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Intimate Artistry

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Clarke sketching Lexa during a moment of peace

Sara: Can I ask you something? Did you love her? Or is it an illusion—this feeling of intimacy in your work? Are you really this insightful...this tender...or just a gifted mirror?
Katchoo: It's not my place to say.

The creation of art between two people can reveal a lot about their feelings towards one another. The subject of a work is baring themselves to another literally and figuratively; they are allowing themselves to be seen and studied in an intimate fashion without resistance. The artist in turn is taking in everything that is being offered, expressing their own feelings and desires through creating a representation of their focus.

The scenes are often one of intimacy and personal connection, or can be used to indicate the absence of intimacy if it is handled as clinically detached. If the feelings between the two are one-sided the scene can highlight their different approaches to the situation. Might be a step on the way to a Relationship Upgrade if the characters realize their feelings during the situation, or the catalyst for the break in their current relationship. Can often serve as a metaphorical love scene.

The art creation does not necessarily need to be shown directly, but can be conveyed through the artist or subject reviewing the work afterwards or talking about it and what it represented. Sometimes instead of being about the connection between the artist and the subject, it is about the connection between multiple subjects, or the multiple artists working together.

Note, this includes all forms of art: drawing, painting, photography, sculpting, etc. Intimate depictions of dancing however go on Mating Dance and Dance of Romance.

Might qualify as The Reveal if the feelings were previously hidden from the audience, or Once More, with Clarity if the scene was originally shown without conveying the intimacy and is revisited later. May be why characters think Artists Are Attractive. For when a person poses nude or scantily clad to be depicted in art form, see Public Exposure.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hello Sandybelle: Marc Blanche Wellington's hobby is drawing, and he has a crush on Sandybell Christie. The night he runs away from his Arranged Marriage to Kitty, he first goes to Sandy's house, opens the window and leaves her his drawing notebook with a note where he tells her that he will become a painter and will return to look for her.
  • This is used as the subject for one of Kaguya and Shirogane's many Battle of Wits in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War when they're paired up in art class. Kaguya ends up producing a photo-realistic drawing with roses on the side without even thinking about it, then deliberately tries to make it less appealing in order to hide her feelings for him (but keeps on finding the end result attractive no matter what she does). Shirogane, meanwhile, becomes engrossed in his work and accepts nothing but perfection, repeatedly tearing up his work until he manages to produce something that he feels captures her beauty.

    Comic Books 
  • We never do meet the model (Or even see the picture itself), but part of Wallace's Establishing Character Moment in Sin City: Hell and Back is him showing a painting that he had been hired to create. Despite clearly being intended for some sort of pornographic magazine, Wallace had painted an intimate and artistic portrait that showed the model covered by a sheet instead of being naked because he felt it was the better picture. When his boss laments his decision, Wallace shows that he had also painted the completely-naked version, then rips the nude painting in half in front of him.
  • Art and its creation is a recurring theme in Strangers in Paradise:
    • Main character Katina "Katchoo" Choovanski is a painter, and uses her art to express her anger, resentment and guilt spurred by her abusive childhood and drug/criminal early adulthood. She starts the series working mainly in male figures of exaggerated sexualization, but branches out into different styles as she grows and deals with her issues. Her portraits of Francine, who she has had feelings for since childhood, are regarded by everyone as an expression and profession of love.
    • The trope is deconstructed when FBI agent Sara Bryan goes undercover to get close to Katchoo, showing how the emotional connection can be dependent on the intent and thoughts of the participants. She originally asks to be Katchoo's assistant, but agrees to be an artistic model after Katchoo says that she does not need an assistant. To Katchoo, their interactions and resultant artwork are expressions of femininity and personal beauty (not to mention a general friendship), but behind the cover identity Sara feels ashamed and violated by the semi-erotic portraits and the intimacy of the situations. She particularly dreads the reaction from her parents and the rest of the Bureau after the artwork is disseminated to galleries and collectors across the country. When the truth of Sara's background comes out, Katchoo feels crushed and betrayed.
      [First meeting between Katchoo and Sara, looking at old paintings of Francine]
      Sara: Can I ask you something? Did you love her? Or is it an illusion—this feeling of intimacy in your work? Are you really this insightful...this tender...or just a gifted mirror?
      Katchoo: It's not my place to say.

    Fan Works 
  • The Black Prince: Eggsy offers to pose for Harry's sketches while nude, and he agrees. This eventually leads to them getting together.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Brave, Queen Elinor is sewing a family tapestry of herself, King Fergus, and their daughter Merida. Merida splits the tapestry with a sword when she and Elinor fight, symbolizing their conflict and separation, and she stitches it back together when she is attempting to repair their relationship.
  • Miles Morales was established as a talented and passionate artist in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. When Gwen Stacy visits his room in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse she finds that his sketchbooks are filled with drawings of her. She clearly understands that it is reflective of his crush on her, but instead of pushing the issue she gives him back the sketchbook and says that she missed him, too.
  • In Tarzan, Jane is sketching a picture of Tarzan on a chalkboard and gets lost in his image, showing that she is already falling for him despite their brief encounter.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In the Codex Alera, First Lord Gaius Sextus has a half-finished portrait of his son, Gaius Septimus, who had been killed fifteen years before the start of the series proper. Sextus explains that his wife had been painting the portrait when she got word of her son's death, and had stopped at the news (Sextus points to a mark that indicates the exact point). Afterwards, she had the painting hung in her room and wasted away in despair looking at her dead son's image.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In White Night, Lash's last gift to Harry before she dies is the telepathically transmitted knowledge of how to play guitar. (She had earlier mocked his lack of skill.)
    • In Small Favor, Harry Dresden awakens from a much-needed slumber on his living room couch and realizes that Anastasia Luccio is bathing herself at his fire. The aesthetic of the scene is so beautiful—her body backlit and colored by the flames—that he wishes he had the artistic talent to capture the visage with oil and canvas. Since he does not have any such materials at hand, and does not have any artistic talent even if he did, he instead just appreciates the beauty. The two of them begin dating at the end of the novel.
  • In Gravity Falls: Journal 3, Dipper draws two rather flattering pictures of Wendy, one before he realizes that he likes her and once while lamenting that she'll never return his feelings. He draws a similar portrait of Pacifica alongside the entry for "Northwest Manor Mystery," along with Ship Teasing comments about her looking nice in an evening dress and the two of them developing a "vibe" together.
  • In the novel The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham (the series that inspired Midsomer Murders), the discovery of an extremely sexualised nude painting of a woman by her artist brother confirms the incestuous relationship between them, which motivated the crimes.
  • In The Naked Sun, Gladia Delmarre is one of the pioneers of light sculpture art on Solaria. When she creates an abstract 'portrait' of Elijah Baley of Earth, she encloses it in a grey cube symbolic of the enclosing walls of Earth's Cities. Seeing himself so imprisoned, even metaphorically, gives Elijah extra impetus to face his agoraphobia and go outside with Gladia for a walk. Since Elijah really isn't ready to face the outside on even footing, he overexposes himself in the attempt to prove himself and winds up suffering a complete collapse. Since it was Gladia's art that motivated him, this is taken as compelling evidence that she is the murderer and tried to manipulate him into dying here.
  • In Twenties Girl the eponymous twenties girl, Sadie, reveals that she had a love affair with an artist, who painted a portrait of her birthday suit. When their strict, Victorian parents found the portrait, it became a scandal in their town and the lovers were kept apart forever.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: In the opening scene of the season three episode "Bitter Harvest", Clarke sketches a portrait of Lexa as she sleeps. The sketching shows both Clarke's growing feelings for Lexa and also Clarke's general acceptance of Grounder living, as she hasn't done art since before being sent to the ground. After she awakes, Lexa discovers the drawing.
  • Bones: Angela made a nude painting of Wendell while they dated. Wendell returned it after she married Hodgins, and she found he’d covered the naughty bits with drawn on boxer shorts.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: When Boyle gets a crush on just-convicted art dealer Genevieve in "Boyle's Hunch", he and Jake work to clear her of the charges. During their investigation, they learn that Nick, Genevieve's ex-boyfriend who they believe framed her for the crime she was convicted of, has an entire series of paintings that were created by him and Genevieve covering themselves in paint and having sex on canvas sheets. Boyle attempts to take one of the paintings, claiming that Nick doesn't "deserve it", but stops when Nick tells him that it costs several thousand dollars.
  • In the Buffyverse, Angelus/Angel creates drawings which (Depending on who he is at that moment) he uses to psychologically torture or emotionally connect with people.
    • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angelus would draw sketches of his future victims and leave them to be found as a barely-veiled threat.
    • In Angel, during season two Angel draws dozens of sketches of Darla after he begins dreaming of her (And continues after learning that she was resurrected by Wolfram & Hart). It shows his manic, obsessive fixation on her. When the obsession crosses over into a vendetta determined to kill her and stop whatever plan Wolfram & Hart has, he burns all of the drawings in the furnace.
    • When Cordelia has disappeared at the start of season four, Angel sketches a photo-realistic portrait of her, which demonstrates his longing to find her and the fixation he has on it.
  • Parodied in Community. One episode opens with Abed and Annie (Who are not in a relationship) filming a overly-sentimental morning encounter where they express their love for each other. When they are discovered, they mention that they are filming the encounter for if Annie ever disappears and they hold a news press conference where they present the overly-sentimental footage.
  • The Crown: Margaret decides to have Tony take portrait photos of her for her birthday. The two had some Belligerent Sexual Tension when they formally met at a party earlier in the episode. During the photography session at Tony's studio/apartment, he asks Margaret intimate questions regarding her sense of self and romantic past, seemingly trying to unsettle Margaret to get her to drop her guard enough for him to capture her "true" self. This continues into the dark room while they develop the photos, where Margaret even calls out the blatant seduction attempt.
  • The second season of Dark Angel introduces the character of Joshua, who is a man-dog genetic hybrid that is ostracized from human society due to his animal-ish features. He expresses his feelings of isolation and passion through painting, and the owner of an art gallery falls in love with his work. When he needs to break into her gallery to retrieve his paintings (He had accidentally included important papers), she catches him, but is able to see past his appearance due to already having connected with his more important aspects.
  • Subverted in the Doctor Who episode, "Deep Breath". Jenny poses in her underwear surrounded by artwork while Vastra is working away at an easel. Vastra then turns the easel around, revealing she’s not painting, but rather compiling information on the Half-Face Man’s murders. When Jenny, who believed Vastra was painting her, exasperatedly asks why she had to stand there in the first place, Vastra lamely offers, “…Art?”
  • In an episode of Farscape, Zhaan painting a portrait of Rygel symbolises their increasing friendship, despite their huge personality and moral differences.
  • In House of Cards (US), Claire Underwood has had an on-and-off romance and affair with photographer Adam Galloway. When they resume their relationship after a gap of a few years, the two reminisce over photographs that Adam had taken of her in the past, and when political enemies of Frank Underwood attempt to expose the affair, they release the photographs as evidence. To defuse the accusations, the Underwoods claim that Adam took the pictures at their request as a present for them, and the romantic nature they contain is a reflection of Frank and Claire's relationship.
  • Discussed and parodied in How I Met Your Mother. Barney has asked Lily to paint him in the nude, and is offering a large sum of money as payment, but Lily is worried that her fiance Marshall will be bothered by the thought of her painting another man naked. Marshall is actually fine with the situation, since he has absolutely no fears that Lily would ever develop feelings for Barney, but pretends to be angry in order to trick Barney into offering more money as an incentive. The episode ends with Marshall and Lily gleefully running off with Barney's payment, while Barney is angry that the painting gave him 'Ken doll' anatomy.
  • In the finale of Our Beloved Summer, Choi Ung (who is known for never sketching human portraits, electing to only draw scenes of buildings or nature since they are unchanging) draws a portrait of his girlfriend Kook Yeon-Su to show how his love for her will always stay the same.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Bits of Love", a man trapped inside a subterranean dwelling after a nuclear holocaust is kept company by the holograms of people he knew. He then decides to seduce the habitat AI because she's the only one besides him with a real mind of her own, bonding with her by painting a nude portrait of her (she can even sit perfectly still for the occasion by temporarily freezing her program). This proves to be a huge mistake on his part, since seeing herself for the first time gives her a new sense of identity and makes her clingy and obsessive of him.
  • In the 2/4/17 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Kristen Stewart was in a sketch parody ad for Totino's Pizza Rolls, which featured her seducing a housewife who was making pizza rolls for her husband and his friends while watching a football game. One of the scenes of their seduction montage featured the housewife sketching Stewart's character eating a pizza roll while naked.
  • In Scrubs, the hospital has an annual photograph of the staff taken each year. However, the majority of the staff are apathetic about the picture, or even outright opposed to the concept, resulting in most of their pictures having only a scant few participants. When Carla finally does manage to get the entire staff to pose, the Janitor (Who was not in the staff pose) sabotages the picture; after Carla confronts him, the Janitor admits that he was angry that Carla had not tried to get him to pose in the first place, as he wanted to be included as part of the Sacred Heart family. A second picture was then arranged, this one including the Janitor. note 
  • She's Gotta Have It: Nola sketches Opal naked once while they're in bed together.
  • Star Trek:

    Western Animation 
  • In Daria, the relationships between Jane Lane and others is often conveyed through her art. Her friend Daria is included as a direct representation, but Daria's airhead sister is used in a pastiche/parody of romantic art, and the school's star quarterback is presented as a Neanderthal caveman.
  • Parodied in Family Guy; Peter has an argument with a construction worker, and he finishes the fight by stating that the man's eyes are too close together. The worker agrees and counters that he only needs to wear one goggle when he goes swimming, but as he is storming out in a huff Peter stops him and says that he has to draw him. The scene then cuts to Peter painting the naked construction worker.
  • Futurama: "A Flight to Remember" has Bender do this as part of a Titanic (1997) parody. Being a robot, his sketch turns into a mess of circuit boards and diagrams below the neck (which, in Futurama, is the robot equivalent of nudity).
  • Molly of Denali: There is a drawn picture of Molly and Tooey together hanging in Tooey's bedroom, showing us how close they are. This is also cleaner than most examples.
  • The Simpsons: The Titanic (1997) scene is parodied in "The Old Man and the C Student", where Smithers draws Mr. Burns in the same position Jack drew Rose. (Burns is wearing clothes, but he's naked on the drawing).
    Burns: Now, Smithers, you say you painted all your navy buddies this way?
    Smithers: Until I was discharged, sir.