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A Garden of Shoes and The 1960s Psychadelic Mod Fashion Plate

8 November 2008

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I keep everything. I have broken dishes, an entire couture collection of single shoes, (Belle, my mastiff-laborador, having chewed the other mate–most recently a pair of handmade snakeskin Italian leather pumps that I picked up at a thrift shop in London years ago. Alas.) almost every single piece of correspondence that I have ever received, and boxes upon boxes of clothing.

I have it in my head that someday I will create some sort of art from my history. Most likely these treasures will remain in my attic, sit in my basement and wait to be moved to their next domicile.

My imagination can actually see the beauty I could create. The broken dishes to be made into a Gaudi style backyard bench, the clothing resewn into gorgeous new frocks, and all those poor single shoes? I once saw a famous garden where old purses were bronzed and placed about. I liked the way it looked. Could definitely do the same with the shoes. Especially my old cowboy boots.

This week I went through my art studio looking for inspiration. I always joke that my workshop looks as if it was hit by a natural disaster. People don’t quite believe that until they see it. It’s quite amazing, actually. Utter chaos. I love it.

So I am sifting through boxes and drawers and find a linoleum block/woodcutting kit bought about ten years prior. Thought I would give it a go. I found that I truly enjoyed carving the blocks with my various Art Deco inspired images, retro fashion plates and an Art Nouveau inspired nature scene as well. And I enjoyed the printing itself. A new found medium.

Pictured is my 1960s Mod Psychadelic Fashion Plate. A limited edition, signed and numbered linocut print, she is available in my Etsy shop.

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I Love New York and All That Jazz

29 October 2008

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As a child I spent the summers in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn visiting my grandmother. In her one bedroom apartment, walking distance from Coney Island, my sister, my grandmother and I would bunk together in the living room. Almost the last stop on the F train, the dishes would rattle and the seventeenth floor shimmy as the nearby subway traveled the one and a half hour distance to and from Manhattan.

New York was the most different place from New Mexico I could conceive of as a child (as an adult as well). But I loved it. Sojourning into the city each day, my father would act as tour guide (as a relocated Bronx boy he claimed ultimate authority on everything New York). Worrying my sister and I would wander off, my dad made us memorize the entire F train route and study city maps.

Thus, I can navigate New York pretty well for a western girl reared on the Rio Grande. Recently vacationing there, I felt at home despite many years absence. A movie I saw in college came to mind. The Cruise, a black and white documentary, celebrated both the city itself as well as a quintessentially New York Gray Line Tour bus guide. In one scene, the guide, with an encyclopedic knowledge of New York culture, recalls literary giants, artists, politicos, criminals and silent movie stars as the bus whirs past their former residences. So much spark within such a small space. The energy is real; the buzz almost tangible.

I love New York. Therefore, you may imagine my excitement at a mention by the New York Public Library in an article entitled “All That Jazz”. So thank you New York from a most grateful gal out west.

The Art Nouveau Wedding Invitation & An Appreciation for the Handmade

20 October 2008

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I love to write. As in cursive. Or calligraphy. Maybe even a nice block alphabet. In eighth grade my Social Studies teacher, Mrs. McIntyre (who, by the way, wore a bouffant), had a post of the signatures on the Declaration of Independence. I would spend class period upon class period perfecting my proverbial John Hancock.

When I got to college, I would laboriously recopy notes as to both allow the knowledge to sink in and to practice my penmanship. Thus studying became a process to be somewhat enjoyed (and my notes became a much sought after commodity).

Now I create wedding invitations, many in an Art Nouveau or Art Deco style. Each and every letter I forged by hand from my own stylized Art Nouveau alphabet. Much to the chagrin of graphic design buddies, I do not draw my alphabets on the computer nor do I scan them in. Rather each letter is unique unto itself, an organic creation based on the letters both before and after and with special attention to the layout of the whole; an entirely holistic creation rather than a series of computer generated text.

Plus, I enjoy creating fonts (especially those from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Please see the matching RSVP card for this invitation!). Although my labor would be cut down exponentially by using a computer for text, my enjoyment level would proportionally decrease. Many tell me that only I can tell if an alphabet is created entirely by hand, but I beg to differ. Although the average person may not be able to discern hand-wrought lettering, there is a human, organic, emotionally charged feeling emanating from only that which is handmade.

The Constant Hustle

4 October 2008

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My daily life can best be expressed as a constant hustle. Either creating or promoting, I seek to find a niche for myself. However, I find that what interests most is the personal: anecdotes that tell of a self-styled bohemian existence. In celebration of this, and in gratitude to Hadley and Tangobaby, here’s a bit more….

1. I live in Portland, Oregon. Today is a particularly Portland day: grey, dark and rainy, but lusciously green, perpetually forested. I love it here. The rain is most romantic–like strolling through an Impressionist painting. It is on these dreary days I am creatively prone and rather productive.

2. I love to go to old cemeteries. In Oregon there are random Pioneer cemeteries throughout both the cities and countrysides and I find nothing more relaxing than walking through the decaying stones, each telling a history all its own.

3. I spent my honeymoon in Paris, London and traveling through Morocco. Looking through the pictures this morning provoked a yearning for adventure to the exotic. Backpacking through cities and ruins, I want to explore places unknown and wander through cultures foreign.

4. I do not drive. I walk or take the bus. This affords me the opportunity to create specific routines on my outings. Each and every day I pass by a handmade sign nailed to a street lamp. Its painted words read, “Loafe in the grass with me.” No matter my mood, I smile and give a wink to Walt and a nod to Portland.

5. I love buffets. I like to have an unlimited amount of exactly what I want. Rather telling, I must say.

6. I love Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. But I am unhappy with their new format. I don’t really need to hear Allan Cummings or Gillian Anderson wax historical. Plus, a modernized theme song? Please. And the new Mystery format also sucks; only snippets of Edward Gorey’s drawings and the original music remain. A travesty indeed.

7. I need to get out more. I am comfortable to remain in my house, putter around my studio and only go to the dog park for socialization. Maybe a concert this week. Or a dinner party. We’ll see.

A Hat and Gloves at the Supermarket

1 October 2008

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Everyone has two outfits: the one they see themselves in and the one others see. In my mind’s eye, I am in evening gloves and a ball gown; my hair swept up to perfection, each curl in place. My makeup impeccable, I float through the air on exquisite four inch heels. This is how I see myself. In reality, my New Mexico roots show through as each and every day I don a pair of jeans, a white tank top and cowboy boots. This is the oufit others see me in.

I hearken to the day when ladies wore hats and gloves to the supermarket; when weekly salon appointments were the norm. Yet, I know that practically speaking, I am averse to such nuisances as manicures (I perpetually have paint and/or ink on my fingers and under my nails anyway) and labor intensive hair-dos (my curly hair seems to have a mind of its own).

Both my grandmothers dressed up when they went out. Neither would have been caught dead wearing the paint spattered college sweatshirt, ripped jeans and mud covered tennis shoes that I wore this morning to the coffee shop. No matter, for while others see an outfit sure to be called out by the fashion police, I see myself in a red, full length Valentino gown with heels to match.

A Grand Wedding and The Art Deco Ketubah–A Modern Jewish Marriage Contract

20 September 2008

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The Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract outlining a couple’s commitment to one another, is an honor to create. Given pictures of the groom’s grandparents 1940s Art Deco style Ketubah, photos of grand interiors, and cutouts from magazines, I set to work designing a hip, modern take on the Art Deco Ketubah.

Working with the bride to create an homage to her beloved’s family yet incorporate the couple’s own aesthetic, I set to work painting in gouache the image of the tree and birds as well executing my own unique English and Hebrew alphabets in calligraphy.

The bride sent me the pictures following the wedding. Held at the Ruins in Seattle, it was most certainly an affair to be remembered. My jaw literally dropped; she was so beautiful and the wedding a spectacular gala event, reminiscent of a scene from The Great Gatsby or maybe Grand Hotel. I felt like a movie star myself to be in some way part of such a lovely Art Deco inspired scene.

Women Making History and the Self-Styled Edwardian Broadside Painter

15 September 2008

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I am interested in politics. I like to participate in my democracy. However, sometimes politics is not top priority as life takes hold. Yet the past two weeks here in Portland, Oregon and throughout the United States illustrate how life and politics are inexorably linked.

Two years ago this month I participated in a mural project created and executed by my friend, colleague and personal hero, Robin Corbo. Painted on the side of a carpeting warehouse on busy Interstate Boulevard in Portland, Oregon, the mural serves to represent various Portland communities and celebrates the women who went above and beyond to help further equality within their respective neighborhoods, ethnic groups or human rights organizations.

Perched atop a three story scaffold at times, (a truly terrifying experience which I failed to really get used to) I spent two weeks creating the alphabet, designing the layout and painting the lettering below each portrait. Located next to a century old train yard and working solo without music, I listened to the rumble of the locomotives, the oncoming traffic and the streetcar line. Feeling like an Edwardian broadside painter I enjoyed the industrial feel of my environs.

I think about this mural when I listen to the speeches made by Sarah Palin. Each of the women pictured in the mural fought to further the rights of women everywhere and now a woman stands to threaten those painstaking accomplishments.

I think Eve Ensler and Tina Fey/Amy Poeler explain the situation best for while I think it vital for women to continue to make history I certainly do not want to see it rolled back.

The Dresden Dolls, Steampunk, Octavine Illustration and an Apology

4 September 2008

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Created from the gears of industry, Steampunk is an expression of a desire to return to the elegance of tea-parties, ball gowns and the glamour of a more formal, ordered existence.

Steampunk fashion celebrates industrial beauty as pocket watch mechanisms and typewriter keys find new meaning in jewelry, adornment or collage. It is in direct opposition to the mass-produced, made in China, sleek minimalist look of the Millennium.

The Dresden Dolls, a Steampunk cabaret duo, embody this new fashion phenomenon. Their large, loyal fanbase seeks to portray this neo-Victorian aesthetic through Dresden Dolls inspired paraphernalia.

By returning to handmade, artisan crafted merchandise, the Dresden Dolls’ new website, Post-War Trade, seeks to provide hand-wrought items commissioned specifically for their fans.

Contacted personally by the Dresden Dolls with a vision for a notecard based around lead singer Amanda Palmer, I sought to create an aesthetic of old Hollywood glamour. With Dresden Dolls song lyrics and my own image of Amanda Palmer, these notecards are designed, hand-screenprinted and hand-painted by yours truly and can be purchased directly through the Post-War Trade website.

In other news, please accept my apology for my long absence. Vacation and weddings ruled the month of August leaving me little time for blogging.

I was however, featured in a wonderful eco-blog, The Organic Mechanic, with a lovely interview all about me and my art along with many ecologically minded details.

In addition, my “Career Gal” painting was featured on a major London travel site, The Londonist. And, of course, when not dancing at weddings or at a reunion, the was month spent working my little fingers to the bone creating Art Deco wedding invitations, an Art Nouveau inspired Ketubah as well as a couple new Moleskine and notecard images such as “London Mod.” I hope to get everything posted soon. And I promise I will not be gone for so long again. I missed you all terribly.

Permanence and Transience: Cooking vs. Art

2 August 2008

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My mother is an excellent cook. She can make just about anything from Moroccan tagine to traditional pot roast. And she can cook for the masses, catering my entire wedding, my cousin’s wedding and both mine and my sis’s Bat Mitzvahs. Absolutely none of this talent was passed on to me. Or maybe it was but never fully realized as I hate to cook.

I like the idea of pleasing my friends, exacting their love and admiration through gastronomy; but I loathe the notion of spending time creating these pleasures. Food is temporary. Hours spent, adding a pinch of this, a spoonful of that, seem wasted on transience.

Please do not get me wrong. I love cooks. I love food. I love home cooking. I am fortunate to reap the benefits of those whose creativity is ignited by food, whom are impassioned by the combination of spices, the grouping of flavors.

My art, however, is born out of a yearning for permanence. I screen print my images so they will last for centuries to come rather than using a computer to lifelessly copy my work. I hand-paint my cards so they are kept; records of a time and place serving as personal histories. The notion that what I create may last lifetimes excites me and serves to motivate.

But a good meal is remembered. I will never forget the calamari in Turkey or the steak in Belgium or my mother’s homemade grapeleaves. And that recollection I pass on to others, as I do now. Thus cooking is not momentary, rather the memory intangible.

Thus I present Bouillon Kub (my homage, painted in gouache on wood, to the original bouillon cube packaging in France circa 1920 and, from what I understand, still used today) to all the amazing cooks out there. May your food be forever remembered.

The Golden Bow

22 July 2008

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Next week is my birthday and I want a new dress. This dress to be specific.

Last year my sis and I had a party (we are born on the same day but are not twins). Leo Bash it is called and it is a most raucous party replete with multiple DJs, a kissing booth with Branson the dog, a trampoline and a wild dance floor.

Upon arrival to the festivities, I broke out into tears (and yes, I am a grown woman) because my sis had a new birthday dress and I did not. And yes, actual tears came. My sis was stupefied and rather embarassed, not sure what was wrong with me. I recovered quickly, but my disappointment was real. Silly, I know.

When my sis and I were little my mother would always buy us new dresses; the same style but in a different color. I can remember each birthday most vividly not by the presents received nor the party had, but by the dress worn. Fashion has always dictated my ability to recall events. I can picture the past perfectly if I know what outfit I donned at the time. I suppose this is what creates packrat mentality. How can I get rid of a shirt I can remember going to the best concert of my life in? Or a skirt bought traveling in Turkey? Thus, each fashion memory is cataloged according to style, trend and color and eventually filed away, in the attic.

So each season I go shopping. To the attic I go retrieving old fashions and reliving musty memories. I always come away with something gorgeous, a lovely frock exiled for no discernible reason, that carries a little piece of history and now has the opportunity to create more.

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