Sunday, November 30, 2008


I am trying to work on some new paintings but I can't concentrate-ugh! Instead, I cannot stop thinking about the famous painter, inventor, fashion designer, textile designer,photographer, theatre set designer and all around amazing Mariano Fortuny(1871-1949)who lived in Venice, Italy and had an amazing studio/warehouse/workshop there.

His dress designs were influenced by the ancient Greek pleated shifts as well as the Medieval European flowing velvet gowns. His designs were copied by his contempories and you can see his influence in the fashions of today as well.

I first saw some of his pieces when I went to work at the Indianapolis Children's Museum ages ago. I went there to work the artifacts in the Collections department. I built mannequins to fit the gorgeous textiles so that they would not be damaged. One of my first assignments was an actual Fortuny Gown! Fortuny is known for amazing pleated silks and silk screened velvet-this gown had both. It was love at first sight. Here is the famous "Gryphon Gown" dressed with the mannequin I made.

It is a crazy story as to how the museum came to have it. It happens that a teacher at a local high school found 2 amazing gowns in the costume closet of the theatre department. She thought they were interesting and donated them to the museum. On closer inspection, the curators at the museum realized that they were geniune FORTUNYS! They have his labels inside and everything. Since then, we have lent them out other museums in the area-what a find! The museum also has several other Fortunys that I have been lucky enough to work with-what a dream!

Fortuny also invented the dimmer switch to be used in theatre but most people now have dimmers in their homes. To me, this just means that a creative mind goes all over the place and why shouldn't it? He also invented one of the first artist's taberates-a simple device to hold your art supplies as well as a lamp-of course he did! One of the most hilarious photographs I ever saw of Fortuny shows him in his office surrounded by books with his head on his desk and his eye closed-he is either passed out or napping. I would be tired too. He was also one of the first portrait photographers-again, why not?

A dear friend also has the "Fortuny Madness" and gave me the gift of lifetime for my birthday a few years back. I opened a huge box to find a teal silk gown that she had made for me! It is in a Medieval style, but has a lighter aqua pleated fabric underskirt and she used the same fabric to line the sleeves because she knew I would LOVE it! It is so FORTUNY! She even made a matching drawstring bag! She trimmed the sleeves of the dress and made a belt for it out of vintage sari trim that just glitters and shimmers. This gown is a dream come true. She also kept in mind the gown in Waterhouse's "Miranda" as I just love this painting too. I give her an A+++++++++!

All hail that crazy creative Fortuny! His fashions live on in modern designers like Mary McFadden and more. More recently, I have become infatuated with this Anna Sui dress I saw online at the Anthropologie website-love the Fortuny-like pleating, the soft silk velvet, the gorgeous beaded detail at the hem. Ah Fortuny, I love everything you ever did! Here are some more images of his great works and works influences by his greatness.
This is the dress I am MAD for!

And again-

And, more Fortuny goodness-

Back to drawing and painting!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New in my Etsy Shop

I have finally gotten around to adding some new pieces to my etsy shop "Art by Merle" at
Here are a few of the pieces. More at my shop!

This past Fall was overwhelming. I haven't really gotten into making Winter Holiday art like in years past and I have kind of run out of time. I will be painting Snow Queens this Spring!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creative Blogger Award!

Much Thanks to Anne, Bulles dorees of for this Creative Blogger Award!

If you haven't checked out her blog, please do. It is such an inspiration to me-full of faeries, magic, colours, textures,whimsy, dreams-my favourite things!

So, I am supposed to pass this on to 4 other blogs-hard! I find so much art inspirational! So, here are my picks. I thank all the art and blogs out there for keeping me going!

OK, so I can't count!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Portraits-Happy, Happy!

I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of two dear friends at the beginning of October. They were married in the garden area of a gorgeous historic mansion. The bride wore stunning teal silk velvet gown in a medieval style that was lined in gold fabric and trimmed in a gorgeous lace and beadwork that one of our very talented friends, Lisa Gill of Artefex Designs and also a talented graphic designer, made. I still can't really phathom how she did it!

Our friend Jen of Parrish Relics ( made the bride's Fleur de Lys necklace(in honour of the bride's hometown Louisville,KY), earrings and gorgeous chain and Tudor Rose stained glass belt(in honour of the groom who is from England) which was gorgeous! I was lucky enough to make the brides beaded headpiece from glass and crystal beads in all the colours used throughout the wedding-teal, aqua, gold, cream and peach-what an honour.

The whole mansion was decorated in Peacock feathers and the colours of Peacock feathers-my favourites as well. There was a harpist and glowing turquoise lanterns set on tables outside. It was just a beautiful evening and such a heartfelt event.

As a gift for the bride and groom, I did a watercolour/mixed media painting portrait. What was different about this portrait was that the couple loves the poem "The Owl and the Pussycat" so I depicted them as the Owl and the Pussycat which was so much fun. I tried to incorporate some the gorgeous details from their wedding as well as images from the poem. Many blessing for a long and happy future together for this "Owl and Pussycat"!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ophelia Siren Child

I am still on a photo kick and have more I want to try and do. It has been raining all week and I want to take some outside. I think I am finally getting the hang(a bit) of my new digital camera(knock on wood). I am a slow learner as far as all that goes.

I have always loved the Pre-Raphealite images of "Ophelia" and this time took a batch of photos in my bathtub! They crack me up as I know what was going on behind the scenes. I need to stop laughing at my art though. There are some other "Ophelia" and "Lady of Shallot" photos I took out on the East Coast with my old camera and film. These were hard to take too, but I just can't get enough of this theme. I have always loved the Arthurian Legends and have always loved swimming and mermaids. Next will have to be some underwater/mermaid photos somehow. The last time I took some of these were with film.

I need to start painting and making dolls again. It is always hard for me to switch from one medium to the other-always really, really hard-like pulling teeth! I don't know the remedy for this. New beginnings, big or small, are always hard for me!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Self Portraits

I was lucky enough to be invited to be in the Book 1 of the Female Self Portrait Artist Support Group's Book and now have been asked back for Book 2. I originally began taking self portraits with a little 1969 manual Pentax 35mm camera my Dad gave me and took photographs of myself because I was alone a lot and had all these crazy Fairy Tale ideas in my head. It turns out I am not so alone in these ideas! Here is the link to the first book. Someone once asked me, "How do you take photos of yourself?!". My answer? Don't be afraid to make a fool out of yourself!