L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A painter sews

Some painters get to paint. Just paint. They figure it out as they go. I have to plan. The kind of work I do, and the thinness of the paint surface, means that I have to plot it all out ahead of time; I can't easily or effectively paint over things. In the last few years, especially, I've tried to get smarter in how and how much I prepare. I take more preparatory photographs, I do more Photoshop compositing, I grid. Drapery has always been a challenge. It's pretty difficult to just make it up in your head. As I've gotten older, I've become more adept at doing that, but it's a much better use of my time to arrange and work from photographs.

To that end, this past week I sacrificed three and a half painting days to clothes making. I dragged out the very heavy sewing machine and ran up: one very full (we're talking five-yards-of-material full) floor-length white taffeta skirt with train; the same thing again, but in red satin; one full petticoat, made from a very pretty old white cotton damask bed sheet; and two sets of lace sleeve ruffles, perhaps more properly known as engageantes.

I also re-purposed an old dress shirt to use as an all-purpose bodice. Pretty much all I did was cut off the collar and part of the front, and nipped in the sides and the sleeves. The shirt was a replacement for one I had adapted previously. I had rushed that version and very much regretted my haste. Thinking I could avoid some of the annoying pin-it-turn-it-inside-out-reset-the-pins nonsense, I had turned the shirt inside out to begin with, pinned and then was able to just go ahead and sew the alteration. (If you've never sewn, the preceding probably makes no sense at all.) I soon realized my grave error. Like most people, my arms are not the same size; I'm very right handed, and my right arm reflects that it gets more use. When I turned the shirt right side out and put it on, I had one very tight sleeve and one very loose one. It was serviceable, but it didn't look quite right. I'm glad I had a chance for a do-over.

I can't wait to start using these garment pieces for painting prep. The red satin skirt was made intentionally for use in the final painting I have planned for my show at Winston Wächter in June. I've been calling it, informally, the "big red dress painting". Oh, and there's a squirrel involved. But I won't go into that here. Now if I can just figure out a way to fit all of this pretty yardage into the closet....


This photograph gives very little feeling for how vast the white taffeta skirt is; it looks so innocent hanging there. In reality, it's all papery stiff, holding its shape against gravity and eating up huge quantities of real estate. I love it.

[Those are Nicholas' toys on the floor below; he brings them all out to the living room/studio and, when he's not looking, I kick them all to the end of the hall.]

This was just a Gap shirt. I really liked it, but it got an ever-so-slight-but-definite stain on the front, and now it's given its life in the service of Art.

These are meant to be wrist ruffles, worn with long sleeves, so I don't know if I can actually call them engageantes; the word might be reserved for those dainty articles that attach just below the elbow, worn for almost the entirety of the eighteenth century. Of course the fact that I made them to close with tiny bits of Velcro makes the whole question moot...!

1 comment:

  1. I love it. And love the pictures [especially the one with Nicholas' toys]. Could you just model some of these for me now? Please?