EST. 2009

September 24, 2021

These Poetic Lakes


POPULARIZED BY THE ENGLISH POET William Wordsworth and the rest of the group that has come to be known as the Lake Poets, the Lake District is a region in North West England famed for its beautiful lakes, forests, and fells. The district is Wordsworth’s hometown, which he returned to later in life, and in which he wrote some of his most notable poems.

In the Lakes, Wordsworth saw the aesthetics of nature as being but one of its many admirable features. While he wrote about nature's beauty with enthusiasm, he also contemplated its relation to the human experience, pondering such topics as mortality and the loss of childhood innocence through “meadow, grove, and stream…” along with other natural representations.

The poetry that drew visitors to the Lakes, ironically became, in Wordsworth’s opinion, the very same thing that destroyed what made it special. In spite of this, he penned a travellers’ guidebook to the region, heralded for its relationship to Romantic literature, as well as its influence on 19th-century geography.

“The Guide is multi-faceted. It is a guide, but it is also a prose-poem about light, shapes, and textures, about movement and stillness ... It is a paean to a way of life, but also a lament for the inevitability of its passing” described Wordsworth’s biographer Stephen Gill.

Learning about the guide after my own visit to the Lakes makes me wish I had read it beforehand. But alas, what better excuse is there for simply paying another visit!

I loved: morning runs and evening walks by the banks of Bowness-on-Windermere, driving a boat at Ullswater, and swimming at Buttermere.

Lake District, Cumbria. lakedistrict.gov.uk

August 19, 2021

That Wild Lounging


IT WAS ON THIS PARTICULAR SUMMER that I went wild swimming for the first time, which naturally drew me to Rachael Gan's Wild Lounging illustration of a young woman floating in a lake. The illustration forms part of the artist's Summer Series: nine digital illustrations created in summer 2021.

I consider the series Rachael's first body of work reflecting artistic perspective and personal style. Having had the privilege to witness her begin to dabble in illustration, and eventually develop into an illustrator, the collection feels very much like a debut, made with all the buoyant feelings of summer no less.

Here, I chat with Rachael about her craft.


LSP: What inspired you to start illustrating?

RG: I’ve always loved visual art - going to galleries to admire art and discover new artists. And,in my every day realm, appreciating the aesthetic and cleverness of artworks and illustrations in books and magazines.

The turning point in my illustration journey was lockdown 2020. Prior to then, I’d dabbled in art through weekend and evening classes but I identified as more of an art appreciator than a creator. During the lockdown, I found (like many of us) that I had much more free time at home. And with that time, I was motivated to draw more, and create original artworks. I also took a course in Enhanced Illustration through Central St Martins. The frequent practice helped me grow my skillset and confidence to the point where I now think of myself as an illustrator and creator.


LSP: Do you have a favorite medium to work with? Any styles and subjects you gravitate to?

RG: In terms of mediums, I love painting with watercolor for its looseness and unpredictability. I also really enjoy drawing with ink pens. You can’t pause for too long when you’re drawing with ink since it will pool, so the lines are always very fluid and elegant. My other favorite medium is digital - illustrating on an iPad with an apple pencil using Procreate (software), there are just so many possibilities!

In terms of subjects, I gravitate to scenes that evoke joy. The Summer Series of prints I just completed were based on my own excitement this summer for warm days, particularly following our challenging winter lockdown in the UK. With the summer series, I wanted to create scenes that evoked a nostalgia for summers gone and joy for summers to come - with brightness, serenity as well as intrigue.


LSP: Describe your process. How has this differed before, and since the pandemic?

RG: My process is still changing. However, right now, it involves: Deciding on the subject of the illustration.
Finding reference images and collaging them into a mood/inspiration board. Then, I’ll roughly draw a few different compositions for the subject, and select the one I like most for the underdrawing of the actual illustration.

Once I’ve decided on the rough composition, I’ll set a target date for completing the work. And then it’s quite an organic process. I’ll draw, paint, and create to complete the work by that date, making decisions and changes as I go. Deadlines help me focus, so I like to set myself timelines even if they’re somewhat arbitrary, both for my own work as well as client commissions.

Lastly, I’ll refine. With a physical work, there’s a limit on the number of tweaks I’ll make once the first pass is done. With digital works, I may continue to tweak for weeks (or months) after.


LSP: How do you stay motivated?

RG: As a new illustrator, I’m still experimenting and working out my style. Setting goals helps me stay motivated. I’ll say to myself "This month, I want to make an NFT." or "Next month, I want to create a large mixed media work." And then I’ll work to do it, often watching lots of youtube/skillshare tutorials to learn techniques, and looking at other illustrators’ work for inspiration and alternative perspectives. I love seeing what other artists and illustrators are creating, both in galleries and on instagram. My social media usage has gone up a lot since I became an illustrator.

LSP: What advice would you give to new artists?

RG: Try all the mediums. Create often. You learn the most through doing. You’re not going to love everything you make. This is advice I also often give myself.


Wild Lounging, Some Sweet Things, and Beach Days 2 by Rachael Gan. Shop the prints at rachaelgan.com

July 26, 2021

That Seaside Thrill


I CAN NEVER QUITE DECIDE WHO FASCINATES ME MORE. The talented Tom Ripley, with his dexterity to deceive, or the reckless but captivating Dickie Greenleaf, with his luscious looks and lavish lifestyle. How I feel about each character remains unchanged since first seeing the film in the 90s. I rewatch it over two decades later to find myself still enthralled by both Tom and Dickie's flair for amorality.

Of course, Anthony Minghella's touch makes it all attractive. Filmed in various villages on the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida, the fictional Mongibello provides a sumptuous setting for the sun-soaked thriller based on Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel. Casting helps too, with some notable performances by Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, and Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Marge Sherwood as the perfect sweetheart and foil to Tom and Dickie's darker personas.

Although I consider René Clément's 1960 film version as one of my all-time favorite films, in part for starring Alain Delon, Minghella's adaptation entrances me just as well. The main characters are both truly vile, and yet both characters, in both films, demonstrate the deceptive powers of beauty and affluence.

There is no question as to how The Talented Mr. Ripley earned its way into summer film lists everywhere. See it for a bit of suspense, and plenty of splendor.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, 1999. Directed by Anthony Minghella.

June 18, 2021

This Monochrome Summer

IN JAPANESE ART, BIJIN-GA ARE PICTURES OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, usually rendered in woodblock prints predating photography. Many contemporary artists from all over the world put their own spin on the genre, including Japanese illustrator and 1980s icon Ichiro Tsuruta.

Born in 1954 in the Kumamoto Prefecture, Tsuruta majored in graphic design at the Tama Art University in Tokyo. Hyperrealism was the trend at the time and he proceeded to create artwork in the style.

Tsuruta achieved fame in the late 80s when his work sparked a “Cosmetic Renaissance” through advertisements for Japanese cosmetics brand Noevir. Over the next decade, Tsuruta's bijin-ga found themselves on national TV and in Japanese publications, eventually too in international galleries.

With a focus on female beauty, Tsuruta's illustrations naturally feature the face, but also place an emphasis on hands and accessories. As such, I found them fitting inspiration for my own content with British jewellery brand Estella Bartlett.



My take on Tsuruta's fashion portraits:



It's my second summer styling for Estella Bartlett, and what a lovely year it's been, working with delicate pieces in shifting trends. Ichiro Tsuruta's Monochrome Summer, with its bare arms, white accessories, and over-the-shoulder gaze, provides the perfect mood for summertime styles in the city.

Illustrations by Ichiro Tsuruta, tsuruta-bijinga.com Photos by Lady San Pedro. Shop the pieces at estellabartlett.com

May 18, 2021

That Sculpted Space






I WAS ALREADY A FAN OF ABSTRACT SCULPTURE when I visited the Brancusi studio in Paris, but doing so inspired me on a new level. Just a cartwheel away from the Centre Georges Pompidou, the art gallery is an exact recreation of the artist’s atelier, where he lived and worked from 1904 until his death in 1957.

The studio houses a collection of over a thousand items, including 137 sculptures and 87 bases. Among them are the elegant Tête de Narcisse, the highly geometric Colonnes sans Fin, the abstracted golden Leda, a few Mlle Poganys, and a number of Le Coqs.

While the sculptures are notable works on their own, their meticulous arrangement within the studio heightens the experience of them. Brancusi actually stopped creating sculptures towards the end of his life, instead focusing on how the works are grouped in their spaces. He called them “mobile groups” and revised their positions daily, resulting in a studio that served not only as a place of work, but a work of art in its own right.


Brancusi's influence in my own home:



My own flat increasingly reflects Brancusi's influence, through primitive carvings, and vases inspired by abstract sculpture. I don't re-group them daily as Brancusi did with his works, but I reposition them often enough to derive new experiences from their arrangement.

Atelier Brancusi, Paris, centrepompidou.fr Photos by Lady San Pedro.

April 28, 2021

That Strong Staple




DEVELOPED FOR SOLDIERS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR, the trench coat transcended its original purpose to become a timeless and fashionable wardrobe staple. Cinema reflects the fact, with countless iconic characters wearing the garment through film history.

In Robert Benson's 1979 screen adaptation of Avery Corman's Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman both appear in trench coats at different points in their story of separation. The wardrobe choice feels significant, as the film touches on gender roles and the rights of women, juxtaposed with the rights of fathers, as well as the inherent hostility of custody battles. 

Particularly for Streep's character, Joanna is first seen packing her trench coat rather than wearing it. She is only shown wearing her coat once she returns to town, having regained her lost self esteem. Kramer vs. Kramer almost treats the garment as a symbol of strength, that both characters draw upon through their difficult experience.

I first saw Kramer vs. Kramer in a Screen Art class back in university. I loved it then, and I love it now, for its low-key artistry, touching themes, and brilliant acting. Might I also mention the superb styling.


The trench coat as a staple in my own wardrobe:



This spring, I acquired a new trench coat to see me through the volatile British transition into summer. Though I wear it with much less symbolism than the characters in films do, the piece is ever iconic, and gives the appearance of strength. Strong ladies represent!

Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979. Directed by Robert Benson. Trench coat from whistles.com

March 24, 2021

That New Formula


THIS MONTH MARKS MY LOCKDOWN ANNIVERSARY which means I have been living, playing, and working from home for most of the past 12 months. In London, we are currently on our third lockdown, with restrictions eased in varying degrees last summer, and briefly before Christmas.

It's an uneventful anniversary, and appropriately so. But it is in no way insignificant. A year ago this month, I shared in the collective fear, shock, and panic that overtook the world, expecting the worst, and watching them materialize in the seasons to come. Fortunate enough to stay in good health, I quickly missed the pleasures of the city, the people in my life, and the day-to-day experience of leaving home to co-exist with other individuals. I continue to miss these.

"They always say time changes things but you actually have to change them yourself." riffs pop art pioneer Andy Warhol in his autobiography The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. What has changed since the first lockdown? For me, I've had to redefine things: freedom, success, friendship. Where freedom was previously about mobility and the absence of commitments, it has become the capacity to choose my responses and reactions. Where success was decked out in glamor, it has become centered on physical and mental health. Where friendship was fostered by the sharing of life's experiences, it has become the sharing of life's inexperiences, because well, it's all one big blur sometimes.

On the practical side, I've also redefined what it means to eat well and dress well on the daily. I've swapped out lavish recipes with quick-prep choices, and integrated workout wear with working from home. The new formula comprises ingredients I can throw together, and clothing I can stretch and lounge in, accessorized with on-trend jewellery. I've never been more comfortable.

Whether like me, you are on your lockdown anniversary, or already savoring post-lockdown freedom in your part of the world, know that any time is a good time to redefine aspects of your life. And once you get around to it, I hope it makes you feel more comfortable and free.

Textured Ear Cuff, Hoop Earrings with White CZ, Snake Chain Necklace, and Horseshoe Hinge Necklace from Estella Bartlett. Shop the pieces at https://estellabartlett.com

February 25, 2021

These Figural Feelings

Rokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design postersRokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design posters
Rokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design postersRokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design posters

ALTHOUGH THE BASIC EMOTIONS CAN BE REDUCED to just four: happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, scientists have found as many as 27 categories of emotions including very specific ones such as aesthetic appreciation, craving, and entrancement. It goes without saying that lockdowns and pandemic events elicit many of these emotions, in combination and in succession, even more so than pre-pandemic circumstances do. 

How poetic in fact, to recognize the many nuances produced by our neurophysiology.

When I came across Rokas Alelunias' posters, I felt delighted to see my own myriad of emotions visualized, in a style that sparks my own aesthetic appreciation. Here, I speak to the artist about his work; the posters he started making out of boredom, and developing a more personal visual language.


LSP: What motivated you to start designing daily posters?

RA: To be honest; stress and anxiety. I just needed something to do to calm my mind.

LSP: Your posters reflect a few different art styles, what is your inspiration for these styles?

RA: I really love trying and learning new things, and if I see something really interesting I want to emulate, deconstruct the process and ideas behind it. I think at first it was more about doing and learning, but over the years some of the styles transitioned to my own visual language that is more about expressing what I feel and what is meaningful for me, different ideas - different styles. I am really interested in lino-printing, wood printing, cut outs and I usually dwell into Greek mythology, Biblical stories, figures and forms.

LSP: Do you have a favorite artwork that you made?

RA: I don't have the ones I love, but there are some that I hold really dear to me, because of the certain things that happened in my life at that moment. 

LSP: How has the Covid pandemic impacted your creative process? Were there any changes?

RA: It's a little bit harder to find new and interesting ideas, because it's been quite a while since I meet people in real work. Lately, I feel like boiling in my own sup - the same ideas swirling around and nothing new. It's hard to find things that would really inspire me.

LSP: What advice would you give to new artists?

RA: I don't have one, but thinking about, maybe it would be something like. You do you. Be honest to yourself and make decisions that feels right for you. It's definitely a bumpy road ahead, but if you trip you won't regret it.


Diva, Love Sick, Self-love, and Willpower by Rokas Aleliunias. Shop the posters at casualpolarbear.com/posters

January 21, 2021

These London Strangers


FROM THE VERY FIRST SCENE OF A CROWDED LONDON STREET, Jude and Natalie in slow motion, Damian Rice singing a cappella, I was captivated. I was a teenager when I first saw Mike Nichols' Closer, long before I would be living in London, or experiencing the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting nature of adult entanglements.

Based on Patrick Marber's 1997 play of the same name, Closer is a series of dialogues between four characters, whose chance encounters lead them into obsessive and unhealthy relationship patterns with each other. Set in London, the film emphasizes the rarity of romantic closeness, by juxtaposing crowded scenes with moments of intimacy. "Hello, stranger." says Natalie Portman's character when she and Jude Law's character first meet. In a sea of anonymous faces, your stranger stands out.

Closer has always been a favorite film, but even more so these days as I better relate to its themes, and miss the pre-pandemic London that I love. Seeing familiar streets with unmasked commuters, the theatre with its intermission crowds, galleries on opening night with urbanites and roaming wait staff; I feel nostalgia for what used to be "my normal" before quickly becoming "the new normal". And nostalgia for people who used to be "my stranger" before quickly becoming strangers again.

Watch it for: the memorable dialogue, the timeless costume design, Jude Law in the early 2000s. Love it for: the fairly accurate chance encounters, and the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting entanglements they inspire.

Closer, 2004. Directed by Mike Nichols.
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