The thing I find strange about being an artist is the high's and lows we can go through within the span of a week. The week started off with excitement for a few great and exciting opportunities I have been given. I met with a new printing company who will be handling all of my fine art prints from now on which was so exciting. I have been working on my book deciding all of the details, the dimensions, the editions and how the pricing structure will work. I am completely self publishing the book so it has definitely been a challenge. As the week has passed I have also had the lows and as this weeks secret garden shoot was inching closer I could feel the pressure.
I'm not sure if this is some imaginary pressure I put on myself. With each secret garden scene getting a bit more difficult and bigger things have really started to weigh heavily. I am starting to nit pick at all the little details and I get angry at myself afterwards that I didn't focus on those details more. However, I know it is what it is. They say it's better to put something out into the world even if it's not perfect then not putting anything out there at all. Though I absolutely love every concept we shoot for secret garden I would be lying if I said I was satisfied with every detail. I guess this makes sense. It's an artist thing.
The Queen's of Vines was a concept that had been one of the first ones I drew out and put together in 2014. So it has been a long time coming. Red was a color I wanted to introduce into the series for sometime now. We have had an array of colors. Pinks, Magenta's, purples, yellows, blues, whites and now it was time for red. The concept (as with all of the concepts) changed and warped many times before I had it all figured out. I started with pictures of garden topiary and roses. From there I started to create a concept that incorporated vines. It wasn't until the last few months that I knew what I wanted for hair and costuming.
Pre-Raphaelite art has always been a huge inspiration for me so I looked for art to collect. Red's and yellows seem to be popular colours with Pre-Raphaelite art. The costumes were completely hand sewn. Every strip of fabric was draped on my bust form and needled and threaded by hand. I wanted the costumes to have that feeling of layers upon layers intertwining. The dresses were inspired by the beautiful fairy tale illustrations of Warwick Gobel. It wasn't really until the night before the shoot that another idea popped into my head. Yes, the idea's seem to come at the most inconvenient times. I thought of old allegorical paintings and knew that I needed to mix those ideas with what I already had.
There I was with only one day before the shoot and I was scrambling to buy little headbands and paint. I needed to make beautiful spiked crowns for the shoot. It was in my mind and once it's there it doesn't want to leave. If I don't take that time to create it exactly how I want I absolutely go mad.
The crowns continued with the stream of challenge and difficulty I had already been facing with this shoot. Hanging the topiary balls in the set was a nightmare. The balls were much too heavy to have been taped onto the ceiling which is what I normally do. So I had to hammer individual nails into the attic ceiling. The wood is not the strongest so the nails had to really be drilled in. I had no safety goggles so I was left closing my eyes whilst hammering. Not the smartest idea. Pieces of wooden attic ceiling were falling into my eyes and trickling down my neck while getting stuck in my hair. Not to mention I am desperately afraid of heights. Heights of any kind and standing on the ladder for that amount of time was tense. However, I pressed on as I usually do for the garden.
Once the set was finished I was happy the new nails were in. This would make things a lot easier for the upcoming shoots. The crowns were a whole other challenge. Originally I planned to use small wooden sticks for the spikes but they just would not stick to the glue. Thats when I thought of zip ties. Luckily my husband had a brand new bag of them in the basement. It was much too late now to go out to buy any so I guess I can say I got lucky. There I was at 11pm spray painting the crowns in the dark and cold wind. Hoping that they would be dry by morning. Hoping that they wouldn't be stuck to a tree or blown into the neighbours yard. Had I had the time (or the idea a lot sooner) I probably would have added much more to the crowns but sometimes you have to think fast and on your feet.
The day of the shoot is never and I mean never without it's challenges. The kitchen is being renovated so the sounds of drilling and hammering echoed the halls. Jilly, myself and our two beautiful models Shelagh and Allison crammed into the small room for makeup and hair. Jilly had recently learned how to create beautiful nails and brought with her an array of gorgeous nails with beautiful designs. I love having that one extra element for my shoots. Shelagh and Allison were so patient with the loud hammering and the time consuming make-up and hair prep.
I had this idea to extend their natural hair with big wigs. Of course pinning the wigs into the hair was a lot harder then I thought it would be. I have used wigs several times for shoots but many of the times they were extended into the hair while the model was lying down or they are already attached to the set or trees. This time the hair needed to look as if it was very long and added to the actual base of the head.
There were so many things that I kept forgetting, losing or not working including the smoke bombs. Two of them malfunctioned and the green ones I purchased were a bit of a different chemical then the others as they made our eyes burn and water. This was also the first time we have had two models together in the garden set. I had to make sure I was able to visualize what kind of image I wanted where Shelagh and Allison would be together and what I wanted for their separate images. I must say this though. When something challenges you more then you have been challenged before that it a good thing. No, that is a great thing. If I feel like the Secret Garden shoot is too easy then I know that I am not evolving and neither is the garden. The harder they get the better I will become. This shoot really opened me up to that. It was the most challenging in the sense that it shifted me out from my comfort zone. It made me have to think faster on my feet and deal with the unexpected. It forced me to make things work no matter what. It is beneficial for me to be put into these sorts of situations. The shoots for the series are only getting bigger and bigger. There is no fall back plan. It either works or it doesn't and I know I have to make it work.
With past garden shoots things had a much more simple structure and no matter what I could always fall back to a simple fairy tale image. Now the elements of the images are becoming a bit grander and the stories are far reaching as well as all of the inspiration. It has to work and it has to tell the story. This is a great beginning for the next phase of the series I call it the "just before" the home stretch. The home stretch is coming. It's scary to think about. The amount of work that's left and also letting the series go. I know I can't think about that yet and so I just face each new step as bravely as I can.
The interesting thing about a shoot that challenges you is the way your brain rewires itself. I had to select more the 4 final images as with two models there needs to be more final images to tell the entire story. So my brain needed to think about that while shooting and while making the final selects. The space itself changes with two models as well.
This is really the turning part of the series. The White Witch was the death and rebirth, The Sun Queen was the calm before the storm. The subtle sun and warmth of the series opening up and The Queen's of Vines is the blood of the series. Strange how that all wraps together like that. Blood was something I wanted to incorporate into the series somehow and red is that best interpretation of it. This is it, this is the blood of the series the elements from before coming together with the elements of the future of the garden.
24 hours later and I have selected, the re-selected, edited and re-edited, combed through every detail and finally have chosen and edited the final selects for the beautiful Queen's of Vines.