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Calm Down, Dad! Here, Have A Donut– They’re Simply Irresistible

September 5, 2014

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.

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Consider these three separate passages from the essay In My Clothes. The author is writing about her early teenage years:

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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Teenage girl wearing Robert Palmer Girl dress and makeup dark eye shadow mascara red lipstick tossing poison powdered donut into mouth of her angry father who's in a rage with flames leaping from his head with black smoke

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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.

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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.

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Photo of gothic horror author V.C. Andrews holding her first book Flowers In The Attic, and her painting of wide-eyed plaintive little girl in frilly dress

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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.

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Still photo from Robert Palmer Addicted To Love video showing girl with white face, dark eye mascara and makeup, and very red lips

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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.

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detail image of Teenage girl wearing Robert Palmer Girl dress and makeup dark eye shadow mascara red lipstick tossing poison powdered donut into mouth of her angry father who's in a rage with flames leaping from his head with black smoke

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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.

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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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Scottish Referendum: The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling… Yes And No

August 26, 2014

There’s an historic vote coming up: the Scottish Referendum on independence.

On September 18, 2014, Scottish voters will decide whether Scotland becomes an independent country (vote = YES), or remains part of the United Kingdom (vote = NO).

Polls have consistently shown voters leaning NO (against independence), though the gap has narrowed in recent weeks.

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I recently did an illustration on the Referendum for London-based Diplomat Magazine. The concept: competing bagpipes.

The one on the left shows the Flag of Scotland, with the pipes spelling out YES for independence. The one on the right shows the Union Jack, with the pipes saying NO, preferring to remain in the British Union.

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Two bagpipes playing music, one bag as Scottish flag with pipes spelling out YES, one bag with Union Jack United Kingdom flag with pipes spelling out NO, reference to Scottish Referendum scheduled for September 18, 2014 to decide if Scotland should be independent country

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I submitted several other ideas that weren’t selected. One was based on the uniquely Scottish sporting event called the caber toss, in which competitors toss a long wooden beam.

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Two Scotsmen wearing kilts, competing in caber toss, one caber flying Scottish flag, other caber flying Union Jack United Kingdom flag, reference to Scottish Referendum scheduled for September 18, 2014 to decide if Scotland should be independent country

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How on earth did this sport originate? One interesting theory: from the need to toss logs across chasms, in order to walk over them.

I was surprised to learn that distance thrown is not important in the caber toss. Rather, it’s a matter of finesse: the objective is to flip the caber end over end, so that it lands on its head and falls away from the tosser.

I don’t know if the guy on the left below is a member of the Armstrong Clan, but he should be.

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Scotsmen wearing kilts carrying and tossing caber at Scottish games

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And of course I had to do something with good ol’ Nellie, the Loch Ness Monster, who seems to be keeping a low profile these days.

Hmm. She appears undecided at this point. She’ll certainly cause a sensation if she shows up at the polls on September 18th.

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Nessie the Loch Ness Monster in Scottish Highlands looking up at two airplanes flying across sky, one plane pulling banner with Scottish flag that says Vote Aye, other plane pulling banner with Union Jack United Kingdom flag that says Vote Nae, reference to Scottish Referendum scheduled for September 18, 2014 to decide if Scotland should be independent country

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Are you familiar with the referendum? Would you care to share your thoughts on this complex issue?

Are you a fan of bagpipe music? Any pipers in our reading audience?

Have you ever tossed a caber, and were there any fatalities??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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