Saturday, January 18, 2014

Joys and Sorrows

 I'd like to take a second, and do a bit of apologizing for my tendency toward laziness, where my work is concerned.  I wish I could say honestly that I'm at my desk every single day - I ache to trumpet off such a thing - but it just isn't so.  Weeks can go by without a single sketch - and while I've always had my moments of procrastination, I must say that I've been far more susceptible to these things since my father passed on.

I'll put it this way.  I love to draw.  Always have.  Some of my earliest memories involve the tin of Caran Dache pencils my parents bought for me as a tot, alongside the honest-to-god high quality paper to go along with them.  This has long been my finest method of communication - I utilize it when I truly want to show someone that I care deeply about them.  I adore gifting my work to those I hold dear.  It also comes in handy to pay the bills, when a commission rolls along.  But along with that sense of joy comes sorrow, as this side of my creativity forces me to come deeply into contact with my keenest of inner sensitivities... putting my soul on paper, if you'll excuse a rather hackneyed phrase.  As such, I cannot draw without thinking of my parents, who encouraged the dickens out of my love for the discipline.

 The details here are from a piece I'm currently working on, loaded with sweeps and small curls.  As usual, it's all done with my trusted pen and inkwell, which requires a lot of deep breathing - borderline meditation.  And this focus requires a certain amount of brain power - not particularly of the thinking variety, but of the instinctual, feeling side of things.  Vulnerability to sneaky senses involving grief and longing are not uncommon - and drawing suddenly turns into a bittersweet ballet.

 It can be a strange sensation, and at times - many of them - I avoid the dance altogether.  There was a time when working on these pieces was a complete pleasure, from the very moment I put my pen to paper... but nowadays, it can take time to get to that sense of gentle bliss.  At times I've spent nearly an hour in a state of controlled breathing, reflecting positively on my parents, reminding myself that all they could possibly want for me is to draw, and happily so.  It's the getting there that can be quite difficult at times - largely around anniversaries, naturally.  Right now I find myself in that state, as January is a particularly rough month for me.  December can be a real pain, as well - that's when my mother slipped away nearly twenty years ago.  But January belongs to my father, whose death, being far more recent, cuts just a bit deeper.  Combined, it can create quite a hurdle to creativity.

But breath, and determination, overcome such things.  I really, really miss my folks right about now... but there are ways around such things, and different methods which bring them closer in a positive manner.  Grief will always be with me, I'm certain.  But the adventure of transferring the emotion into fine lines on paper is worth grabbing hold of, as frightening as it may be at times.

All this said, to add yet another well-worn phrase:  Always, always show those you love how you feel, while they are here.  And just as importantly, continue to do so, once they've passed on.  These drawings are as close to a legacy as I'll possibly leave behind - I do this for my parents, absolutely.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

For the Love of Clothing

 I think it's high time I revisited the issue of wardrobe, and its role in the creative existence.  While I admit that not long ago I was somewhat dismissive of my costume posts (this is an illustration blog, after all), it's worth paying a bit of attention to the inhabitants of my closet... at least once in a while.  A little gallery, during a break from my current work in progress on the drawing board.

Above is a photo from Christmas day, taken with Matt and our dear friend, Carlos Cardoza.  To say that Carlos is a driving force in our aims toward wardrobe improvement is a huge understatement - his social whirl, along with the clothing to go with it, is enormously influential.  Here, Matt is sporting a delicious 1930s Worumbo coat - as for me, my trusted thrift store-bought Burberry jacket and Vogue 1186 Issey Miyake pattern trousers - beautiful Oxford bag stand-ins.

 Another with Carlos - at his July 4th pool party.  Both of us are wearing era cabana ensembles - I mistakenly arrived sans bathing suit, but was in good hands.  Big Boy keeps an eye on things from behind.

 This magnificent cloche certainly Looks to be straight vintage from the 1920s, but is actually a modern piece, fresh off the blocks of Stetson Hats.  This cloche was created as part of recent, noble efforts to introduce a classic line of modern hats with distinctly historic flavor - Stetson is also working up some beautiful examples for men, of traditional fur felt and petersham.  This model is called the "Louise", appropriately.  The dress is made from the Folkwear 1927 Tea Dress pattern.

 Winter parties call for winter bathing - at least for us displaced Coney Island Polar Bears.  At this event, I was featured as the "Queen of Winter", disrobing to reveal a crystal- and sequin-studded flesh tone bikini and hair wreath, dipping into the pool to greet the season.  The boots aren't quite the fashion statement, but do a marvelous job of protecting the toes from frost injury.

 An androgynous moment, at the 2013 Dallas Tweed Ride.  Carlos and I didn't ride our bicycles to the event, as his arm was in a (well-coordinated) sling.  However, we are none to be deterred from a photo opportunity, as this proves.  I borrowed Matt's 1930s cap and tie - the pants are likely 1990s, made by Banana Republic during the "vintage movement" that occurred all too briefly among many designers at the time.

 While I don't usually discuss my politics here, this photo is worth posting.  As a staunch supporter of the woman's right to choose, I attended a demonstration in favor of Planned Parenthood of Northern Texas.  I think the sign says everything.  The suit dates from the late 1910s, and the hat from the early 1920s.

 Inspirational clothing touches every aspect of life - working at the illustration desk is no different.  This Yukata robe was given to me by a dear friend, and has spent many hours on my body as I draw.  Come to think of it, I really need to get back into the habit of talismanic wearings while at the desk...

 Feeling clowny - participating in a local parade.  Our good friend Bill Flynt is the deservedly proud owner and player of a 1923 Tangley Calliope, which he brings to many events during the year.  The joy is clear on my face, as I was caught mid-strut during his performance of 1920s tunes.

 I love good clothing, and am constantly open to new sources for acquisition.  I do make a good deal of my garments - the rest largely come from thrift shops.  These beautiful Crockett & Jones cap toes came from what I can only describe as a curiosity shop, tucked in a corner away from prying eyes.  I saw their beauty, and snapped them up cheaply... with no idea of their true worth.  After being re-soled, I consider them nothing less than wonderful friends.

 More gender-bending, taken at a vintage expo this past weekend.  The trusty Burberry jacket shows up yet again, along with a modern straw boater (found by Matt in a dumpster), plus-fours made from the same pattern as the Oxford bags shown in the first photo, and a wonderful pair of modern spectators.

 This past New Year's Eve, I decided to step entirely out of character, and wear a 1960s silk dress, albeit paired with a 1920s velvet cloche.  The robe is likely early 1940s, but I cannot quite guess.  This somehow recalls to my mind the Staunchest of characters, Edie Beale...

 The Queen of Winter, not long before the cold water swim at Carlos' Christmas party.  A thrift store-bought kimono, kept in place with a bodice made from the pattern I drafted for a dirndl a couple of years back (an earlier blog post was made about that piece).

 My first time singing publicly in many years, with Matt at my side.  The bathing suit has been with me for longer than I care to admit, and dates from the mid-1920s.  The same velvet cloche was worn for New Year's Eve - I'm becoming quite bonded to it...

 The Folkwear 1927 Tea Dress pattern, yet again.  This was done in new material, with side panels added for extra flow.  Remarkable for dancing, a truly great dress.  The shoes are likely late 1930s, given to me by a great friend.

 At a local Mardi Gras parade, taken just after I'd accidentally beaned someone in the face with a string of beads.  The dress is from a pattern I cannot possibly recommend highly enough:  Butterick's B5209 reprint of a 1947 sun dress.  I've made it twice, and it brings compliments every time I wear it.  The hat is a glorious red straw, trimmed with a trembling feather element.

 Carlos and I, at his Moroccan pool party.  He sports another cabana suit with matching fez, while I wear the Simplicity "Swim Dress" pattern released as a result of the Titanic-mania that took over in the late 1990s.  Considering the pattern is actually of the Halloween grade, it's actually a beautiful starting point for the creation of a ragtime-era ballgown.  I've made it twice - this sari version, as well as my wedding gown.

Finally, a parting shot from the green room at a recent stage show.  Minimal, but What A Hat - a Volk's piece from the 1930s, made of velvet-covered wire and egret feathers.  I don't condone the purchase of new fur- or feather-trimmed wear, but vintage gets the go-ahead.  The earrings are glass buttons dating from the 1920s, made into jewelry.

In short, enjoy yourselves, and don't hesitate to allow your creativity to bleed into your wardrobe, as well.  I have few personal resolutions for 2014, but a more colorful and passionate closet is a must.  See you soon.