Tuesday 8 December 2015

Rebel Princess - For The Love Of The Force

I spent a busy weekend working as one of a group of artists painting live at the For The Love Of The Force Star Wars event in Manchester.

Of course I painted Princess Leia, and I wanted to show her as the provocative, strong, feminist icon she is! I took inspiration from classic pin up styles, the sort of thing you'd find on a B52 bomber and I also added a tattoo to underline her rebel status.

This is possibly the fastest painting I've ever done, especially when you consider that the finished piece is over seven foot tall! Also painting in front of thousands of people as they explored the Star Wars convention was daunting and rewarding all at once. People really do enjoy seeing art being made. Here's how it happened:

And THIS is just a snippet of what was going on all around us while we painted!

I had a fab and exhausting time! My Princess Leia #RebelPrincess is staying up along with the other artworks created over the weekend for a week at Bowlers and will be auctioned off at the end of it. Keep an eye on the Bowlers website and facebook page for more details!

(This is SUCH a difficult pose to do with any kind of refinement as you can see!)

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Are naked butlers sexist?

I went to a Christmas fair at Manchester Donkey Sanctuary last week, and a lovely time was had by all. The covered paddock was full of stalls selling lots of handmade goodies, there was cake, there was a raffle and in the midst of about 300 women visitors and three donkeys, there were two slightly shaky naked butlers.

I have to admit I was a bit surpised to be greeted at the door with bucks fizz by one of the said butlers when I had really come to see animals of a much hairer and to be honest, cuter variety, but the two chaps did their best to get into the spirit of the event and by the end of the night were having a great time posing for photos and basically showing off. Their egos had most definately been boosted.

It's not my kind of thing, I find it a bit tacky and unless it's done with much tongue in cheek and humour I'm not really into naked men in public. One of a handful of males who also attended was not impressed with the butlers and commented, 'if that were two women doing that job in a room full of men you'd never hear the end of it, why's this any different?' 

I didn't agree, but his idea really got me wondering why.

I agree that in principal his kind of feminist thinking can work in many situations by highlighting the vast inequalities between the sexes that happen in society (see the brilliant video, If Women Catcalled Men for example), but in this instance it just doesn't work.

The first thing that springs to mind is the lack of threat from a room full of women towards a naked man. OK, of course we've all heard about or witnessed big groups of women getting lairy and over excited at male strip shows but that in itself shows a vast difference straight away. How many men cheer scream and above all laugh when they see a naked woman?

The two naked bulters at the Christmas fair had more threat from the cold than they did from the mostly middle aged ladies who surrounded them. Indeed, most of them were more interested in getting their nails done at one of the stalls than copping a feel. No threat. No intimidation.

I'm not sure this would have been the case had it been two naked women in a room full of men. I'm not putting men down. I'm not inferring men are letches. But it is true that women look at men very differently to the way men look at women. I remember reading in the marvellous, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, which describes our thought processes in making sense of what we see;

“A man's presence suggests what he is capable of doing to you or for you. By contrast, a woman's presence . . . defines what can and cannot be done to her.”

Even in our ever progressive society this staement still has a ring of truth. Just apply it next time you watch any TV show or flick through a newspaper. I think what I'm trying to say here is that men and women are still programmed differently and for that reason we will never do things exactly the same or react to similar situations in the same way.

Feminism to me, means equal opportunity with a respect and celebration of our differences. This means taking time to consider our strengths and weaknesses before painting us all with the same black and white ideology. 

There was an informative and fun article in this year's July issue of Glamour Magazine titled; 'What happens when a normal guy does THIS?' The idea being that the average guy journalist Luke Chilton, was challenged to perform with The Dreamboys, Britains answer to The Chippendales. 

He faced all the typical trials; auditions, spray tans, rehearsals and then finally, D-Day, performing in front of 200 women in his fetching Union Jack pants. His words on how it felt sum things up rather perfectly:

'Am I embarrassed? Yes, Did I feel demeand? Not really. For a few minutes I felt like a rock star. But as a man, I'm unencumbered by centuries of gender imbalance. And there's another difference. When a man watches a female stripper, he's mesmerised, slack jawed with (often) sleazy desire. But last night, the girls were screaming with delight. It's bawdy, it's fun [ ] no one gets hurt and everybody has a good time'.

Incidentally, I highly reccommend a visit to the donkey sanctuary and you don't even need to take your clothes off.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Film of The Tattooed Lady

On Friday the talented film maker Hilary Easter Jones came to HOME to film The Tattooed Lady and over the weekend she has created this fantastic short film. I love the way it captures the piece's playful yet melancholy feel. As the film says the exhibition closes next weekend so you have one week left to visit the Lady and get a tattoo while they last!

Thursday 2 July 2015

Tattoo transfers: The Tattooed Lady

Remember those bubblegum sweets you used get as a child, the ones that had the cheap tattoo transfers in the wrapper?

I loved those. The tattoos were always rubbish, fuzzy undefined things but so exciting to wear! They are what partly inspired me to create my own tattoo transfers for The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, an exhibition exploring heartbreak and the dark side of the funfair

Dodgy tattooists and partners names impulsively etched into the skin. These were the ideas flitting across my mind as I thought about work for the show, and they seemed to sum up the exhibition's two themes perfectly.

Tattoos are physical scars. Love can leave emotional scars. Sometimes these two things meet and become permanently tangled together.

I collected true stories of love tattoo regret to create new designs for my temporary tattoos. Here are the stories told verbatim and how I translated them into new art works:

The Dead Squid

It's not the first thing you think of when you mention a loved one, but this anonymous story shared through my website was not only funny but ripe with inspiration! It helped me create an image of hopeless finality

'The One that I thought was The One but was not The One and I took a trip to Scarborough. Upon arrival, we immediately decided to get matching tattoos of a > shape on our hands from a dodgy seaside inker. When you put them together it made a ><, which was cute until we realised it made our fingers look like the tentacles of a dead squid. Our relationship is as dead as said squid, and now everyone thinks I've got some weird heart etched on me. Annoyingly, the ex's < is super crisp and nicely done. Always do your research kids... '

The challenge for me here was creating an aesthetically pleasing dead squid, something droopy, slimy and met with an untimely end. There was a lot of tentacle placement, drawing, tracing and re-drawing until I got the look I was going for. I feel quite sorry for this wilted chap.


The beaten up fairy

A simple tale that puts images into your head, I decided to show an unusual version of this common motif,

'I started getting tats at the very young age of 16. Stupid. I regret all of them and am in the process of getting them removed. My first was done by my boyfriend of the time. I got a fairy on my lower stomach. Pregnancy, weight gain, and gravity have beaten her up pretty bad over the years. She lasted much longer than the relationship' 


The Indian Ink

How many people can relate to this thoughtless teenage act? And how many of them did it for this reason? I wanted to create something that would show the crudeness of the tattoo and the permanence.
'Everyone was doing it; crosses, skulls, initials, the whole school was getting it done. It was my mate’s big sister who I had a bit of thing for who said she’d do it for me. Everybody was inking everybody in the mid 80’s. We used to use Indian Ink and a large sewing needle. We’d thread the needle and wrap the cotton around it so it acted as a reservoir for the ink when you pushed it into the skin.
I basically let her do it because she had boobs'


The swallow

Probably the saddest tattoo tale I collected, this story was shared anonymously online and I can't help feeling for the young girl who so desperately wanted to please and prove herself to her already tattooed boyfriend. The lewd remarks she now gets because of these tattoos only makes the story more distressing and begs the question; why do people feel the need to pass comment about other people's tattoos, especially to tattooed females?

'I have two American Classic style swallows on my shoulders that I got as soon as I was legally allowed. At the time I went with an ex boyfriend, who was covered in tattoos, and was too nervous to explain the positioning wasn't quite where I wanted them. This was five years ago, and now due to shoddy needle work and my nervousness the lines have spread, leaving them looking sloppy, and because of their positioning they are quite hard to cover. I've since had two more tattoos, and feel these ones were a massive mistake. Similarly I get a lot of "have you got swallows cus you swallow" when I'm out, this makes me feel very uncomfortable'


You can bag yourself one of these miniature artworks from The Tattooed Lady vending machine at HOME until 26th July! Join the fun and enjoy the thrill of a tattoo with a story but none of the lasting repercussions!


Sunday 28 June 2015

The Verb

Last week I took a trip to Salford to be a guest on BBC Radio 3's cabaret of the word The Verb. It was a great show featuring an interesting mix of people including; young adults author Liz Kessler, feminist campaigner Cristina Criado Perz, poet Christopher Reid and academic of tattoo history Dr Matt Lodder,  

Arriving at the studio I was immediately welcomed by the friendly team who work on the show and the enthusiastic presenter Ian McMillan who encouraged us all to eat apples to help with the vocal chords before recording!

What followed was a laid back and utterly fascinating two hours of chat covering feminist graffiti, the study of eating chocolate, teenage LGBT fiction and tattoo stories, in which I talked about my latest work The Tattooed Lady.

It was great to meet everyone and especially interesting to talk to Matt, who himself is a living canvas of colourful tattoos and has lots of knowlegde upon the subject.

Although first aired on July 26th, you can LISTEN AGAIN on iPlayer until the end on July

Sunday 24 May 2015

Painting The Tattooed Lady

The Tattooed Lady has landed! Friday night saw the launch of HOME's opening exhibition The Heart Is Decietful Above All Things where my art work got her first airing. I am very pleased to say she is a big hit and throughout the night people were getting covered in my tattoo transfers depicting tales of love and regret! To see more photos from the private view and maybe spot yourself sporting a tattoo visit this project's facebook page.

I had wanted to keep most of the details about how The Tattooed Lady would look under wraps until the show, so now that she is up and running I thought I'd share with you the painting process of the tattooed lady herself who appears on the machine.

From the start I knew I wanted her to have a 1920/30's look, not quite flapper girl but moving away from the belle epoque. I trawled through my books about vintage Hollywood and fashion and also began to search the internet to find the right face. The face was very important because as this entire project was inspired by tales of love and regret I wanted the lady to have a hint of melancholy.

I very nearly settled on an image of Gloria Swanson looking dashing in a gypsy headscarf but then I stumbled across a tiny black and white image of a beautiful unknown vintage lady with just the right look in terms of period but also with the most lovely pensive expression that held a hidden story of its own.

So began the design for the painted panel: I kept the lady's shoulders and neck bare in order to show off the tattoos she would be covered in and then built up an art deco style pattern around her that would allow me to comfortably fit in the text I wanted: LOVE, REGRET and BECOME A LIVING WORK OF ART. This last phrase was inspired by the posters I'd seen advertising real tattood ladies who were marketed as living exhibitions, a curious idea to our modern minds but one I really enjoy!


Once I was happy with the design I began to paint and here's how that process went:

I painted this image directly onto a wooden panel and found that the wood acted very differently to the canvas I am used to. It tended to suck up the paint (even after several layers of primer) which made blending more time consuming. However once I'd layerd up enough paint it began to react much better and take the colours and consistency.

I chose tattoos that would look both simple and striking and fit the shapes of the lady's shoulders, neck and chest

All inked up!

Here is the lady sitting where she was intended in the machine. You can go an visit her and bag yourself a tattoo transfer to boot between now and 26th July at HOME!

Sunday 17 May 2015

The making of a machine!

So much has happened since my last post about my project The Tattooed Lady, so let me fill you in briefly on just some of it!

The Tattooed Lady is my most recent art project and is a vintage style penny arcade machine which dispences tattoo tranfers. In this post I'll talk about the machine itself and I'll do posts about the transfers and the painting of the Lady to follow.

I wanted a 1900's feel to the work landing somewhere around Boardwalk Empire era, not quite art noveau but heading towards art deco. Some of my inspiration came from original end of the pier machines like this:

You can see further inspiration and my rough drawings for the machine HERE

Being made up from an old wardrobe I found at a secondhand furniture warehouse, the Lady was then constructed to my specific design and dimensions by Tom, fantastic carpenter to the arts, who did a brilliant job of making my vision a reality:

 (See the sign written panel being created HERE)

These parts from the wardrobe (one of the reasons I chose it) were put to good use in the final construction on the machine to add period detail and interest.


Ta-daa! The machine exists! You can compare and contrast with my drawing above to see how spot on it is!

Next was the job of fitting lights and a bell which will 'DING!' everytime a transfer is dispenced. Enter Steve, from Manchester's Owl Project, an expert in electrics.

I wanted the sort of bulbs where the filiment would show when lit and a bell that made me think of a 'test your strength' machine from a fairground.

After much consultation on what would actually work Steve made was able to fit lights that have made the machine come alive! I was so thrilled when I entered his studio last week to see the Lady beaming and lit up, it was so exciting!


I have painted a panel to be fitted onto the upper body of the machine of a rather lovely vintage tattooed lady and will share more details in my future posts. In the meantime, if you'd like to get a sneak preview of what she looks like head over to the project's facebook page: The Tattooed Lady: Tales of Love and Regret 

The Tattooed Lady will be shown as part of The heart Is Deceitful Above All Things at HOME 22nd May - 26th July