Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Any catalog of the things that have inspired my work over the course of a lifetime would be incomplete without the inclusion of Deyrolle. I can't entirely explain its magic, or why it is so intricately woven into the fabric of my imagination, but one of my earliest clear memories is of my parents taking me to Deyrolle for the first time when I was a toddler. It instantly set a spark to my imagination.

You might think that a taxidermy shop would be a bit much for a toddler. But if you have never set foot in Deyrolle, I can only tell you that this is no ordinary taxidermy shop. Deyrolle is a taxidermy shop in the same way that Mary Poppins is a nanny. Within moments of my first setting foot inside its doors, vast fertile vistas of fragrant soil opened like a magic trick inside the corridors of my mind. I saw possibility there. I heard the sound of a billion fluttering, translucent, onionskin pages of stories waiting to be told. I saw mysterious continents, forking rivers, great shimmering oceans of wonder just waiting to be explored.

On that day, my parents bought me a blue Brazilian butterfly with iridescent wings which still occupies a room in the chateau in France (since it would not pass through customs), as well as a dusty corner of my eternal dreams.
Not long ago, someone told me that Deyrolle had been destroyed by a fire. I felt the bottom drop out of my heart. Of course, all of France rallied at its side, and before long it had been restored to much of its former glory (the New York Times did a wonderful article on its phoenix-like fall and resurrection, whence all of these photos). Upon seeing the photos from after the fire, I have to say that in their own way they are very nearly as magical and inspiring as was Deyrolle intact.
There is no way for me to accurately describe the alchemy of Deyrolle's effect on my life, from the paint colors to the cabinetry, from the orderly glass cases of insects to the marvelous expressions on the faces of the shop's erstwhile denizens. So let this, in brief, serve as my little love letter to 19th-century entomologist Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle and his legacy.
Thank you, Jeanne-Baptiste. Who would I be without you?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ziegfeld Girls.

This may seem like a less than obvious source of inspiration for a series of children's illustrations...but different things inspire in different ways. Here, it is the artfullness of a pose, so evocative of the glamours of a certain era... the eloquent turn of a disdainful shoulder, a wistful and vulnerable ankle...something in the drape of the fabric, the deep shadows under a chair, the fragile facade of a painted screen concealing the harsher realities behind the scenes.

photos via pixdaus.com

Friday, September 25, 2009

My inspiration. My secret joy. My nap trout. My changeling. My familiar. My shadow. My clever fox. My slippery seal. My moon child. My golden piglet. My fierce warrior. My brave traveler. My soap bubble. My hot summer child. She of the quick feet and strong arms. She of the rusty giggle and mischievous glance. She of the Matahari eyes and the wicked smile. My seductress. My athlete. My gift. My magician. My virtue.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

via ffffound.com
Alice, by the Dalziels.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

photo: vee speers
photo: I wish I could remember why I found this one. I'm sure someone can inform me...
photo: Sophie Cuvelier
Photo: via google

Our little pirate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This girl, from Milk Magazine's own street style section, look de rue, keeps popping into my head, and one of these days I know some part or essence of it will pop up in my work.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My grandparents:
My grandmother Christiane (with her new husband, left, and his equally-towering brother) on their wedding day in Italy.
She was:
- elegant
- stubborn
- impetuous
- difficult
- eternal beloved of her husband
- a perpetual student and collector of art
- an eternal aesthete
- famous for her personal style (her closet was something to behold, and she had her own standards - for instance, she never once in her life allowed a pair of pumps or heels to adorn her feet. Ballet flats, spectators and espadrilles only.)
- the best cook I ever had the pleasure of both watching and enjoying
- born in France, educated in Florence, married to a Dutch man
- a brilliant self-trained interior designer
- possessed of the finest eye for color I've ever seen in one human being
My grandfather, J. Constant "Jack" aka "The Captain"
He was:
- kind
- brilliant
- refined
- ever-humble
- soft spoken
- a conoisseur of his wife's French desserts
- a philosopher
- a problem solver
- a dedicated follower of Buddhism (which he employed in his workplace if not - as you can see - in his personal style)
- a self-made man and world-respected inventor/engineer
- Born in Holland, educated in the UK
- a profoundly-beloved icon to those who worked under him
- a philanthropist
- a fan of ham radios and fine European cars

This is my grandmother, my mother and I in Brissac, Herault, Languedoc, the year that my grandparents were in the process of restoring their 11th-century chateau (you can still see sky through some of the upper windows, but the restoration was well underway).
My mum and I in the orchard below.
My grandparents' style, their grace, their philanthropy and philosophy of living, and their appreciation of art and literature have been and will always remain a profound influence on me.
I don't often photograph my workspace, because - well, because I'm not an organized worker. My studio space is not "camera-ready" most of the time, if you take my meaning. This, however, is a wall in my studio, and I'm posting it now because I'm considering repainting the walls this winter. I'm thinking about color. This would be a drastic move for me because I have always worked in white spaces...and the probability that I will actually get to such a project is slim. Still...

Amelia Earhart.
"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers." - AE
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - AdS-E

"Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something molded." - AdS-E

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This one, though in a somewhat different style, and featuring a boy rather than a girl, also reminds me of the series. It has to do with an adventurous nature, a quality of fearlessness, and a rare affinity with the natural world. There is, I think, something of the proverbial "familiar" about the relationship between my children and my animals. It's slightly preternatural. I feel there's a greater truth there ready to be explored, but I'm not ready to elaborate on it. It's all still mulling around in my brain.

Mathurin Méheut (1882 - 1958) French painter and engraver. Though he is best known for his scenes of Breton coastal life, his magnificent animal studies are a bit of an obsession of mine, and have been a great influence on my work. I reference them constantly. I have hunted down and purchased the soft-cover book of his animal studies twice now, after previous incarnations were lost in my various moves. Creatively, I simply cannot seem to live without them. The original, foxed, taped and worried edition, btw, I found completely by chance on a clearance cart outside The Strand in NYC...which makes sense.

You can see his influence in many of my animals, in particular the monkey in the early sketch, and the fox under the sofa in my banner.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Like so many artists, I am also inspired by studying that which inspires other creative people whose work I admire. Their work might be very different from my own, but I draw sustenance from each in their own way.

For instance, I always keep an eye on the inspirational blog of Charlotte, designer of the French children's clothing line VDJ. (And, naturally, I was thrilled to one day find my own daughter's photos included therein!)

She does not always attribute the photos that she posts in her inspiration blog, so forgive me if I am not able to properly attribute some of those reproduced here.
This one is from a French photo book called "à hauteur d'enfants" by Olivier Föllmi (éditions de La Martinière)
I have searched for it here in the US, but have not found a source. If anyone knows where I can obtain a physical copy of this wonderful book, please advise!
This layout was from Milk, a magazine of children's style which I also particularly admire.

Manon from Japan (source not included).
Charlotte also draws inspiration by the stylings of her sisters, Jeanne and Clémence. This was Clémence at an earlier age.
From another Milk magazine spread, as shot by the wonderful Australian-cum-French photographer Vee Speers (who is in her own right one of my great inspirations. Expect to find me referencing her brilliant work in the future!).