BEAUTY & THE BEAST

It's come to the point in my fairy tale collection where I've started saving the best for last.
While it's so hard for me to play favourites, as so many different stories appeal to me for different reasons, 'Beauty and the Beast' is one of those stories that just gives me butterflies.
Admittedly, it's a tale that I never connected with until I saw the Disney adaptation in 1992. Prior to that, I think I had seen an 80s soap-style version that starred Linda Hamilton – which didn't exactly grip me. Of course, we can never forget Shelley Duvall's 'Faerie Tale Theatre.'
However, from the very first moment I laid eyes on that shiny, big screen and listened to a host of villagers sing 'Bonjour!' to each other I was hooked. I still vividly remember turning to my Mum half-way through 'Be Our Guest' and requesting we 'buy this on video as SOON as it comes out!'
It was love.
Over the past 25 (gulp!) years I have devoured other editions of the story - most notably the French live-action film starring Léa Seydoux as Belle and Vincent Cassell as the Beast.
This version is much more in keeping with the original tale and I highly recommend watching it. It's visually stunning.
I also have to make mention of Disney's current live-action remake. I admit - I've already seen it three times. On first viewing I wasn't sure what I thought of it, having already seen (and loved) such a high quality live-action version of the story, but also being so familiar with the original 1992 version.
However, on subsequent viewings, I was able to take it in without any pre–conceived ideas and just enjoy it for what it was.

I digress! Back to the illustration. I started my interpretation of this story almost a year ago!
I had some initial ideas of how I wanted to capture it in illustrated format, but I kept putting it off, wanting the idea to have time to grow if needed - and I was never entirely happy with what I was doing. To try to encapsulate such a delicately beautiful and layered story into just one image is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many themes within 'Beauty and the Beast' - not just the love story between Belle and the Beast, but also those of jealousy, greed, materialism and the superficial manner in which we can judge each other. There was also the symbolic nature of the rose.
Some interpretations of the original tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve are quite grotesque. Others are beautiful, and opulent. I think we all tend to associate fairy tales with the fantasy of royalty and beauty. However, they always hark back to darker roots; stories created to scare children into making good moral choices. Which is why it can be so hard to truly depict each story.
But, strip it all back and no matter which way you look at it, this story is ultimately about love; lost, platonic, coveted, and deep, true love. Which is why I decided to focus my illustration on the enigmatic rose at the heart of the story - with a side of couture as always.
Depending on which version you want to read into, the rose symbolises the Beast's love for his previous wife; his grief and guilt at her death which was (inadvertently) caused by his own callous and beastly nature, but also the love that Belle's father feels for his daughter, as it is this rose that he plucks from the Beast's garden to give to Belle when he returns home. A rose is what Belle covets most, when all of her sisters crave jewels and finery. In the Disney version, the rose is a physical reminder of the Beast's curse, representing the time he has in which to break the curse that befalls him, before the last petal falls.
One of my favourite parts of researching this tale was seeing how their relationship is depicted in different variations of the story. I wanted to focus on the progression of their relationship, and in doing so fell back into the original tale. Belle, having taken the place of her father, sits down to an opulent dinner with the Beast each night. After every meal he asks her to marry him, a proposal she refuses. However, gradually, as she begins to know him, and to feel empathy and gratitude toward him for the kindness that he shows to her, she starts to see his true character beneath the beastly guise, and falls in love with him.
Chic as ever, dressed in Chanel-inspired lace, Belle and a Versace-clad Beast are ensconced inside the glass cloche, standing amongst opulent candelabras and the peony roses that represent their budding love affair.

The latest in the collection, 'Beauty and the Beast,' is available in my store now in limited A3 + A2 editions until sold out.

SHOP HERE: www.birdyandme.com.au/shop

More Beauty and the Beast inspiration below:

Drew Barrymore by Annie Leivobitz for Vogue (US)

Drew Barrymore by Annie Leivobitz for Vogue (US)

La Belle et la Bête, 2014 - Pathé Films

La Belle et la Bête, 2014 - Pathé Films

Karen Elson photographed by Tim Walker, Love Magazine, 2013

Karen Elson photographed by Tim Walker, Love Magazine, 2013

Beauty & the Beast, photographed by Giampaolo Sgura, Magazine Antidote, 2011

Beauty & the Beast, photographed by Giampaolo Sgura, Magazine Antidote, 2011

Kate Moss by Tim Walker, Vogue Italia, 2015

Kate Moss by Tim Walker, Vogue Italia, 2015

Beauty and the Beast, 2017 - Walt Disney Pictures

Beauty and the Beast, 2017 - Walt Disney Pictures

Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty

Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty

CINDERELLA

CINDERELLA_SHOP.jpg

The latest in my fairy tale series, and perhaps one of the most widely treasured - 'Cinderella'!

For so many of us, 'Cinderella' (told by the Brothers Grimm and, perhaps most famously, Charles Perrault) is synonymous with Walt Disney's classic animated film. Along with 'Snow White' it was one of the studio's very first in a long line of fairy tales.
We're so familiar with that 'Bibbity Bobbity Boo' scene, the stunning score, and that beautiful scenery (envisioned by the wonderful concept art of Mary Blair).

While Disney's version is so vivid in our memories, I wanted to focus less on the ball and the Prince, and more on Cinderella herself.
Of course those shoes makes a precious cameo, but it's all about that glorious gown and the transformation from rags to ravishing beauty. The birds and mice are getting her dressed and she's just about to throw that god-damned broom away.
In true fashionista style, our Cinderella proves that sometimes all it takes to improve your day is a killer pair of heels and a beautiful dress! Sure, you might have to sweep a few floors, but you'll feel pretty darn good doing it.

'Cinderella' is available now in a limited edition of 40 A3 prints, and 15 A2 prints, in my store here:
www.birdyandme.bigcartel.com
I hope I've done her justice!

View some of Disney's original 'Cinderella' concept art by Mary Blair (because I love it so much!) and a gif of THAT transformation below.

Artwork by Mary Blair for Walt Disney

Artwork by Mary Blair for Walt Disney

Artwork by Mary Blair for Walt Disney

Artwork by Mary Blair for Walt Disney

CINDERELLA

THUMBELINA


I can't describe how inspired I was by last week's visit to the Viktor & Rolf exhibit at the NGV in Melbourne.
One gown in particular struck a huge cord with me, along with this quote the boys had left on the wall at the exit;
"We design clothes that look like they were made by the birds in Cinderella."
UM, YES!
I feel like this idea encapsulates everything that is so whimsical and beautiful about fashion - and, in particular, Haute Couture.
These gowns are less about wearability and so much more about the fantasy of a character or mood, lending themselves so beautifully to that sort of suspension of disbelief we adopt when we read our favourite fairy tales. Which is exactly what I'm trying to achieve with this series of work.

Currently working my way through my favourite childhood stories, that quote paired with the stunning ribbon gown from
Viktor & Rolf's 2005 'Flowerbomb' collection really resonated when it came to my next effort - 'Thumbelina.'
It's probably quite clear to everyone how much the story and concept of 'Thumbelina' influences my work - just in my approach to scale, alone!
So, when tackling my illustrated version of this little lady I wanted to bring her into the world of fashion and have her 'mother' be a Parisien dressmaker; one who would create a gown for her from scraps of fabric and off-cuts from the floor.
Of course this particular gown was unbelievably fitting to my idea and as soon as I saw it in the exhibition I knew it was The One.
The mouse is also a nod to one of my childhood heroes, Beatrix Potter. After all, the mice in the building would no doubt help Thumbelina's mother stitch this beautiful gown!

I think this has to be my new favourite of the series <3

See more 'Thumbelina' inspiration below:

Lily Cole by Tim Walker for VOGUE Italia, 2005

Lily Cole by Tim Walker for VOGUE Italia, 2005

Andressa Fontana by Amanda Pratt for Karen, Issue 12

Andressa Fontana by Amanda Pratt for Karen, Issue 12

The Tailor Mouse by Beatrix Potter

The Tailor Mouse by Beatrix Potter

Viktor &amp; Rolf, Spring/Summer 2005

Viktor & Rolf, Spring/Summer 2005

ALICE IN GUCCI-LAND

Gucci Pre-Fall 2016

Gucci Pre-Fall 2016

Viktor &amp; Rolf, Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue US, 2003

Viktor & Rolf, Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue US, 2003

Photographed by Margaret Zhang for Seduce

Photographed by Margaret Zhang for Seduce

Photographed by Alexandra Sophie for Vogue China, 2016

Photographed by Alexandra Sophie for Vogue China, 2016

Given my love of Lewis Carroll's Alice, there was no question I would have to continue the series with her adventures 'Through the Looking Glass.'
The chief inspiration behind this piece was this incredible Gucci gown.
As soon as I saw it I immediately pictured it on our Queen of Curiosity. I mean, if ever a dress was made for its subject...

Taking place after she fell down the rabbit hole, 'Through the Looking Glass' sees Alice pulled into the 'other' room, where everything is back-to-front and the inhabitants have a flair for poetry!
While Wonderland was all about flamingos, rabbits and mad tea parties, the looking glass takes us into a giant game of chess and Alice's determination to become a Queen.
Those familiar with the tale, will also remember that the Tweedles first appear in 'Through the Looking Glass', and not 'Wonderland' as is commonly believed, so I had to include them in my version.

If you've not read the book, you can A) DO IT! NOW! or B) catch one of the many film adaptations, including this one from the BBC starring Kate Beckinsale and a whole lot of mad British fashions (take particular note of the supermodel flower bed.)
I also hope you enjoy some of these looking glass inspired images!

'The Looking Glass' is available to order now in my shop in both A3 + A2 sizes here: www.birdyandme.bigcartel.com
(Limited to a quantity of 40 + 15 respectively.)

THE LITTLE MERMAID

What girl DIDN'T grow up wanting to be a mermaid at some stage in her life? Looking at you, Ally, if you're reading this!
'The Little Mermaid' is one of the first Disney films that I remember seeing in the cinema. For years I was under the impression that I must have been at least 8 or so. But, no - I was 4! That's right - Disney's version of 'The Little Mermaid' was released in 1989!
You: Whaaaaat?
Me: I KNOW!
Needless to say, my earliest memories of the story were purely those of a sassy Sebastian, Flounder the guppy, and THAT scene which always made my Dad cry; when King Triton gives Ariel her legs back so she and Eric can get married and she whispers 'I love you, Daddy' before sailing off into the sunset. I know, Dad. It was emotional stuff.
So, imagine my HORROR when I first encountered the TRUE story of Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Little Mermaid'. You know, the one where she DOESN'T win the love of her prince (he marries someone else) OR get to keep her legs (they felt like walking on razor blades 24/7 FYI) but disappears instead into a cloud of sea foam, ceasing to exist.
Thanks, Ursula, you sea b*tch.
You can view a 1975 Japanese animation of the original story here. But, be warned - it's v.sad.
(But also kiiiiiiiiinda funny when her name translates simply to 'Princess Mermaid.')
This original ending does not a fairy tale make and just goes to show how sinister our favourite stories were before Walt got his magical, sugar-coated hands on them.
The final line from the 1975 re-telling goes thusly:
"Eventually, The Little Mermaid's soul was allowed to return from heaven to the sea, where it had dissolved to foam with the coming of dawn's first light. From that time on, through her story, the story of her love and her courage, she has guided the wayward hearts of men and so she shall, forever."
For this reason my version of 'The Little Mermaid' does not include a sassy sidekick, a singing crustacean, or even a well-coiffured Prince unable to reciprocate her love.
It focuses purely on the Mermaid herself, who, in my imagination, is something of a magpie of the sea; scouring shipwrecks in search of lost treasures and jewels. Of course in this instance they are sparkling gems of Chanel and Christian Dior, her tail wrapped in Tiffany & Co pearls.

Glittering prints are available in my store here: www.birdyandme.bigcartel.com

More mermaid-spiration below:

Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 2008 on display at the NGV, 2015

Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 2008 on display at the NGV, 2015

Lily Donaldson by Alexi Lubomirski, VOGUE Spain, 2012

Lily Donaldson by Alexi Lubomirski, VOGUE Spain, 2012

Kristen McMenamy by Tim Walker, W Magazine, 2013

Kristen McMenamy by Tim Walker, W Magazine, 2013

Lexi Boling by Laurie Bartley, Numéro China, 2014

Lexi Boling by Laurie Bartley, Numéro China, 2014

Kristen McMenamy by Tim Walker, W Magazine, 2013

Kristen McMenamy by Tim Walker, W Magazine, 2013

Daryl Hannah &amp; Tom Hanks in Splash, 1984

Daryl Hannah & Tom Hanks in Splash, 1984

'Untitled' by Alix Malka. Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 2008.

'Untitled' by Alix Malka. Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 2008.

Alexander McQueen S/S 2012

Alexander McQueen S/S 2012

CRUELLA DE VIL

My next storybook femme is a villainous vixen that we all love to hate, the dastardly devious, Cruella De Vil,
from Dodie Smith's '101 Dalmatians.'
While her taste in coats might be questionable, there's no denying that she is fashionably fierce.
As long as the fur remains faux, and no puppies are harmed in the making of her sartorial choices, she's okay by me.

'Cruella' is available as a limited edition print now, in my store here.

I've also been (slowly) working on my version of Rapunzel on and off over the last couple of months, all the while cursing my decision to draw the maiden with the ridiculously long hair in such detail. She has been beyond time-consuming, but hopefully she'll be worth the wait. Stay tuned...