – regardless of shape or size – our partners love us for who we are. Sharing this intimacy in art is the idea behind a new collection of paintings and sketches from artist Skye Holland, who’s Boudoir Portraits have captured the attention of a range of clients.
Holland trained as an artist at Central St. Martin’s, having worked in advertising and marketing, and was subsequently selected for the Graduate Enterprise Programme at Cranfield School of Management before launching her own Whitechapel studio.
But it was the early 90s, and in the midst of a recession and property crash, Holland and her architect husband moved to South Africa with their young children for a work contract.
While she carried on creating and exhibiting art, Holland additionally worked as a sign language interpreter (a skill that resulted from having been the only hearing child in a deaf family), an art consultant and the author of a series of art educational resource books. She also worked with prisoners and young offenders in both South Africa, and following her return to the UK.
It was in 2009 that she took the decision to return full-time to pursue her career as an artist, encouraged by her now grown-up children. In fact, it was her daughter, Emmanuelle, then 24, who asked her to draw the first Boudoir Portrait as a 30th birthday gift for her boyfriend. Contemporary and provocative, the result was so intimate that Holland was encouraged to offer private sessions with clients looking for similar gifts for their partners. “They are an expression of sensual self-worth and beauty, and the session is hugely empowering for the women who sit for me,” explains Holland. “It was a spontaneous thing with Emmanuel, an amazing, intimate gift for Jack that was personal and special. The idea of giving yourself in this way is so powerful.
“Each time a woman sits for me, it’s like a story-telling. I have to build a bubble of trust and it’s my job to calm their nerves, make them feel safe before they relax with their body.
“In many ways, it’s the ultimate ‘me time’. Most women are excited to put themselves centre stage, and whether it’s an amazing gift for a partner, or a celebratory moment, they are given the opportunity to enjoy a courageous moment.”
Typically, Holland will start a sitting mid-morning and achieve a couple of shorter poses by lunchtime as the model settles and starts to get comfortable. A Champagne lunch sets a jubilant tone before the afternoon’s longer pose which Holland describes as an “intense time”.
Although she has yet to receive an enquiry for a male portrait, Holland says a drawing has been a gift from a husband to a wife, although often women choose to be sketched for themselves. One woman, a breast cancer survivor, sat for Holland, subsequently saying that the resulting artwork was a celebration of her journey as a survivor.
“The Boudoir Portrait is a lasting way we can invest more in ourselves,” says Holland. “In one day, women drop beliefs about their bodies that they have held for a lifetime.”
To find out more, visit theboudoirportraits.com