This year has been tough for a lot of us but somehow we made it, with actual hope on the horizon. I started making this set last year but had to put it on hold due to a family crisis. Perhaps it’s a good thing this set got delayed because whilst working on it this year, I have found a new vendor that I adore, a way to fashion corkscrew curls without screaming in frustration, and a fresh approach to time management that gave me energy to do everything I needed and still spend time with loved ones. I wish you all the joyous of all joyous year to come.
My best friend from high school Fadi is someone who, if you are to meet him for “a drink or two,” you better clear all the events from that day on your calendar because you will NOT get anything else done. He’s the kind of friend you ring up when you want some adventure without having to pack a suitcase because adventures find him. He’s the kind of friend who is so into living in the moment that he sucks you into his world and you end up doing or seeing things you will not otherwise experience. He’s the kind of friend who, if you are to “just go out for a quick walk,” will end up bringing you to places unexpected and meeting a celebrity (whom he almost always knows) or two along the way.
On one of those adventures, Fadi and I discovered a brand new nightclub on 6th below 30 and made a tour of it. I immediately decided it’s not a place for me since it was much too glitzy for my taste and also I just wanted a $5 beer at my favourite Irish pub. Fadi, whose senses were much keener than mine, immediately sussed out this was no ordinary nightclub/bar and dragged me further inside where we were swallowed by incredibly tall and good looking women all dressed to the nines. And then we realised these glamazons were all men. I have always been quite comfortable with my overall appearance even though I don’t wear make up, I live in jeans and tees and my art school days during the Age of Grunge had allowed me to get away with chained wallets, plaid shirts, paint-covered pants and pass my unwashed locks off as fashionable. But I did feel incredibly inferior to these amazing looking women, or, er, men, who put in the extra effort to achieve supermodel looks. And what’s more, they’re all sooo nice. We stayed and talked to a few of them, turned down drinks (they went from about $15 to $50 a pop and you know those queens need to save every dollar for makeup from Patricia Field). I have nothing but fondness and admiration for drag queens, so I was thrilled to bits when a request came asking me to paint a set of them for Christmas.
I have never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race but it looked like fun. When the pictures came in I literally gasped and cursed my bad luck for having this project presented to me so close to Christmas but quickly decided to do something about my workload so I could really focus on this set.
It looked challenging at first glance, but after breaking it all down, it wasn’t all that bad.
The best part of this set is hunting down all the supplies needed for the “extras” such as finding the right shade of wool for the wigs, looking for the right size rings to fashion them into earrings for RuPaul, etc.
I decided to go a step further by creating a removable wig so one of the dolls can do this:
It is also around this time that we have officially adopted a stray cat. He’d been around ever since we moved in a year and a half ago and he decided he wanted to live with us. Since he has also gone feral after being abandoned, there were a lot of trust issues. Eventually he came round and wanted to be a permanent part of our little family, giving us very little choice in the matter. As I work late into the night, he often sat with me in my sweatshop and, being a long haired puss, he would often leave in the mornings covered in all manners of glitter, sequin, and later on, fibre I used for the wigs. Maybe there’ll be a new feline version of Drag Race soon and I can enter my new cat. After all, he already has a reverse ombre thing going with his tail.
For the past few months I’d been slowly working on a family portrait for a very special lady. She is celebrating the big 6-0 and I was tasked to paint a set of dolls of her and her family. Her friend thought it would be fun to put in 60 elements that represents her, an iSpy sort of situation. As someone who likes to be on all kinds of conspiracy (good ones, mind you), I was down.
The family are all Warriors fans. This reminded me of the time I had to paint a baseball team, twice, but at least there are a ton of varieties to the outfits!
I don’t really sketch out any of my ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. Luckily I was left to my own devices after given the brief because I had absolutely no plans as to what I was going to do with the iSpy doll until I sat down each night to work on it. It was almost like putting a puzzle piece together and all my previous leanings, such as writing teeny tiny letters, or making this crazy free writing journal, had given me the skills to work within the confines of the doll and get everything, all 60 elements, down.
As you can see, this is a highly personal project and I got to know this lady quite well despite not knowing her at all! Hey, anyone who works in a zoo, loves CSN, Joan Baez, lived in NYC, interacted with a chimp, and rode horses are definitely people I’d want to know!