My Artistic Process

I was curious – while I’m busy coloring away in Photoshop, I rarely think about the actual process. I have an order of course – which layers I fill in first, how many layers to use, etc. etc. – but it has become something of a routine. I was inspired by all the fascinating videos I see on blogs and Instagram of people screen capturing their work in Photoshop. And I thought “hey! I could do that.”

Well, yes. Of course first I had to figure out how to capture video of my screen. For those of you in the know, you are probably laughing right now, because for mac users (like me) it is ridiculously easy to do using QuickTime Player. I, of course, did not know, and thus spent a while looking online for a program and wondering why they were all for Windows. (This would be what my friend Katie refers to as a “loser error” rather than user error.)

However, once I figured it out, it was super easy, and so I started recording and turned to an illustration for the Jane Austen characters commission I’ve been chipping away at. Marianne Dashwood, if we want to be precise. It came out at about an hour and fifteen minutes, roughly (not bad; I think I was working faster than usual because I knew the camera was rolling haha) and then I condensed it into 58 seconds. Because actually watching an hour plus of drawing is really dull, even for the artist.

You can see the video on my instagram.(WordPress wasn’t embedding properly for some reason…sigh.)

The original line drawing and the final artwork are below.

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New Project

It’s been a crazy summer in my life – lots of travel, some unexpected living arrangement adjustments, and my first professional art commission! Frankly, I’m still a bit amazed that people want to pay me to draw, since I always feel like I still have so far to go. But now I have an official project to work on: illustrating a list of Jane Austen characters. Which is fairly amazing, since it combines my OCD love for imagining every detail of the books I read with research on clothing from the period in which Austen wrote, and then of course the actual drawing process. I’ll probably post more later as I have work to show, but for now I can share some of the drawings I made that didn’t quite make the cut. Some of them I actually quite like as drawings, but just didn’t really approximate the character the way I was looking for, or just didn’t quite feel right.

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Winter Timeline of Historical Fashion

This particular piece of artwork has been over a year in the making, mostly because coloring it in PS6 took waaaay longer than I would have liked (and also because I went a little crazy and included a ton of different sketches in the timeline. But it is finished now, just in time for the tail end of winter ’15-’16! Yay! Timeline stretches, entirely arbitrarily, from 1870-1940, and I even managed to squeeze in some winter sportswear! (You have to love 1920s ski clothes…)

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winter timeline1870-79winter timeline1880-89winter timeline1890-99winter timeline1900-1909winter timeline1910-1919winter timeline1920-1929winter timeline1930-1940

 

Snowy Days

This week, after an unusually warm winter, we actually had quite a bit of snow. And perhaps because it hasn’t been as common of an occurrence of late, I was much more excited about waking up to several inches of fresh powder than usual. Cue a photoshoot in the snow with my trusty rain boots to keep my feet warm for my Lookbook.

Witchsona 2016

I’d never heard of this before? Apparently it’s a week where you draw a witch or some sort and then share with the world. And it was last week…but last week was also the start of classes and insanely busy for me, so I only wrapped up my drawing yesterday.

So here’s my drawing, based on seventeenth-century Dutch portraits and the story of Snow White. It’s interesting that the evil queen in Snow White is almost always drawn with dark hair as well – I wondered what it would look like if she were actually Snow White’s opposite. (Plus this was originally a self-portrait for Witchsona until I added the dead girl and this took a turn for Snow White-dom.) I sort of imagine this character as being a sort of cunning woman who uses what we would now know as medicine to poison the apple – but which seemed like witchcraft back then.

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Christmas Caricatures

Hi guys! Sorry for the long break. This past semester – and likely this upcoming one – have been pretty eventful, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to collect all my different creative endeavors and sort them into blog posts.

For the time being though, I’ll leave you with a quick piece of work from Christmas. My sister and I took Photo Booth-style selfies of ourselves and then I drew three sketches based off of the pictures and painted them up in PS6. A nice, unique Christmas gift for our grandmothers.

My sister, of course, is much better at making good goofy faces than me. And I am much better at drawing her than myself. Ah well, practice makes perfect.

Fashionable Follies

I’m working more with the French Revolution this semester – which is great. It’s a fascinating topic and I don’t know enough about it for someone who writes about the latter part of the 18th century. I also, for the first time, have a tiny desk in a basement room with five other grad students, which constitutes my “office.” In a desperate attempt to lend some cheer to this subterranean dwelling place, I thought I’d put some pictures and art, etc. on the walls, including some French Revolution themed stuff.

I don’t know when I first saw this print from ca. 1797, but immediately my interest was captured. (Here is the one from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has been colored, but Stanford and the British Museum also have plain engravings that I know of, and I suspect the Bilbiotheque Nationale in France has one as well.)

“Ah! Quelle Antiquité!!!” “Oh! Quelle Folie Que La Nouveauté….” | about 1790–1800 Alexis Chataignier (French, 1772–1817 French), Publisher Depeuille (French) | The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection; Gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1944

The premise is that a couple promenading in the new fashions of the late 1790s with their classical and revolutionary influence encounter a couple in the cumbersome and ornate fashions of the ancien regime. The text translates basically to “Ah! How antique!!!” and “Oh! What madness is that novelty…” But as this is a satirical print, the idea is that both style extremes are rather ridiculous.

Now, I could have gone to Kinkos, printed out a copy of this and slapped it on the wall above my desk, but being me, I thought no no, I am going to make my own version! Then I got out my pencils and began to sketch my own variant. I made a few small changes – the newfangled couple look more like they belong to 1800-1802 than the mid-late 1790s, but that’s mostly so I could emphasize the sheerness and flimsiness of the woman’s high-waisted dress and the difference in the cut of the man’s coat. Then I scanned it, opened it in PS6, and got super aggressive with BRIGHT colors. Yes, I know, hot pink and vivid lilac weren’t available with 18th century dyes. I took artistic license. Sue me. But they look so wonderful and appropriately rococo in contrast with the rich blues and yellows I chose for the newer couple. Anyhow, without further ado, my completed artwork.

Quelle Antiquite!

The Return! Autumn Hiking & More

I promise I am alive! Summer was a little rough and I took some time off to consider my life and career choices (is it a midlife crisis when you’re only a quarter of the way through…a quarter life crisis mayhap?) but I am back now! Yay! And, even more excitingly, it is fall.

I LOVE fall. It is, without a doubt, my favorite season. It has my favorite holidays (I love dressing up – so Halloween is grand) and my favorite weather. One of the few things I truly love about moving up to the frigid northeast is the fabulous fall colors. And though a little late this year, those colors have been in ample supply here in New York state. I’ve gone hiking the past two weekends (to the despair of my bad knee) and spent another weekend at a rural retreat, and I have some glorious photos that I can put on my desktop and comfort myself with during the dark days of February. 😉

Photos from my backpacking trip to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks

Photos from my backpacking trip to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks

Day Hike at Robert Treman State Park

Day Hike at Robert Treman State Park

I have art and projects & etc. to share, but now I need to go be a productive student and finish readings and papers, so au revoir.

Victory Rolls and A-line Skirts: Channeling the 1940s

I’ve been in a very 1930s-1940s mood the last couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the start of summer – and there are all those delectable nautical styles from the 30s and early 40s that make one want to break out the wide-legged trousers and middy blouses. Maybe it’s my current Netflix queue, which includes a lot of the excellent British series Foyle’s War.

I’ve also been doing a good bit of thrifting. Luckily, Austin, TX has a really superb thrift market. I find all kinds of amazing things overtime I go, like an almost new pair of Sperry duck boots (yay for those cold New York winters!) and a wonderful navy and white dotted silk blouse that just screamed 1940s glam to me. I’m in the process of altering a pair of beach-style trousers to fit me, and they’ll look divine with this blouse, but in the meantime, I’m pairing it with a white cotton a-line skirt and my favorite vintage bridle leather belt.

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I’m also pleased as punch because I finally won the fight to make my hair do proper victory rolls. Being fine and determinedly straight, this is something of an uphill battle, and was only achieved by sleeping in pincurls and then liberal application of my ever-trusty AquaNet hairspray. However the end result was worth it. I definitely want to wear my hair this way more often, especially if I get to pair it with red lipstick.

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Even my cat was curious about what I was doing, and wandered over. Usually she only lets us hold her for increments of ten seconds or so – just long enough for a photo. So I had a few lovely cat photos.

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And then one or two not-so-lovely cat photos… 😉

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Mica the cat makes good her escape.

 

Doing Easter Southern Style (AKA The Cinderella Work Dress)

I love Easter for a host of reasons, one of the arguably shallower ones being that Easter is the one day of the year, barring funerals, that I have license to actually wear a hat. And I love hats. I think it’s criminal that they have pretty much gone out of style unless you are visiting a race course, at a funeral, or attending an Easter church service.

So this year Easter also coincided with my spring break, and I decided to drive back down south to celebrate with my friends AND get in a touch of much needed sun and warmth. To celebrate, I decided to make my own dress and hat. A week and a half before I planned on leaving. This was, mildly put, ambitious, especially since I planned on draping the dress and not making it from a pattern.

My inspiration actually came from the new Cinderella movie. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it simply for the unbelievable production values. I loved the costumes, although ironically it was the every day wear and not the big ball gown or wedding dress that I enjoyed the most. Ella and her mother have simply the best floral print dresses, which combine hints of 18th century and early victorian aesthetic with lots of ruching and cartridge pleating and these lovely, foamy, full skirts.

Hayley Atwell as Ella’s mother. Not only do I love the floral print, but the details on the bodice are just delightful.

I decided that I was going to make a version of Ella’s work dress for Easter and pair it with a shallow-crowned straw hat that would be similar to an 18th century bergere. 

Exhibit image of Cinderella’s work dress

Screenshot of Lily James as Ella in the dress. With an equally awesome cartridge pleated apron.

Interestingly enough, the several versions of this dress made for filming (a common practice, especially if garments are needed in various stages of wear) have some minute differences, the biggest being that one at least appears to have a russet colored trim between the neckline and the neck frill, where others don’t.

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On left, with trim around neckline, on right, without.

The narrow cartridge pleating on the bodice is very obviously inspired by the style of many 1840s bodices, such as this gown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Silk Afternoon Dress, ca. 1845. American. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dress from Kerry Taylor Auctions:

 


And this portrait from the late 1840s – early 1850s.

August Heinrich Georg Schiott (Danish, 1823–1895) | Portrait of the sisters Malvina Anny Louise and Hilda Sophie Charlotte Reventlow | 19th century

 

The pleating on the skirt is also reminiscent of 1830s-1850s cartridge pleating.

Close up of the skirt attachment to bodice from the Cinderella costume exhibition, courtesy of Katrine Hasselquist via the Costumer’s Guide Facebook group.

See the similarity to this 1841 wedding dress from the Victoria & Albert?:

Wedding dress | 1841 | The V&A

The downside to these lovely details were that they all require hand sewing. There is really no other way to cartridge pleat with multiple rows of stitching. I found my fabric at Salvation Army, an interestingly shaped length of gauzy floral print cotton that was neither curtain nor sheet sized, despite being in the household linens section. Sometimes you just get lucky. I made a cotton mockup of the bodice first to test my rucking skills and make sure the pieces I’d drawn onto my dress form would fit me, as I’m slightly differently proportioned from the form. I was in a crazy rush, so sadly no production pics, though I do have my initial sketches to narrow down the dress design.

Then I began to cut up the actual fabric, which made me crazy nervous because I had a very limited amount, especially given how much fabric I wanted to go into the skirt. But I cut out my pieces, along with a cotton lining since the floral fabric was pretty sheer. This also gave me more leeway with seams, as I could sew both lining and outer pieces to each other at the same time as piecing together the bodice.

However, by far the craziest longest time went into pleating the bodice. It was way, waaay longer than I expected, exponentially longer in fact. To give you an idea, I also usually have a tv show or movie on in the background while I hand sew. I made it through four or five movies, half a season of House and a Smithsonian miniseries while sewing the gathering stitches into both sides of the bodice. I DID take a photo of that:

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Each row was hand stitched for the proper width, so it wouldn’t gather, but cartridge pleat, and because the pleating goes far up the center of the bodice, it was 29 rows of stitching on each side of bodice, gathering in 18 inches of fabric.

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The bodice looked great when I finally put it together, but I was literally leaving in a day, so I had to super rush the rest of the dress. The end result is that I had to temporarily abandon the cartridge pleats on the skirt and my neckline needs to be adjusted a little to make it more symmetrical. But the dress was wearable in time for Easter, even though I’d estimate it was only 75% truly finished. I even had time to stitch my hat from a cheap straw gardening hat I picked up at AC Moore. I ripped the stitches connecting the braided strands to each other and gave it a much shallower crown, then trimmed it at the last minute with a bit of scrap fabric from the dress .

The end result was really great for Easter, but probably needs a few more hours work to make properly wearable on a day to day basis.

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