Saturday, October 06, 2012

Queen Kook: Portrait of a Bohemian Blue-Blood

Kook is the latest portrait in my on-going series of glamorous  illustrations which I rather bizarrely entitle "The Hair Girls". This series, which also includes Frisco and USAville, is inspired by my increasing appreciation of portraiture, as well as fabulous fashion photographs in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar etc. I adore a good fashion moment, me... and this series lets me play and experiment with fashion illustration. 
So, with Kook I really wanted to draw something different, using a more muted palette and rich handmade textures as well as try out a new style of lettering... cue research trip!
In particular, I got lots of ideas from my many visits to the wonderful National Portrait Gallery in London - specifically the Elizabethan and Tudor rooms - and also the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh too. I have become fascinated by portraits from the 16th-19th Century of royalty and nobility as they are so embellished, bling-bling and loaded with symbolism yet still so formal and rigid in the way the sitter is posed.
© The National Gallery
 Quite often the painter of these portraits was an "unknown artist", often Flemish or Dutch. However, Hans Holbein is the artist most associated with painting the Tudor nobility - King Henry VIII, in particular. Holbein's portrait of A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, painted around 1526 is one of my favourites from this period. It has a simplicity and freshness to it that makes it stand out from other portraits of the time. Apparently it may have been one half of a marriage portrait - what did her husband look like? What did he wear? What animal was he posing with? I'd like to see that portrait too.
When I was wee, I was fascinated with the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, especially as she had her head cut off ! Here she is depicted (with her head) on her tomb in Westminster Abbey in all her pious and mournful beauty.
tomb of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots at Westminster Abbey

 Last but not least, the whimsical work of Guiseppe Archimboldo is an inspiration for Kook too - this particular picture, Spring, painted in 1563 being a favourite. Isn't it lovely? He literally has rosy cheeks!

If you fancy a bit of blue-blooded nobility adorning your walls, Kook is available as a signed and numbered print!
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