As mentioned in this August post, I did some illustrations for an essay called In My Clothes. In it, the author looks back on her life, using the clothes she was wearing at the time as a reference point.
For me, certain passages will often trigger ideas for an illustration. Things can really get interesting when several passages combine to inspire an idea.
Consider these three separate passages from the essay In My Clothes. The author is writing about her early teenage years:
We read the entire V.C. Andrews series. I love them for their descriptions of fabulous wealth, for beds carved into swans, and a cruel, beautiful mother willing to poison her children with powdered donuts. We laugh and cry and laugh at the stories. “Don’t eat the powdered donuts!” We say to one another.
We go back to Melissa’s and I dress up in everything in the closet, to see what it all looks like. Our favorite is a black dress, red lipstick, a simple necklace. Short, cropped hair slicked back. Melissa takes a picture of me in front of the piano. “Like a Robert Palmer girl,” she says, laughing. “Man! You look so white. Your eyes are huge!”
In one of his fits, my father storms into the closet, ripping up the dresses… Afterwards, the reconciliation. This wasn’t, I am told, because of the clothes, but an outlet for his anger… It’s my voice. It drives him to these things. See what you did. See what you did to your father.
Poison donuts. A Robert Palmer girl. A father subject to fits of rage. The following image sprang to mind. I can’t really explain the yellow teeth. They seemed right.
I’d heard the name V.C. Andrews, but knew nothing about her. Didn’t even realize it was a woman. Her specialty: Teen Gothic: sex, horror, dysfunctional families with secrets.
Flowers in the Attic (1979) was her first bestseller. Four kids are imprisoned in an attic. They’re abused by their sadistic grandmother. Mom tries to poison them with arsenic-laced donuts so she can inherit the family fortune. I don’t think I’ll be reading it anytime soon.
Two interesting facts:
Andrews died in 1986. Her estate hired a ghostwriter who has continued to write books in her name till this very day.
Andrews was a commercial artist and illustrator before she became a writer. That’s one of her paintings on the right, below. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it seems to suggest a poor little prisoner in an attic.
You know what a Robert Palmer Girl is, of course. Well, you do if you know who Robert Palmer is, and have seen a certain slightly notorious 1980’s music video (see end of post).
They have very pale faces; short, severely pulled-back hair; heavy dark eye makeup; and extremely red lips. Here’s a still from Palmer’s video for Addicted To Love.
I think I caught the look pretty well. The more extreme the look, the easier it is to capture. Here’s a larger detail image.
The Addicted To Love video featured five Robert Palmer Girls, who were clearly chosen
for their musicianship… Not.
The video for a subsequent hit, Simply Irresistible, featured a lot more RP Girls. No one’s ever accused the pop music industry of originality or good taste. We must look to illustrators for these qualities…
Here’s Addicted in all its grainy glory.
Any Gothic horror fans out there? Are they the sort of books one can take to the beach?
Has anyone ever dressed up as a Robert Palmer Girl, say, for a Halloween party? How about a job interview??
Do you think you’ll ever be able to eat another powdered donut after reading this post??
Hope you’ll leave a comment.
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