Tuesday 31 May 2011

Bits and Pieces

A couple of things to tell you this week!

Firstly, there is now a new mailing list feature on my website which allows you to subscribe to my new newsletter to find out all the latest about exhibitions, art events and more!

Just go to my website and click on 'Mailing List' then click on the link to bring up the subscription form like the one you can see above. My first newsletter covers my year so far and includes upcoming events, so you can be bang upto date! (updates to be posted on this blog soon!)

Other news:

The sixth installment of Mrs Brown's Diary is now online! A blast from the past has caused Mrs Brown's world to turn upside down, however momentary could this encounter have lasting repercussuions? Find out by reading Mrs Brown's Diary, the accompanying story behind and inspired by the vintage dressing room currently on display at Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery!

Monday 16 May 2011

Mrs Brown's Diary, the shoot

One of my favourite things ever is making up stories, packaging little moments in time and filling them with characters, happenings and elements of playfulness. I think that's one of things I try to get across in my paintings. They are each snapshots of worlds that maybe existed for real, or maybe just in my head, or maybe a bit of both. When I took Layla to Stoke to model for me as Mrs Brown, the moment she stepped into the dressing room set, a story was taking place before my eyes.  

For me it was a lovely moment to behold, like seeing the sun rise at just the right angle through the pillars of Stone Henge or finally getting the shot of a bird you'd been waiting hours to catch a glimpse of. When Layla, in full 1950's regalia, sat in front of the dressing table in the set I had spent months putting together with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, I felt very, what's the word?... satisfied. Not to mention excited. Here at last was Mrs Brown in her dressing room, interacting with her belongings, acting out her story, making it just that little bit more real!

The whole point of the shoot which took place last Monday, was to continue the theme of telling stories through belongings and objects. Mrs Brown's story has been entirely inspired by the objects I selected from the decorative arts collection during my collaborative project with the museum. Each object has been displayed as part of Mrs Brown's dressing room as an illustration of her life, a snapshot, a moment in time packaged and ready for consumption. 

I wanted to photograph the objects with the woman who supposedly owns them to give them even more meaning, and even though my model was very important, it was still the objects themselves which dictated the shots and led the images to tell the story.

It was a small space and very dark in order to preserve the items displayed, so it took some getting used to before both I and Layla managed to ease into the shoot, but I was really happy with the images we got. By keeping Mrs Brown's identity quite anonymous her belongings take over in letting the viewer decide what's happening. The photos will be displayed over the coming months on; www.mrs-browns-diary.blogspot.com and I'll continue announcing when each new installment is posted, head over there now for installments 3, 4 and 5!

Make over heaven

I couldn't help feeling pleased as I watched Mrs Brown walk through the museum in her elegant purple floral dress. Teetering on T bar heels, her powdered face broke into a smile as she took in the exhibits, showcasing her red lips and fluttering lashes. It was like meeting a pen friend I'd never seen before but finding she fit my imaginary picture of her perfectly.

It was Monday and I was in Stoke to photograph the dressing room set from my collaborative project with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, but on this visit I had brought my friend Layla with me to model as the mysterious Mrs Brown, the flighty bored young housewife of 1951, a woman whose pursuit of happiness could land her in hot water.

The previous day I had met with Layla to set her hair into pin curls, a very popular style from the forties which had continued to evolve into the fifties creating a new generation of waves and curls seen on the likes of Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. After watching a wonderful video tutorial by Vividmakeup found on youtube (see last post) I had also found evidence in a contemporary article detailing the techniques of how to set your hair fashionably. What struck me most  was the effort that went into the preparation for a style that was worn by most women whether they were film stars or just going to the shops and doing the housework. This was serious high standard hair.

Here's how I set Layla's hair: 

Firstly I dampend it with water and added a little setting lotion. After combing it through I took a one inch section and coiled it away from the face around two of my fingers, making sure not to twist it. When I had coiled as far as I could get, I pinched the coil off and secured it flat to Layla's head using FLAT hair pins to create a cross.

Here's how it looked as I was working my way around the head. I left the front section loose as this required a different type of curl. Once I had worked my way all around the hair it looked like this;

The crown was left flat so the curls would sit in an authentic style of the early 50's and the front fringe section was curled under and secured in an elevated curl, not flat to the head but sitting proud of the face. The curls were left to set over night  with a scarf tied around them for protection. When we got to the museum the next day they were still in place if not a little fuzzy;

We used a dressing room which Princess Anne had used when she came to visit the museum a few years ago. It was in this room I finished the hair styling and applied Laylas' make up. I went of a classic 1950's look, very matte and powdered; soft brown eye shadow all over the lid with a darker brown in the socket. 

I lined the upper lid with black liquid liner and added some flirty tipped lashes for a glamorous effect and drew the eyebrows in with a pointed arch. The whole thing was of course finished off with obligatory red lipstick! I went for a pointed look lining the lips first to get the peaks as defined as possible.

Next it was time to finish styling the hair. I unpinned all the curls and brushed them through with my fingers to seperate and loosen them. As you can see from the photo, the pin curls really did their job creating large sausage curls positioned perfectly around the crown.

To create fifties waves I took a barrel brush and began to brush the curls under. Unlike normal curls which should never be messed with, pin curls are designed to be manipulated. They are also very resilient and snapped into place as I brushed them. I used my palms to sculpt the hair as I brushed it under and round, I then pinned the hair back behind the ears for a very feminine style. Lastly I brushed the fringe, whisking it up and back to create a 50's flick that blended in with the rolls of sculpted hair around the sides of the face. At last Mrs Brown was ready for her photo shoot.

The makeover was lots of fun and it was important to get it right as creating an authentic look was just as important as the shoot itself. As Layla stepped into the dressing room set I felt really pleased because she looked like she belonged there. Layla enjoyed working amongst all the vintage items, being a bit of kleptomaniac of vintage items herself, and it was so satisfying to have the right person for the job who understood the brief and looked so perfect for the story. Find out how the shoot went in my next post!...

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Dressing Mrs Brown

I am all a fluster getting plans readied and ideas organised as I am doing a 1951 makeover on a friend of mine who has kindly agreed to model as Mrs Brown for me next Monday!

We are travelling to Stoke to photograph 'Mrs Brown' interacting with the many objects within her dressing room in order to give them new and deeper meaning. My good friend Layla who has modelled for me before as the kitzch receptionist 'Miss How Can I Help You', was the perfect choice as she fits the physical requirements I had in my head of Mrs Brown's size and colouring. Plus as an artist herself she can understand what I am attempting to get from the shoot.

Miss How Can I Help You, acrylic on canvas 2006

The story being unravelled in Mrs Brown's Diary is all based around the many objects found in Stoke's Potteries Museum and Art Gallery's decorative arts collection which were then built into a 1950's dressing room. It was always my aim to tell a story though belongings and with the photographs I hope to emphasise this further by bringing Mrs Brown into the picture but keeping the objects as the main focus. She will almost be an accessory as the objects take the lead and represent different moments of importnace to her

I'm really excited about the makeover as all things cosmetic and hair give me a buzz! I've found an amazing tutuorial for early 50's pin curls, here's the second part showing how to style your curls into a perfect housewife do:

This girl really knows her stuff and after watching the whole tutorial I feel I learnt a lot. To my absolute joy I found the exact same method for pin curls being detailed in a Vogue article from the late forties (Thanks Layla for bringing in your brilliant Vogue book!).

After discussing Mrs Brown's personality and the era with Layla she managed to pull together an outfit that even though not original period clothes, will still look fantastic for the shoot as you can see above. We were looking for something fashion forward for the early 50's. Something with a hint of the full skirt Dior New Look, but also functional enough for a middle class housewife with pretentions to grandeur. With glamourous cosmetics and period hair this outfit will be perfect for the young and flighty Mrs Brown. I will document the entire process, find out how the makeover and shoot go next week!