On a recent and dreary Thursday my “faux-bro” and I had made our way to a tattoo parlor for new piercings. And as he drove, I kept spotting compact vehicles that were a sort of high voltage green.
“Do ya suppose that spooks have traded in dark sedans for bright green compacts?” I mused for his consideration. And there you have the beginning of my backstory as to how I became inspired for this specific sketch.
As afterward, he and I hit a bookstore where I snatched a copy of i-D magazine. And it was when I found within [Issue No 362] this particular editorial, photographed by Amy Troost, a fantastic shot of model Abby Champion wearing a McQueen designed “trench dress”.
Hopefully, creative license is enough to pardon my reimagining this khaki dress in my “new spook green”…
FKA Twigs had first come to my attention in 2016. While “Twigs” initially gained celebrity as a singer, it is both her origins in dance and her magically photogenic presence that drew me to her. And during that year, I had been creating my “Diaphanous” series. [This series can be simply defined as couture derived outlines – sans models.] This painting shown above had been inspired by an Elle magazine feature of FKA Twigs; although only the Salvatore Ferragamo dress as photographed by Paola Kudacki emerges in my work.
In this most recent illustration, FKA Twigs is finally seen and depicted as I have sketched here. This was done first with a mechanical pencil on student grade paper. After which I scanned and copied the image onto a textured piece of card stock so that I could add the chalky black background.
The allure of being on Instagram escaped me for the longest time. That is, until I finally caved in when I traded in my flip phone for the “smart” kind and have since come to embrace the platform. Follow me [!] there: @moore_jeni
For Visual Creatives it is the ultimate mobile feast. And while I can follow most of the artistic celebrities who already have global gobs of audiences, I get a bigger kick discovering – and in some cases, interacting with – Creatives who should have more acclaim. This is how I became familiar with the photographic portfolio of Aaron Kinney.
Whether a new posting from Aaron is a studio or location shot, his images spark me. So when his work had appeared with a model named Tatjana Sinkevica, who commands a NYC rooftop while dressed in nearly all black warrior-wear, I couldn’t resist the challenge of recreating her very angled presence. And as I always respect another artist’s right of ownership, I reached out to Aaron who kindly allowed me to go public with my watercolor spin of his photo.
There is a story behind every created form of expression – and if you are familiar with my online portfolio, you already know that I include little stories along with my posts. With this particular piece I have three [maybe more!] stories, so please bear with me.
In the early 1920s my maternal grandmother Ella Sachse had chosen to study art at what is now known as Moore College in Philadelphia, PA. Many of the tools and supplies she had accumulated have been passed along to me through my mother, including this most recent and astonishing block of cold press Fabriano paper:
In my eagerness to honor this vintage paper I had to reacquaint myself with using watercolors and due to the rough surface of it, I needed to “turn off” my usual insistence of small detailing. As seen below, I realized that the spirit of the outfit was far more important than the brocade panel behind the model.
Now, I have sung my praises of Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri before but, honestly, I don’t actually follow her or any other designer with some fanatic intent. Rather, it is Dior somehow finding me – by way of print ads or fashion headlines. The latter being the case when I read that their Spring/Summer 2021 collection of haute couture was born from a rare deck of Tarot cards…
And I have dabbled in reading Tarot cards for over 20 years. While partial to the Thoth method and for those who know little about the Tarot, there are 78 cards in total and within those there are 22 dedicated to archetypes called The Major Arcana. In my personal history with both the Thoth and Rider-Waite cards, I found a particular affinity to The Fool card [#0]. That said, it made perfect sense to me that I would gravitate to Ms Chiuri’s sartorial interpretation of The Fool!
The month of August was not mine to do as I would choose. Yet, within my home/studio [a basement apartment] the flooring in both the front and back was steadily eroding beneath me. Carpenters and plumbers and “finishers” were called in – and over the past few weeks all that I had needed to be relocated during the restoration. Of course much of the redistribution involved art supplies…
When I finally found a bit of time to create, I chose to use a long forgotten palette of – of? – that was paint which I realized was gouache. For those who might be unclear as to the difference between gouache and watercolors, one tip I would make is that gouache is harder to lift [or shift] than watercolors. Does it need mentioning that I had trouble in blending the floor?
Kiko Sitting 9″ x 12″ Gouache
The subject I’ve depicted here was taken from a Takashi Homma photo of Kiko Arai and was published in W’s “Art Issue” of 2019.
When researching for a little background story to accompany my sketch which is taken from a 1949 photo by Sir Cecil Beaton, I found Beaton himself being interviewed that the BBC had aired in 1962. Because Beaton had not just “one vocation” – his photography, theatrical stage design, and writing, to name a few – he was asked “Does photography keep going all the time?” In answer Beaton says, “No, uh… I don’t want to get stale at it. … I want to try to remain an amateur at it in order that I have the amateur’s freshness and spontaneity.”
I feel rather aligned with that belief a great deal of the time. Yes, there are times when I yearn for a level of decisiveness in mastering a medium; but would it also feel painfully repetitive?
Evelyn Tripp by Cecil Beaton 1949 9″ x 12″, Graphite and Colored Pencils
After viewing the BBC interview, I continued on this YouTube track by watching a film entitled “Beaton by Bailey”. In this, photography legend David Bailey more or less profiles Cecil Beaton in documented snippets. Some of these, lovingly. But then some, a bit tarnished. What I had taken away from the contrast is that Beaton’s works were better with seasoned muses. For Vogue, he had captured Evelyn Tripp – who does not at all fade amidst numerous Matisse cut-outs added to the set.
From the archives of Harper’s Bazaar, I was very touched by a 1948 picture that had been taken by Louise Dahl-Wolfe. As we are all now vulnerable, the way in which this [uncredited] model held a handkerchief in front of a porch beam gave me some sense of empathy and reassurance. In my own illustration and more than anything else, I tried to bring out what I sensed – rather than what is seen in the original.
Geranium Porch 2020 8″ x 11.5″, Mix Media
Photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe [b. 1895, d. 1989] is credited with influencing a number of the most coveted fashion photographers of the Mid-century era. Dahl-Wolfe did so by using naturalized settings and the advancement in producing full color images during the Forties and Fifties for fashion shoots in her role as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar.
Despite having her work exhibited in galleries and museums, Louise Dahl-Wolfe – according to a quote I found online at Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago – was not of the opinion that photography could be considered Fine Art.
Last year and during a period that I found myself feeling especially grateful and generous, I began a sketch of Milton Glaser with the intention of sending it to him along with a letter of my adoration. What can I say? I got waylaid. I had overworked this little 5” X 7” portrait to an extent that poor Milton looked as if he belonged in a Kabuki theater. Really, awful. I meant to finish it but… and yet…
From childhood to present, Glaser’s artistic and illustrative designs have greatly contributed to my sense of aesthetics. However, Milton Glaser as a mentor [to me and so many others, globally] brought a profoundly strong ethos that he not only embodied but touched upon so generously in both writing and talking on the subject of art. He was a true mensch whose words were often flavored with deeply informed historical philosophies. Anyway, this has been my impression whenever I’ve streamed one of his videotaped conversations; which was quite often as I worked at my own easel.
Imagine the blow I felt when I learned of his death last week! I had to wrestle with the guilt I had for having never finished my little portrait of him… or sending that letter. I picked up that first task again and thanks to an image found on the website artsmeme.com, I pencil sketched Mr Glaser and then, for better or worse, printed out a tracing. In the colorized version, I added a personal favorite Glaser-designed metal sculpture that had been commissioned by The Rubin Museum in New York City.
This could also be titled “Penn and Patchett in Pencil” as model Jean Patchett is the poised woman holding the wine glass for photographer Irving Penn – circa 1949. Citing the caption as found online, Patchett is wearing “silk taffeta… from Vogue Design #6708”. Does the #6708 refer to a dress pattern? I wonder.
The half page size copy of Penn’s black and white photo proved mysterious in parts also. In the original, a shadowy violin player is seen in the background. Very barely! There is a dark door dividing the musician and model, obscuring outlines of her skirt. So, I used the visible clues to render all that I could…
When I do a search for a muse, my aim often is in seeking someone who feels familiar to me – while avoiding many subjects I may already be thoroughly familiar with. It is like a game where I really can’t lose because I often find remarkable stories behind these veneers.
So, after completing my sketch of a 1960s Donna Mitchell last week [“Then and There”] I went on to do a search of my subject with the hope of learning more about her. At the top of the results online I was astonished to see brilliant photos of Ms Mitchell – as she continues to model to this day! Represented by the “Iconic Focus” agency, her portfolio amazed me as she is no less stunning now than she had been in her teens. Although, and perhaps an indication of that “familiarity” factor, I found very little of her personal life and I’m quite private with my own. And while it was hard to choose from her very-very varied looks collection, the pose I settled on seemed to serve as the best narrative companion for my other Donna Mitchell sketch – in which she beams, sitting and looking quite self possessed.
While searching vintage era images I was recently very much taken with one which is so quintessential 60s Mod – yet there is more to it… Up until the moment of discovery I wasn’t at all familiar with model Donna Mitchell and yet in the expression she gave photographer David Montgomery, there is some element of personal reflection about it.
Years [and years!] ago I was – as I recall – shaped like a lollipop. From my neck down, a stick. My head, being the “lolli”. Or the “pop”? I mention this as my water brush sketch doesn’t quite do the real [and very stunning] Donna Mitchell justice; the result being an illustrated snapshot of, perhaps, personal vulnerability?
My friend Richard reminded me that today is Pati’s birthday. Had Pati Hill not departed life here in 2014 she would be 99 years old…!
Richard Torchia, who is Arcadia University’s art gallery director, had discovered the genius of Pati’s art around the time that her book “Letters to Jill” was published. In his present capacity as curator to her artistic legacy, Richard recently secured an exhibition of Pati’s works at the Kunstverein München in Munich, Germany.
And due to my friendship with Pati Hill I am honored to have as a friend her invaluable assistant, Nicole. For the past six years, dear Nicole has given me extraordinary mementos of photographs and art and more… The sketch below was rendered from a photo of Pati, wherein she sits within a window of her home in Yonne, France.