Process: Beauty's Rage
I absolutely loved doing this illustration for the forth coming sequal to Menna Van Praag's. The Sisters Grimm. It went through a few versions in my mind before it got to the research stage. This drawing is a retelling of one one of the original fairy tales from the first book. The difference being that it is someone else telling the same story but in totally different settings. The points at which the two versions cross over though are the ingredients which I chose to use for this piece. Without giving too much away, both passages are about a female character of extraordinary beauty who for the first part of her life, does exactly what is expected of her as a woman, They both meet an influential character who opens their eyes to how their lives may change if they actually did what they felt in life, rather than what they had perceived was their place or duty.
When I first read the second version I wasn't aware it was intentional and I thought...Eh!..Menna,,This is very similar to book 1. I don't get to read the books until much later so couldn't know what leads to the telling of the passages I illustrate. So after a short while I concluded that was probably the point. The thing that had caused me to make these parallels were the fact that both characters go through a process of unleashing years of suppressed anger with public demonstrations of extreme behavior. They weren't identical in expression, but what was identical was the inner rage that fueled their transformation into truer versions of themselves. It became very obvious to me that this detail alone was enough to carry a whole drawing, so Beauty's Rage was born as an idea.
So the original idea was going to be something like super imposing two versions of the same character over each other to represent different aspects of the same person, with emotional representations of both calm suppression and then rage. Whilst the concept stood up to my brutal scrutiny, How it would work as a drawing was riddled with problems. Above all it lacked drama (and I cant have THAT!). I also sensed it may look like an attempt at trying being to be too clever for the sake of it, which is fine but when attempting that, you'd better hit it 100% on target or it becomes pretentious. I basically didn't feel it would be worth the investment of time for a result that lacked spirit. I mean she's almost actually shouting... "Meh!"..... It would work in portrait photography for sure, just not in this context.
I like to tell myself that one of the things that run through every piece of artwork I do is an energetic dynamism. Spirals and exaggerated perspectives, sometimes multiple perspectives all serve to install in the viewer either a sense of speed, or focus. By using distortion the brain has to question what its looking at and take a closer look, This captivation isn't enough on its own though. If you steel someones time, then you need to reward them. This you can do by investing a serious amount of time in detail. By the time the viewer pulls away, I hope there is a sense of having experienced something worthwhile. But above all,,particularly in these times, That they haven't been conned.
The Power of Beauty's Rage is in two parts, Firstly her facial expression. Had to be spot on. Rage is not a good look on anyone, especially not when they are supposed to be "Beautiful". I had to pitch it one whisker beyond anger but still this side of apoplectic. Her Character is African, this posed an unusual challenge because the timing of the drawing was done in June 2020 during the black lives matter demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd. So..It WAS on my mind, and all along it was my intention to ensure she possessed a certain poise that would elevate her beyond the reach of the current zeitgeist. That said.I didn't have to look far to find the energy to channel into her.
Secondly. Transforming her into a tornado gave me everything I needed. drama, destruction and a psychologically pre programmed cultural fear of certain powerful energetic forces in nature that cannot be predicted or controlled. The parallels here between that and suppressed rage are obvious.
I loosened the pen work up a little with this one and introduced ink washes in the larger areas of darkness. This made for quite a realistic and dramatic cloud texture. The lighting I hope was successful as it was supposed to be like that strange brown light you get before an almighty storm hits. In the passage Beauty lives in Notting Hill, a very wealthy part of London, So for the street scene at base of the tornado funnel. I used google earth and choose two views from a street in the area that reflected the architecture of the houses, the gardens and the walls. I tipped the entire street up on one side as if the viewer is tilting their head or falling over taking her all in. Her Diamond earrings are a unique bespoke zig zag design with a 3 carat pear shape diamond at the end of the drop. We actually made these at Ritz Fine Jewellery at the Ritz Hotel, my former place of work. My colleague Joanna sold them for I'm not at liberty to say how much. I chose those becasue they reminded me of lightening bolts.