Month: January 2012

The fact or fiction of Lana Del Ray

By now you’ve probably heard of Lana Del Ray. My first encounter was online where a blogger was musing on whether they’d have embraced her music if they’d seen what she’d looked like first. That isn’t to say Ms Del Ray isn’t beautiful, quite the opposite, she’s almost impossibly so. Describing herself as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”, imagine a doe eyed Natalie Portman crossed with Priscilla Presley, and your almost there.  In her videos she pouts and purrs, staring vacantly just beyond the camera like jail bait, but despite her tender looks at 26 Del Ray’s musical sensibilities seem surprisingly mature based in a hip melancholy nostalgia for the 60’s that never were.

Perhaps this is an ageist or misogynistic judgement, but for me it’s an issue about authenticity. Del Ray’s fame thus far hails from the internet, her first album has yet to be released, but on tour recently she’s appeared on the most prestigious variety shows, (where better to discover such an obscure artist then on Later with Jools Holland?). Yet in each performance, vulnerable and strained, she remains an enigma with most of her interviews in print rather than on T.V.

You can peruse videos for her particular brand of retro ‘sad –core’ pop on You Tube. Nothing is claimed or denied but it’s suggested that these promos are compiled using home movie footage. Yet the slick hair and makeup, consistent sepia tinting, montage elements of neon lights, tree lined boulevards, and archive film and cartoon footage, beautifully evoke the mood and tone of her Americana melodrama suggesting something altogether more directed and processed. (It seems since I wrote this full credits are now available for the archive footage sources.)

I dig further and turn up some interview clips under her pre fame name. The look is there, but she seems unsure of what she’s saying.  After a false start with an album released under the name Lizzy Grant with support from her businessman father, ‘Lana Del Ray’ was created and re-launched as a Lolita in the ‘hood, cholita of the trailer park. She’s undoubtedly talented, with a voice whose expressive quality lends a bitter sweetness to the bad girl love songs of longing, self obliteration and loss. But ultimately it’s this nostalgia for a time not her own, juxtaposed against the little girl lost posturing that makes me wonder if this act was written for rather than by her.

I’m reminded of J.T LeRoy, a writer famed for his gritty style of magic realism who shot to acclaim at the age of 19 with ‘Sarah’, a semi-fictionalised account of his troubled childhood. Until it transpired that the tragically talented gender bending ex-drug addict, was in fact a character created by then unknown writer Laura Albert, and played in public by her sister-in- law in sunglasses and a wig. LeRoy gained many celebrity fans and literary endorsements, many were angry they’d been fooled, while some claimed to have always been in on the ruse.

Maybe the question should be: if the much lauded literature exists, does it matter if the author was fiction?

Twin Peaks Fabrics now available!

My Twin Peaks Samples have arrived!

I’ve been busting to show you these and here they are at last! This is my range of Twin Peaks themed fabrics I’ve designed. Last summer on its 20th anniversary, I watched the entirety of Twin Peaks on DVD while hand sewing my very first quilt. I found the show so atmospheric and full imagery that I was inspired to create some fabrics themed around it. I’ve made a selection of striking larger patterns featuring portraits of Laura and Coop, and the dancing man, and some basics to work with them as co-ordinates like the Black Lodge floor (in two sizes, and one with blood splatter and one without), and the ‘Let’s Rock’ text only fabric.

Cooper in the Black Lodge fabric (detail)

I have loads of ideas for more fabrics in this set, and I plan to add to them over time. In the meanwhile, I figured I’d make these available on Spoonflower. I can’t wait to see what you make with them!

The Twin Peaks Range, so far!

Ten Comics of Influence

In Nude Magazine, Bare Essentials , I wrote about my favourite comics from the UK indie press. Since then I’ve been thinking about how I got into indie comics, my favourites, and those that have influenced me most. So I’ve decided to share some of these with you. You’ll probably notice these are all black and white (I like brush and ink), many of them Canadian, almost entirely by writer/artists, and on subjects of a personal and often teenage nature. In no particular order, these are the reason I wanted to draw comics at all:

The eternal love triangle of Krazy Kat

Krazy Kat: George Herriman

Not technically indie, but certianly not mainstream, I first saw Krazy Kat in a book about the history of comics when I was a kid. There is something beautifully odd and unfinished about Herriman’s world and a simplicity of style that allows the subtle and philosophical issues of the characters  to resonate. It’s a universal love triangle and I love that character of Krazy is non gender specific.

Ramona Flowers, a woman who’s hair issues i can relate to

Scott Pilgrim: Bryan Lee O’Malley

As my most recent favourite comic it almost didn’t make it on here. If I’d have read this as a teenager it would have blown my mind. What’s not to love? The art style is cute and cool, the story is funny and surreal and it’s all a bit navel gazey about life and lovers. I love it!

Maus, simple and elegant style for harsh subject matter

Maus: Art Spiegeleman

This is the first time a comic proved to me that this medium could present serious personal and historical subject matter with incredible immediacy. The simple art style forces the reader to be interactive; here you bring your own emotions and imagination to the page.

Ghostworld, ugly inside and out

Ghost World/8 ball: Daniel Clowes

Clowes work is predominantly observational and unglamourised. His drawing style is kinda ugly and so are the thoughts and activities of most of his characters. I found I could relate whether I wanted to or not.

Black hole, Charles Burns

Black Hole: Charles Burns

I was attracted firstly by Burns stunningly dark drawing style, every thing looks sinister and a bit over worked. The theme is a creepy metaphor for teenage alienation and I like that nothing is spelled out, resolved or explained so that the situation lives on in your mind.

Joe as a kid in ‘Fairweather’

Peep show: Joe Matt

Joe Matt cracks me up, his work is autobiographical, painfully so. I defy you to read one of his books and not shake your head laughing, saying, “why are you telling me this?” He also comes from the school of simple, unglamorous kinda ugly artwork.

Chet’s mom

I never liked you: Chester Brown

I like Chester for much the same reasons as I like Joe Matt (above), and it’s hardly a surprise that they are friends who turn up in each others comics. I retain a special place in my heart though for Brown’s writing about his mother’s struggle with mental health. And ‘Playboy’ is possibly one of the most painfully embarrassing things I’ve ever read.

Hopey rocking out in Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets: Jamie & Gilbert Hernandez

I don’t always know if I’m coming or going with Love and Rockets, but it doesn’t matter. And I know Beto possibly has the more interesting storylines. But part of me will always be in love with Jamie’s slick black and white art work. Such clean lines, such beautiful ladies, there’s a kinda 1950’s feel, and I do love the strips from the 1980s!

Teen Love in Blankets

Blankets: Craig Thompson

Again, this is less about the story for me and more about the art work. Although the theme does appeal, its teenage navel gazing first love. (Do you see a pattern yet?) Thompson’s brush-pen line work is just beautiful. Like Love and Rockets, I pour over the artwork and daydream of one day being able to draw like that.

Cerebus and Lord Julius

An honourable mention also goes to

Cerebus: Dave Sim

What began as a fantasy parody of Conan, has become one man’s epic experiment in comic self publishing. Running from 1977 to 2004 Sim refers to his master work as “longest sustained narrative in human history.”  Sim is to put it politely a bit of a nut bar, but he has done much to push the scope of what comics can do and deserves kudos on being the pioneer of creator owned, self published work. I like the earlier books best, before Sim’s warped world view and latent misogyny truly kick in, and my favourite character is Lord Julius, (Groucho Marx by any other name.) I admit I’ve not read all of Cerebus’s 16 ‘phone book’ sized tomes, (I made it a far as ‘Women’ which is book 8), and I may never read any again….