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Ode to my first love… painting (a.k.a my Unconventional Fashion Challenge entry)

I’m done and fairly happy with my entry for the Unconventional Fashion Challenge. The process of creating it was really reminiscent of the painting process for me, probably due to the familiar materials I was using more than anything else. I started out planning for one thing, made some unexpected discoveries, adjusted due to some minor materials-based limitations, edited carefully, and around midnight, finally hit that sweet spot where I was able to look at it and say “I’m done!” I really love that moment because, for me, it makes the entire process worth it.

For sure, there are some things I wish had worked out differently. In a perfect world, I would have been able to gather hundreds of used paintbrushes and use them to completely cover the skirt. Sadly, that proved a bigger challenge than I ever imagined, because no one seems to keep crusty paintbrushes (of course, now that I am no longer actively looking for them I am sure I’ll spot them everywhere). I would have liked to also make it ballgown length, with a very wide flared skirt, similar to Charles James’ “Clover Leaf” gown, which would have allowed the strands of “paint” trailing from the brushes to have more movement. The small size of the washi paper would have meant it needed to be seamed in areas I didn’t want to seam, and the weight of those multiple layers attached to the rag paper bodice would have been heavy. I also wish I had treated the right side seam in the same manner as I did the left, as it would have laid closer to the body. But, it’s paper and I didn’t want to add more holes by ripping it out (initially I was going to have it close with a zipper). Those details aside, I think what I have been able to pull off in the last few weeks is a fairly good effort. I’m satisfied and feel like I’ve gotten something out of the process, and for me, that’s enough. Although, with that said, taking home a win would be nice too.

It’s wearable and elegant and somewhat poignant—a statement of my intention to shift into the world of fashion, even though I am sure I won’t leave fine art behind forever.

It also brings to mind a discussion I had in college, with a very close friend, Seda. He was a year ahead of me and had recently graduated with a degree in illustration. In addition to being talented and confident and all the things I was working so hard to also be, I looked up to him very much. A year or so after graduation he gave up illustration to pursue screenwriting. I was floored, and it bothered me more than I thought something like that could. I mean it wasn’t MY years of schooling and potentially awesome career that was being thrown away, so why was I so bothered? Over a long-distance phone call one night, I asked him why he had made the decision, why he had given up everything he worked so a hard for just to start over with something new. He replied “It was too easy. I could have gone on doing that for the rest of my life. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t challenge me, and I need to feel challenged.” I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. He died a few years ago, but I have the feeling he’s laughing his cosmic butt off at me in this very moment and nodding because I finally get it.

Hand-torn rag paper, Japanese Washi tissue paper, plastic garden netting, paintbrushes, fishline, yarn scraps, plastic beads, thread, and acrylic paint.



3 thoughts on “Ode to my first love… painting (a.k.a my Unconventional Fashion Challenge entry)

  1. Fabulous. Just amazing! I know what you mean about the challenge aspect though- the stress of teaching in the current economic situation is dire, but the challenges are always new. My sewing calms me, but insane, complex projects help keep me alive. It all hangs together somehow!
    I really love the games you’ve played wit those brushes- funny and very clever

    Liked by 1 person

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