Last month, I was contacted by a German magazine called Frauleinwunderlich (Girl Wonder), a magazine for pin-ups, rockabilly girls and burlesque stars…and artists that like all of these things!
They wanted to do a feature on my paintings, and who was I to refuse such a kind invitation?
They did a wonderful job of the two spreads, really showing off my paintings of Leyla Rose, Daiquiri Dusk, Miss Hell’s Belle and me (of all people). I was amazed that they printed the whole article that I wrote. I love how the issue was called their herzblut issue (meaning doing things with a passion). How appropriate!
Here is a transcription of the article in case you can’t read it on the photos.
You’ve just returned from the “A brush with Burlesque” show in London! Congratulations! can you tell our readers a little bit about the show?
Thanks! The show was organised by Mark and Sarah Bell of Kinky & Quirky productions. They hired the East Gallery on Brick Lane and ran the whole show, inviting a great selection of their favourite artists working in the theme of burlesque. Mark himself is a painter, so had a fine series of paintings based on their Black Country Burlesque shows they run. The artwork was a variety of oil and acrylic paintings, drawings, graphic posters, prints and even cake sculptures!
Was there a special moment when you knew that you wanted to become an artist or was it just the natural flow? (Were you always drawing and painting as a child?)
I was always drawing and painting people, even from a very young age. I remember doing a life sized drawing of girl when I was about 5 years old. I always wanted to be an artist, or do something creative, but I also have a mathematical brain, so was pulled between the two. I studied visual communication at the Glasgow school of Art before taking a post graduate in computer animation. I fell into lecturing for 13 years, so I am a bit of a late starter in the art world. Better late than never!
I do tend to be more drawn to making pictures of people rather than landscapes, and even my cityscapes have people in them, and my landscapes need to have something man made as part of the image.
You create beautiful paintings of Burlesque dancers – where does your fascination for this scene come from? How did you get involved with the scene?
I was busy painting a series of flamenco dancers, when I saw a poster for an event called Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The promise of a life drawing class with people in costumes sounded exactly up my street, so I went along and became a regular attendee. It is through these sessions that I met all the fabulous burlesque people I know, and have painted today.
I think the appeal of the burlesque dancers is partly the costumes, but also the retro style pin-up poses that are often part of my favourite acts. Every performer I love exudes an inner confidence and love of performing. It is this, and the beauty and grace of the performer that I want to capture in my work.
Your paintings are very expressive, sometimes even raw. They look like you sketch them during a performance. is this the case or do you use models posing in your atelier or photo material as a base for your paintings?
I use a wide range of material for my paintings. I attend the Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School sessions where models are drawn and photography is allowed, so I have both sketches and photographs to work from. I also attend life drawing classes at least once a week where I get to draw from life. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have someone model for just me! Most of my paintings are produced from photographic material as the poses are often just not practical for the model to hold for long. When painting from photographs, I do tend to try and not just replicate what is in the photograph, but to capture a sense of the movement in the performance or the pose. I try to tell something about the performer as well as make a likeness of them and enjoy adding items to the paintings to add my own story, like the little ship in ‘Caught in the Fishnet’ where Leyla Rose is portrayed as a giant mermaid.
Is painting for you an obsession or more a “day job”? Can you put away your brush at 5pm when the painting is nearly finished? How does it feel for you during the process of painting?
I think that left to my own devices, I would have very erractic working hours, but my husband, who is very sensible and organised, keeps me to a regular working day. I leave for the studio at 9 and stay there until 5.30pm at least 4 days a week. In the evenings, I catch up with writing my blog posts, my admin, retouching photographs, keeping in touch with portrait commission clients and promoting my work on social networks, like facebook, twitter and flickr. I also like to do craft projects with any spare time in the evenings and at the weekends.
When I am painting, the early stages of laying down the image (after I have finished the preparation drawing and planning work) is very quick. It is the ‘finishing’of the painting that takes the most time and consideration. I can get lost for hours concentrating on one part of a picture and I have to be strict in making myself take a step back to look at the overall piece now and again. I dearly wish I could spend more time just making my art and less time running errands.
Whatever I am doing, I draw something everyday!
Who are your clients? Do they also come from the Burlesque scene – or is it more the “common” art collector?
Most of my buyers are just people who see the burlesque portraits as a window into a world of glamour, or as a bit of light hearted fun. My main buyers are middle to late aged women who connect with the strong personalities of the burlesque performers. I am finding that as my work is shown in new places, that more of my clients are male, and I have two collectors in France now! Most of my fans come from the burlesque scene, but sadly as they are artists too, they can rarely afford one of my originals. This is why I am branching out into limited edition giclee prints sold through my website shop, and more reasonably priced poster prints which will be available through newartcompany.com soon.
Speaking about the Burlesque performers. You surely have seen quite a lot of shows! do you have any favourite ones that you try to catch when they perform? Was there an act that you really liked?
One of my favourite shows was the High Tease that used to be run in the summer and xmas in Glasgow. The performances were always top class and you felt really entertained after the show. I was also very fortunate to be able to take photographs which helped with a couple of paintings. Sadly it only runs in Edinburgh now. I also want to see Missy Malone’s Burlesque Revue sometime, but I never in Edinburgh when it is on.
I tend to love performers rather than single acts and my favourites include Missy Malone, Leyla Rose, Miss Hell’s Belle, Daiquiri Dusk, Cherry Loco, Bunny Warren, Cat Aclysmic, Beatrix von Bourbon, Wild Card Kitty and Vendetta Vain.
It is hard to choose acts that I love as they are all so different, but one of the most original acts I saw was the Steampunk act by Chassy van Klass & sparky strange which is a double peformed to the soundtrack from the war of the worlds.
I was also blown away by ‘The Wings of Desire’ act my Ms Tickle of the Slipper room, which I saw on their Scottish tour and I adored the American woman act by Dirty Martini. It was so outrageous!
You’ve also painted Mimi le Meaux, correct? Have you seen the movie Tournée in which she participated and what did you think of it?
I am afraid that I have not painted Mimi le Meaux or seen her show, although I would dearly love to do both. I have painted her friends Kitten on the keys and Dirty Martini though!
I read somewhere that you love to travel! traveling is always a great source for inspiration, isn’t it? Where are your favourite places so far – and what are your dream places that you still want to see?
My favourite places are always a little latin in flavour and are usually hot. Scotland is so cold, we are always chasing the sun. I love Arizona for it’s scenery and 50s style motels on route 66, but Argentina is very special to me. It is the birthplace of tango that I loved to dance. I hope one day to live in either Spain, Tucson (USA) or Buenos Aires.
I would love to visit Mexico for the Day of the Dead festival. I have an obsession with skeletons and all the wonderful decorations that go along with that festival. I am also gond of the odd marguerita too!
You’ve got a huge list of exhibitions! What was – for you personally – the greatest success so far?
I guess it depends what you mean by success. I could say that shows where I have sold a lot of work were successful, but that is not the whole story. I think my favourite show was the Tunnocked show at the Glasgow print studio. I painted a self portrait of my torso with my modesty being hidden by two Tunnock’s teacakes (a Scottish delicacy!). The painting caused a fair amount of raised eyebrows and a lot of press. A lovely collector of pop art bought the painting and I got to eat cakes all night with some friends. I guess I liked that show best as it brought burlesque out to a wider audience and perhaps changed people’s perceptions about the scene.
Any other shows, projects that are planned in the near future?
I will submitting work to an all women’s festival in Edinburgh, where only women will be allowed to attend and I have various summer shows to submit work to across the country. I am very excited to be working with the newartcompany.com n Milan on a series of prints.
I am also working away at a project called The Birds where I will be portraying women as various types of feathered friends. Missy Malone is my crow, Vicky Butterfly a swan and one of my life models is to be the lonely lovebird. If anyone else wants to be one of my birds, they can get in touch!
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