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.
Milton Glaser: 1929-2020
Milton in Color
7″ x 9″
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…
Penn in Pencil
8″ x 12″ sketch 2020
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.
Donna MItchell 2020 Mix Media 8″ x 10″
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?
Donna – or Me? 8″ x 10″, Crayon and Pencil
The Thistle pattern, artfully applied to a Louis Vuitton jacket and as worn by Kaia Gerber, brought the word “pluck” to my mind. Found in Vogue’s March issue [“The New Edwardian”] and photographed by David Sims, I just love that diagonal action in Gerber’s hair above the uniformly vertical pattern. Does anyone say “plucky” these days? Well, this is pluck all over!
Louis Vuitton Spring 2020
Prophetic or just strange…? Yet, when I learned that designer Jean Paul Gaultier had announced his retirement, I had already begun this sketch of a Niall McInerney photo found within the pages of Colin McDowell’s Gaultier biography.
From his fairly humble beginnings, Gaultier began his breath taking career when he was employed by Pierre Cardin. Jean Paul was a mere 18 year old at the time! [Does anyone speak much of Cardin today? Would it be hubris to view Gaultier as having surpassed his mentor if we are to think of the legends of haute couture?]
Gaultier has often come across as an impish mischief maker; this being one of the many reasons I personally adore him but also gives one the sense that he will not disappear entirely. And since his own style – more often than not – is typically a striped sailor’s shirt, I felt the need to lend stripes to the model’s gloved hand.
Les Journées ou Gaultier
Busker Joey… This cat? Tall and fair and tinged with ginger, Joey just sorta magically appears in Downtown Mystic every summer. I dig his style: Appalachian Chic? I am kicking myself because I did not swap out that yellow gear bag from the photo I’d taken and replace it with a guitar and strap. [Another time, maybe.]
I’m not going to play Mystic Busker favorites. No way and never! It is just Joey’s nature in that he is such an approachable dude. And when I see him, he brightens my day. Actually, on the day I had snapped this picture, the sun was so strong that he is squinting in that photo. I used my artist’s prerogative here. Without recent contact with him, I hope Joey approves!
Joey in 2018
The color orange acts like a magnetizing force when it comes to my personal aesthetic. Symbolically speaking, orange seems to be as paradoxical as my own personality… translating as both warning and warmth. Utility and creativity. Ripe fruits and autumn’s leaves.
From this photo editorial shot by Carlos Serrao, model Wanessa Milhomem plunged into the waters wearing this blazing orange Cavalli dress. And as with my passion for orange, water cannot extinguish these flames!
Faces. How to explain whose face will lure me in cannot be easily expressed. Nor could I articulate why one photo among countless others compels me to render it, by whatever means. In this sketch of Yasmin Wijnaldum, she wears Bottega Veneta for a 2018 Elle editorial.
Photographer Chris Colls, versatile – and cunning in this instance, captures Yasmin beautifully by cleverly setting this overcoat against the grid of a rusted fence.
How did this escape me at the time of receipt? Again, I have no idea!
Yasmin in 2018 Bottega
While on a vintage fashion photo spree, a 1967 photo by Patrick Hunt seized and transported me both backwards and forward. A model by the name of Maudie James, dressed in 60’s Mod icon Mary Quant and seated in floral patterned “Barrel” chair. This über-cool chick I once dreamt of becoming…and to be dressed in Mary Quant!
Yet, I couldn’t be stopped in re-imaging this in my own [quite twisted] way.
The chair became a setting of its own for some trippy botanical, as photographed by my friend Bryel. And Hieronymus Bosch inspired some sort of pattern for Maudie’s outfit – as well as an added pot with its fern. More madness came over me as I left my “medium comfort zone” and went to town with pastels of all kinds applied to a – roughly – 12” x 12” hunk of grey mat board.
Maudie James in Mary Quant. Photo by Patrick Hunt, 1967
Maudie James in Bosch
*A special mention of gratitude to Clive Arrowsmith: As I couldn’t find anything as far as Maudie’s background, Mr Arrowsmith had written of his experience with her in that she was very quiet… shy…
More often than not, my subjects are a mystery to me when in the process of either sketching or painting them. It is only after I’ve finished a piece when I then go online to acquaint myself with my subject – along with the creatives behind the photo.
Elisa, Photographed by Angelo Pennetta for W Magazine.
This watercolor came by way of a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld which is featured in the current issue of W . Photographer Angelo Pennetta – whose work is lauded worldwide – is seemingly a private man… Stylist Sara Moonves, in an inspired move, lent her own veil to Elisa Sednaoui. While Elisa Sednaoui, I learned, began her own foundation in 2013 which allows children from both Bra, Italy and Luxor, Egypt to discover the world and power of the arts. Now that’s remarkable!
Elisa Sednaoui in Chanel
Rather recently I had a musing of combining a strong female face to be painted in Payne’s Grey and black and then superimpose a vividly colored floral over it. But, whose face?
I’ve seen many images of model Ruth Bell. I just didn’t know know that I had…
Not until the June/July 2019 issue of Harper’s Bazaar had arrived. In its editorial titled “The New Florals”*, photographer Sebastian Kim is brilliant in harmonizing the setting with saturated patterned fashions which don’t diminish Ruth’s presence in the least. Better yet, my search for the face I wanted was found after seeing Ruth Bell hold her own in a bold Balenciaga kimono.
Sebastian Kim photo of Ruth Bell, Harper’s Bazaar
I then scoured Ruth Bell’s [hopefully, to be forgiven] Instagram and fell for a shot of her, wonderfully unplugged…
Ruth Bell, Watercolor 2019
*I’d feel derelict if I did not give mention to the fantastical location, being “Quesalcoatl’s Nest” in Naucalpan, Mexico. This oasis was designed by architect Javier Senosian.