from the jazz age to the space age

Monthly Archives: January 2012

we’re in the process of moving, so posting will be be erratic for the next few weeks 😀

because i clearly have too much time on my hands, i started tweeting as jon “griff” connington from “game of thrones.” and bc i had to show off my mad photoshop skillz i made this: yes, it is david bowie’s head on a suit of armor.!/j_connington

I first became aware of Patrick Nagel at the local poster art shop. I was 13. Tall, slim, and brunette with small eyes and skin like paper, i was considered plain and borderline ugly in my southern california town. I despaired of ever being thought attractive. But then i saw her. What was she? 8″x10″? 10″x10″? She was beautiful, like a Snow White who had grown up and cast her evil step-mother in hot iron shoes while enjoying every minute of that bitch’s dance. She had no apologies. Not for herself and not for anyone else.
I was transfixed and time moved like amber behind me until an old man walked by and stopped. “It’s like looking in a mirror.” I turned and stared stupidly until i realized he was talking about me. Me. He wasn’t scary or particularly pervy or anything like that. Just an old man shopping for posters who took 5 seconds to be kind to a child-teen. I looked back at the beautiful little picture and then left. I walked home elated.
Patrick Nagel died in 1984 at the age of 38. Despite this, his work is ubiquitous with the 80s. So ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget its brilliance and beauty. Easy too, in our digital age, to dismiss Nagel’s technical skill. His method consisted of drawing from live models, refined until they possessed the cool graphic quality of a japanese woodblock print and then painted on board or canvas with acrylics. Acrylics. Not vectors in photoshop and illustrator. Actual paint on actual board. His lines are superb. And all the sunglass shops or manicure shops or drycleaners who use his graphic style can’t rob him of that.

I didn’t grow up to look like a Nagel, but i still find his women entrancing.
Nagel perfectly personified the 80s ideal of female beauty. His women are usually of middle height and slender, but in a vastly different way from the 60s or 70s. If you notice their wrists: these are not ladies with wrists of glass. Large breasts, straight waists, slim hips and shapely legs. Small intense eyes, large lips with a well defined cupid’s bow, thick hair, and his admitted favorite feature~ strong noses. There always seems to be something of Isabella Rossellini in all of them.

pencil preparation of the painting below.
Nagel felt the drawings were the fun part while painting was the labor.
He often donated paintings to models or editors who expressed admiration for his work.
He enjoying drawing and painting men as well. His assistant, Karl Bornstein reported that he didn’t need critical acknowledgment of what he did, bc he had such an intense love of just painting pictures,
He was influenced by high-fashion photographers and illustrators such as Joseph Leyendecker, Henry Raleigh, and Saul Tepper. Surprisingly, he loved Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
pencil sketch of the famous “Rio” cover.
“Texas” the painting that became Duran Duran’s “Rio” cover.
His wife, Jennifer Dumas, occasionally posed for him. Some believe her to the inspiration for the Nagel Woman. 
All superfluous details in the drawing above have been stripped away until only the great white expanse of her back remains, uncluttered by lines.
He never worked out and laughed at people who did. He ate cheeseburgers, candy bars, smoked constantly, stayed up all night, and painted. He participated in a televised benefit for the Heart Association by doing aerobics. Afterward he walked to his car, had a heart attack and died.

All images and information from “Nagel: the Art of Patrick Nagel.”

I’ve always heard of this story as “diamonds and toads,” instead of the other way around. it’s the familiar poor girl with mean stepmother/stepsister scenario.

i think you can guess who’s who from this scene. i love her think black wavy hair and the expression of her face is some of Gordon Laite’s best work. The fabulous 16th century tudor outfits aren’t usually seen in many fairy tales. 
and old ragged beggar {with the most righteous beggar’s rags i’ve ever seen!} asks for a drink of water. Our lovely heroine obliges and wouldn’t you know it, the beggar’s actually a fairy. Gifts are given.
The mean sister decides she wants some of that action and waits by the fountain. A beautiful lady appears and asks for a drink of water. The haughty sister, expecting the beggar woman at any moment, tells the lady to get bent. Bad move! Fairies aren’t stupid. She wasn’t going to wear the same disguise twice. Sheesh. Oh and by the way, she “gifts” the mean sister with snakes and toads falling out of her mouth with every word. Nice.
I would like to say, i think the fairy’s outfit is one of the most beautiful i’ve seen. This time period can be hard to reproduce without making the ladies look like lovely boxes, but Mr. Laite translates the styles wonderfully.

The nice daughter gets picked up by a smart prince who not only figured out she was lovely under her dirty house dress, but also realized she had, you know, diamonds and other precious stones falling out of her mouth. Good for you pal. I just sincerely hope he’s not Henry the VIII bc diamonds or no, if a son doesn’t fall out of her, she’s finished.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”
These pages have been on permanent display on my small easel for inspiration. i find the colors and micro patterns endlessly inspiring, art wise. And they remind of of one of my favorite movies when i was a child, Alfred Hitchcock’s, “Rebecca.” I instantly identified with the shy, plain, nameless, “Darling” who spent her days trying to not fuck everything up and sketched costumes in her off hours.
I think this skirt, which sits at waist, is to die for. The delicate tie neck blouse is pretty dreamy too. She looks like she’s ready to solve a murder! or cover one up- yaknowhatimean?!
{sizes 34-42}

“I’ll make a bargain with you,” she said. “You’d look rather foolish trying to divorce me now after four days of marriage. So I’ll play the part of a devoted wife, mistress of your precious Manderley. I’ll make it the most famous showplace in England if you like. Then, people will visit us and envy us, and say we’re the luckiest, happiest, couple in the country. What a grand show it will be! What a triumph!” 

the cruel and beautiful Rebecca wears a pretty silk robe- a good case of a simple pattern to show off beautiful fabric.
{sizes 44-52}

Happiness is something I know nothing about.”

ok, i hate the skirt simply bc i look terrible in elastic waisted skirts like this. But, i love the photo. From the stiff pose, to the colors, to the amazing wallpaper. I wish i’d painted this~ except i would have given her a much better skirt. And i’m guilty of loving sandals and socks. 

{sizes 34-42}

“No, it’s not too late. You’re not to say that. I love you more than anything in the world. Oh, please Maxim, kiss me please.”

so this is dicey too. Love the color and material. Love the neckline. Hate the elastic waist. the difference between my waist and hips is 11″. That’s just too much without darts. Darts are my friend and i’ve been sewing them into my skirts since i was 18. 

{sizes 34-42}

“Rebecca” still haunts me to this day. I wonder if Beauty and the Beast syndrome is born or acquired? i’ve always loved moody, possessive men who are devoted to me. And when their devotion lagged, well, that’s what breaking up was for. When i met my husband he was the ideal person i’d been searching for~ goofy, sweet, devoted and worshipful, but also moody and difficult to please~ a great bear of a man who hoped i loved him. i did and we lived happily ever after. 

As usual, these are from an old issue old Burda Magazine 😀

Christina Rossetti, the younger sister of renowned Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a talented and accomplished poet. Deeply religious, she also suffered from depression. Her first recorded nervous breakdown occurred at 14, forcing her to leave school. For the rest of her life the cycle of anxiety over her financial situation, depression, breakdown, and resulting illness would plague her.
To learn more about Florence Harrison, the illustrator of many of her poems, please visit florence harrison. It’s a well researched site that serves to clear up many misconceptions about Ms. Harrison’s identity as well as presenting examples of her work and an analysis of her technique.

“Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes; 
Carve it in doves and pomegranates, 
And peacocks with a hundred eyes; 
Work it in gold and silver grapes, 
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; 
Because the birthday of my life 
Is come, my love is come to me.”

~A Birthday
“Sang a golden-bearded king
Straightway to her feet,
Sang him silent where he knelt
In eager anguish sweet.
But when the clear voice died away,
When longest echoes died,
He stood up like a royal man
And claimed her for his bride.
So three maids were wooed and won
In a brief May-tide,
Long ago and long ago. “

~Maiden Song
“I shivered comfortless, but cast
No chill across the tablecloth;
I all-forgotten shivered, sadTo stay and yet to part how loth:I passed from the familiar room,I who from love had passed away,Like the remembrance of a guestThat tarrieth but a day.”

~At Home

“Young Love lies drowsing 
 Away to poppied death; 
Cool shadows deepen 
 Across the sleeping face: 
So fails the summer 
 With warm, delicious breath; 
And what hath autumn 
 To give us in its place?”

~Dream Love
“I’ve scanned you with a scrutinizing gaze,
Resolved to fathom these your secret ways:
But, sift them as I will,
Your ways are secret still.”

~The Queen of Hearts

I have Dean’s A Book of Fairy Tales illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. Unlike their fellow British children’s illustrators they’re not well known here in the U.S. which is a shame considering the high quality of their work. They generally worked on small to medium sized artist board in watercolor and gouache. Right click to enlarge.

Sleeping Beauty, or La Belle au bois dormant, always seems best served by a high medieval setting. And whenever the tudoresque prince comes, in his slashed doublet and round toed shoes, he makes the best example of 100 years gone by just  with his fashion. 
the lovely but doomed princess.
the beautiful kind-hearted fairy.
lords and ladies in their particolored hose, gowns, and  hennins. 
keep an eye on everyone here~
the prince in his radically different and decidedly un-medieval fashion.
note the page boy running after the cat with the fish in it’s mouth. Janet and Anne set up this little bit of storytelling father up, when they all fall into the hundred year sleep. i love little details like this!

herge, how do i love your creations? Tintin, Milou/Snowy, Captain Haddock, Thompson and Thomson, Professor Calculous, and of course Loch Lomand whiskey!
Herge’s beautiful style, known as ligne claire {the clear line}, is instantly recognizable. I plan to post and discuss Herge and his work at a later point, but today we have fashion inspired by Herge’s Tintin. what? yes, you read that right. Burdastyle Magazine, in their continuing quest to ignite clothing envy and hope in my heart published these patterns in their december 2011 issue. I plan to sew my heart out, cuddle up with my own Captain Haddock, and toss down a few whiskeys~
adorable trench for the girl and an adorable dog- though not a white wire fox terrier like Milou/Snowy- who is wearing a dapper dog coat of his own.
there’s even a pattern for the dog coat!

the rolled up jeans, arglye socks, and oxfords are a wonderful twist on gamine style.
collars made from men’s suiting for your dapper dog or a bustopher jones style cat about town. 
i don’t know if it’s a side product of being tall, but i love too short trousers. i used to get teased for looking like i was waiting for the flood but really, i like the style. My husband does too. his slightly too short pants were one of the first things i noticed. wes anderson agrees and approves.
Tintin wears “plus fours” which are essentially knickers that end 4 inches below rather than at the knee. i love the modern ungathered version here. 
 this dog is killing me!
a couple of pages from “Destination Moon.” 
right click & open in a new tab to read. Just whiskey Capt. Haddock? A man after my own heart!
i have to say i hope the movie is popular enough to introduce a new generation to Tintin’s adventures. By turns brainy, silly, and serious the Adventures of Tintin are smarter and funnier tales than most children or adults come in contact with. They are true adventures to delight both young and old. 
{patterns are available in the 12/2011 issue of Burdastyle Magazine or individually through burda german and burda english}

“You and the land are one… drink from the chalice and you will be reborn and the land with you.”
Ready my knights for battle. They will ride with their king once more. I have lived through others for far too long. Lancelot carried my honor, and Guenevere, my guilt. Mordred bore my sins. My knights have fought my causes. Now, my brother, I shall be… king.”
This is my favorite scene from Excalibur. It gives me chills when Arthur rides forth and the land blossoms in his wake, while Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana plays. The words were written by goliards {defrocked monks and minstrels} sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries, while the music was written by Carl Orff in 1935-1936 *cough* nazis *cough* {to be fair, I’ve read that Orff had jewish relatives who remained unmolested due to his popularity.} Many years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Orff’s Carmina Burana performed and it was breathtaking. The themes of fickle fortune, the transience of life, and the peril and pleasure of vice are as relevant today as they were when written. I often wonder if we have begun the decent into a dark age or the ascent to another renaissance.

O Fortuna (fortune)
Velut luna (like the moon)
Statu variabilis (you are changeable)
Semper crescis (ever waxing)


Aut decrescis; (and waning;)


Vita detestabilis (hateful life)


Nunc obdurat (first oppresses)


Et tunc curat (and then soothes)


Ludo mentis aciem, (as fancy takes it)


Egestatem, (poverty)


Potestatem (and power)


Dissolvit ut glaciem. (it melts them like ice.)
Since I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin I’ve been obsessing on knights again. His characters are well crafted, especially for the fantasy genre, and because his world is so detailed, his books read more like the history of a hitherto undiscovered country. Below are some of my favorite pictures of dragons, knights, and ladies fair which have been dancing circles in my head since I started the series~ {all scans are from books in my library unless noted and linked. right click and open in a new window for full size}
Paolo Uccelo~ “St. George and the Dragon” 1455
Arthur Rackham~ “Stories of King Arthur” 1902
J.W. Waterhouse~ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” {detail} 1893
 H.J. Ford~ 1917
Howard Pyle~ “The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lake” 1905
Howard Pyle~ “Sir Kay breaketh his sword at the tournament” 1903
 Howard Pyle~ “the Lady Guinevere” 1903
Gustav Klimt~ detail of the Beethoven frieze, “the Golden Knight” 1902

Arthur Rackham~ “Seven Ravens” 1900

Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark~ screencap from “Game of Thrones” tv series. via coldwindsarerising

Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone~ “Arthur goes to Avalon” 1966. via joan eyles johnson