Monday, 31 October 2011

Latest painting...

I began this painting of 1940's burlesque performer Noel Toy over a year ago! It wasn't my intention for it to take so long to be completed (usually I finish paintings in a matter of weeks sometimes days) but it soon took second and even third place in importance as other work and projects took priority. During the year or so it sat in my studio I worked on it getting a hour here and an afternoon there every now and then.

On one hand it was good to have a painting on the go as it kept me connected to one of my favourite mediums, but on the other hand having my concentration broken so often meant that my bond with the work had to be built up every time I got the chance to work on it. So finally getting this piece finished feels extra satisfying. However I may come back to it and do some last minute tweaks here and there...maybe it'll never really be finished!

Anyway, I hope Noel would approve of her portrait, which I wanted to stand as a tribute to her; not only was she a pioneer of breaking stereotypes, she was a wonderful performer with much grace and vibrancy

I wanted her painting to have a vintage feel with a nod to old film with its jumps and crackles, hence the black and white background and slightly blurred edges. But I also wanted to highlight Noel's uniqueness, the thing that helped to make her so popular, her origin.  

Seen by many as an 'exotic', Noel used her looks to further her successes. I wanted to try and capture how startling and shocking it would have been to see a little oriental lady performing burlesque back in the 1940's, and found Vladimir Tretchikoff as inspiration. His famous 'Green Ladies' encapsulated the eras fascination with the orient with it's 'unusual' beauty and glamour.

Rather than pigeon hole Noel into yet another stereotype I hope this painting shows her for what she was, a canny performer with a fearless sense of fun and femininity.

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