Just added to my Etsy store - this graceful, extra-legged ballerina.

Just added to my Etsy store - this graceful, extra-legged ballerina.

Two more entries in my Charles James: Beyond Beyond Fashion series.

Inspired by the chorus girls who performed in the legendary musical review, Shuffle Along which premiered on Broadway in 1921 with songs by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. The show made instant stars of Florence Mills and a teenage Josephine Baker.
via Etsy

Inspired by the chorus girls who performed in the legendary musical review, Shuffle Along which premiered on Broadway in 1921 with songs by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. The show made instant stars of Florence Mills and a teenage Josephine Baker.

via Etsy

I really love my little winged schoolgirls, but they’ve never really gotten much love. That notwithstanding, I think it would be fun to do a larger sized piece with more girls, more wings, etc. But I probably won’t get to it for a while due to commissions, other projects, etc.

They’re both available on Etsy (here and here - if you’d like both, drop me a line and we can work something out).

For the first time in 90 years audiences were lucky enough to take a look at the first Marx Brothers Broadway show, I’ll Say She Is (and I’ll have a hand in the design of the upcoming full production at FringeNYC!). I was there, in the front row of The Players Theater in NYC, drawing.

Another entree in my Charles James: Beyond Beyond Fashion series.
This one might be my favorite.

Another entree in my Charles James: Beyond Beyond Fashion series.

This one might be my favorite.

Last week I saw Charles James: Beyond Fashion at The Met, though I sort of knew going in that it wouldn’t be 100% my bag. I’ve never been super in love with the elegant, tasteful aesthetic that was prevalent at the middle of the 20th century. To me, the tyranny of “good taste” is as much about class and race as it is about aesthetics (I wrote a bit about this here) and for me, it quickly gets boring.

All that said, the dresses are exquisite. They are masterpieces of design, deceptively simple until you look at the seams and the construction and the geometry. These are indeed the princess gowns for a sleek mid-century princess. The garments themselves are perfect things. But (and there’s always a but), after an hour or so of looking and sketching, something about the cool WASPy splendour started getting to me. 

I sketched a dozen or so dresses and decided the answer for me would be to recontextualize them. I decided to remove them from Newport and Belgravia and to place them on the carnival midway, in the ocean and in other places they never before ventured, being worn by the sort of beings who, though purely fictional, are rarely seen dressed in such opulence.

Enjoy. There will be more to follow.

A dreamy, art nouveau style watercolor sketch.
In pencil and sepia watercolor. On archival Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper.
via Etsy

A dreamy, art nouveau style watercolor sketch.

In pencil and sepia watercolor. On archival Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper.

via Etsy

Once again, Society 6 is having a free shipping promotion!* Please check out my store for more gothic fiction, a plethora of mermaids and sundry other designs. Through Sunday Midnight PT. Via this link only.
*Please note: framed prints, pillows with inserts and rugs are exempt.

Once again, Society 6 is having a free shipping promotion!* Please check out my store for more gothic fiction, a plethora of mermaids and sundry other designs. Through Sunday Midnight PT. Via this link only.

*Please note: framed prints, pillows with inserts and rugs are exempt.

Inspired by a blog post on Norah Hildebrandt, America’s first tattooed lady (in fact, this blog post, by Trav S.D.). 
I think I need to do another picture of her soon!

Inspired by a blog post on Norah Hildebrandt, America’s first tattooed lady (in fact, this blog post, by Trav S.D.). 

I think I need to do another picture of her soon!

Recently, I was lucky enough to have a small solo show up on the Lower East Side in NYC presented by Dixon Place. The subject was chorus girls: women who began or were at some point in their careers a part of the chorus. 

While researching and thinking about what women I would create pieces around, I made a long, constantly added to list of women whose careers began as dancers in the chorus, a list that began with French music hall performers and ended with Ellen Burstyn who began her career in the chorus line on the Jackie Gleason show. To frame it for modern readers, being a chorus girl was the first half of the 20th century’s version of model turned actress. The job got little respect and was used to connotate not just prettiness, but often stupidity, greed and sluttiness. The joke of a hot, illiterate baby vamp, covered in furs, spouting vulgar Brooklynese, kept by a Wall Street millionaire being a frequent punchline.

Of course, like all unfair stereotypes, there is some truth in the mix. Then as now, pretty, pretty girls used notoriety to snag rich boyfriends and husbands. But the hidden interest for me was always the matched set of economic and sexual autonomy that being a chorus girl represented. It’s no coincidence that movies about chorus girls, a staple of early sound, often played by real former chorus girls such as Louise Brooks, Barbara Stanwyck, Mae Clarke, Joan Crawford, Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers were released in the dozens, but the moment the Hayes Code came into being, ruining everybody’s fun, the chorus girl mostly disappeared from the movies. She was the ultimate good time girl in the drunken libertine ’20s, and she schemed and starved and wisecracked in the Depression. But there seemed to be no cultural place for her in the scrubbed and sincere late ’30s Hollywood. She took a break and then reemerged with the birth of film noir, but instead of being the protagonist, she was most often the curse and the downfall of the man the story was about. For the shady noir dame, as played by Barbara Stanwyck (again), Rita Hayworth, Gloria Graham, Lizbeth Scott, or Jane Greer, the sexual liberation was back, but this time around she was punished for it, with death, the electric chair or scalding water to the face.

 But, back to the earlier part of the last century. The four women I chose to draw, (you can see thumbnails/details from the finished work above) Evelyn Nesbit, Olive Thomas, Princess White Deer and Louise Brooks all led interesting, though not always successful lives. Nesbit remains notorious for being embroiled in the sensational murder of Stanford White. Thomas was a Ziegfeld star and early silent movie star who died in 1920 from accidentally drinking mercury - the first major Hollywood scandal. Princess White Deer is a now mostly forgotten star who headlined at the Palace and the Follies and performed for the Czars of Russia and then retired from show biz in 1930, devoting the remaining 60 years of her life to tribal matters. Louise Brooks, serious modern dancer with Denishawn,  Ziegfeld star and movie star turned recluse and drunk, turned writer is both the exception to most chorus girl cliches and the ur-chorus girl. 

 Which brings me to my show. If I had the time, I could happily make ten more about ten more women. But, for now, there are four. I’m thinking of making a limited print run which I have to figure out. So stay tuned and check in with my Etsy and Society 6 stores and I’ll keep you apprised of all chorus girl related matters here.

I am completely, ridiculously excited about the existence of Wilkie Collins merchandise.  My very, very favorite anti-heroine, Lydia Gwilt clutches a bottle of laudanum as she attempts to drown herself, flanked by a ruined ship and gothic arches. If you would like to read Armadale, click here. I have also written a blog post about it.
But, no, really. This is going to be a series.
via Society 6 (where shipping is still free. For now.)

I am completely, ridiculously excited about the existence of Wilkie Collins merchandise.  My very, very favorite anti-heroine, Lydia Gwilt clutches a bottle of laudanum as she attempts to drown herself, flanked by a ruined ship and gothic arches. If you would like to read Armadale, click here. I have also written a blog post about it.

But, no, really. This is going to be a series.

via Society 6 (where shipping is still free. For now.)

Okay. It’s up. I’ll be adding Wilkie Collins merchandise later. So you can purchase Wilkie Collins shower curtains and throw pillows.
The demand for Wilkie Collins merch has been overwhelming!
(Click on the picture above or right here via Society 6)

Okay. It’s up. I’ll be adding Wilkie Collins merchandise later. So you can purchase Wilkie Collins shower curtains and throw pillows.

The demand for Wilkie Collins merch has been overwhelming!

(Click on the picture above or right here via Society 6)

I still feel vaguely guilty about abandoning my Literary Lent project this year (do to various crappy life happenings), but I like the pieces I did complete and have been thinking of making prints.
What say you?

I still feel vaguely guilty about abandoning my Literary Lent project this year (do to various crappy life happenings), but I like the pieces I did complete and have been thinking of making prints.

What say you?

A small sapphic illustration is the style of Studio Manasse.Art Deco. Between the wars. Surrealist muse.
On acid free Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper. app. 5”x7”. Ink, ink wash and watercolor.
via Etsy

A small sapphic illustration is the style of Studio Manasse.

Art Deco. Between the wars. Surrealist muse.

On acid free Stillman & Birn Epsilon paper. app. 5”x7”. Ink, ink wash and watercolor.

via Etsy