V&A Illustration Awards 2019
Entry - Student Category

Black Venus by Angela Carter

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Earlier this year I read Angela Carter's Black Venus - a collection of dark, often troubling, fantastical folk-like tales - and was struck anew by how visual her writing is. 

 

The titular short story is of Baudelaire and his mistress, Jeanne Duval, the 'Black Venus', who resided in Paris in the mid-late 19th century. No one knows for sure where Duval was born - perhaps Mauritius, or perhaps the Dominican Republic, but certainly somewhere exotic and most likely to the descendents of French-colonial slaves.

 

I found myself 'replaying' the story over in my head and felt inspired by a particular passage that, in a sarcastically romantic turn of phrase, describes the manner by which Duval made her way across the ocean to France - on a scallop-shell, accompanied by Albatrosses. Her medallion necklace depicts an18th century ship, symbolising her grandmother's journey in the opposite direction, most likely in chains.

Half of the Human Race

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This project began as nothing more than an excuse to get out of the office one rainy lunchtime and spend a little time rediscovering the collection at the National Portrait Gallery. However, it soon developed into an ongoing exploration of the figures gracing, not only the walls of the Portrait Gallery, but also those of the neighbouring National Gallery and collections further afield.

I then began questioning the lack of diversity amongst the sitters and set out to discover for myself as much as anyone, women of all backgrounds and cultures who had broken down barriers and refused to fit the mould. I am currently working on a collection of 20th century female actresses and musicians who carved out new and exciting career paths for themselves and held the door open for those who came after them.

I find the ever-changing attitudes towards the representation of women through the ages particularly fascinating, as well as how they're (blandly) labelled and described in galleries (no more being described in the first paragraph as 'Mr. So-and-So's wife please and thank-you), and how social media is helping to bring the lives of more forgotten women to the fore. 

I alternate between pen and pencil depending on the timeframe I've set myself for any given portrait; pen for quick sketches, pencil for longer studies.

You can find more of these illustrations, and info about the sitters, on my Instagram feed.

The Other Half of the Human Race

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I studied History of Art at uni and spent a vast proportion of my time examining portraits of influencial men in search of clues to their identity and social standing, and reading the paintings as commentary on the social and cultural landscape of any given period.

And it is a habit that's hard to shake off.

So here is a small collection portraying some of the men on display in the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

You can find more of these illustrations, and info about the sitters, on my Instagram feed.

New Threads​
 

I find a lot of inspiration comes from flicking through fashion and dressmaking magazines - I love sewing myself and can get quite (embarrassingly) excited about a bit of fabric or a new set of buttons!

 

In most cases, it will be only one article of clothing that really catches my eye and demands to be drawn - it could be the way it drapes on the model, the pattern on the fabric itself or simply just the colour.

Swing Time

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A few years ago I took up swing dancing for a time and found the triple-stepping and swinging out to be a whole lot of fun.

 

I met some fantastic people and I found a great deal of inspiration in the dance steps and movements, and the outfits people wore to social events.

My time within the swing dancing community also fueled my second love - sewing - and led to the creation of my Quiet Whiskey Etsy shop (named after one of my favourite jazz numbers), selling contemporary bow ties for dapper men and women alike.

The Mistletoe Bride

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Back in December 2013 I was asked by the Daily Express to provide two illustrations to accompany a short story by Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth, in their seasonal Book Review feature spread.

 

The short was taken from Mosse's new book called The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales, published by Orion, October 2013.

 

The brief called for a visual link to be made to the front cover of the printed book so I scanned my original graphite pencil drawings into Photoshop in order to add the colour tint and further effects. 

Macbeth​​

This is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays due to the atmosphere and cinematic visuals he creates with the language. The symbolism that can be found reading between the lines was also a big attraction for me as it reminded me a great deal of the hidden clues and symbols found in the Old Master paintings I studied at university.

 

I set out to incorporate some of these visual symbols in my own drawings, for example; The Weird Sisters are based on the classical Three Graces, albeit rather less beautiful! Also, a few of my compositions and much of the lighting was inspired by the work of the Baroque painter, Caravaggio.

 

All of these illustrations were created using graphite pencil and range in size from A5 - A3.

Little Red 

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As a child I devoured fairy tales and even as an adult my interest in them hasn't waned. As I've said before, I love the tradition of placing visual clues, emblems and tokens in artwork, and fairy/folk tales are steeped in symbolsim, which makes them particularly exciting to illustrate!

 

The focus for this project was visual sequence so I chose to remove all the text and let the images do the talking. I picked Little Red Riding Hood as it's so universal and the plot would be well-known to the reader - this then gave me the opportunity to really play around with the illustrations.

 

I kept the artwork simple - black pen with red and white coloured pencil on brown paper - in order to create a visual harmony, as well as highlight Little Red's cloak. 

 

The finished accordion book measures 382.5cm x 5.5cm and includes 4 flaps.

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