Marie Magdalene “Marlene” Dietrich became the subject of my Rumble House painting last evening. It was a lovely crowd who showed up after Rich and Jess being featured in both a Metro piece and a CBC live painting experience this past week.
I’ve done a few little sketches based on the 30s ladies since Rumble opened. I always thought of my own mother as being pretty glamorous, absolutely loving the evenings in the 50s when she would dawn her satin and crinolines and join Dad for her New Years Eve celebrations. I loved how she penciled over her eyebrows and traced her lips with her lipstick. There was never a woman who worked harder in her home and with her children, but she could seamlessly transform herself for those special evenings, sewing every outfit so that it looked store-bought. I remember when she was pregnant for my brother Stuart, how she sewed a black accordion pleated top in shimmering black and edged it in rabbit’s fur. She wore a simple black pearl pendant. Oh my goodness, she was beautiful!
I liked the particular approach to photography at the time. In fact, last evening, photographer, Francis A. Willey was in attendance at Rumble House and completed one of a series of confessional paintings. His photographs are well known around Calgary and he has achieved international recognition for his diverse talents. I’ve met him at a number of events in the city and it was great to see him out. His photographs include a body of work that features this particular sort of romanticism that I am writing about.
I chose Marlene Dietrich as a subject because she is such an icon of the period, however, in only an hour and fifteen minutes, the piece is a gesture of what the reference demanded. I liked the process of moving quickly from the darkest darks into the light, although, the sketch is hard edged in comparison to a studio piece that would involve the application of more layers and washes. I liked working beside Melanie who was working on a portrait in water colour pencils, with tremendous success. She had a very positive energy and sitting next to the turn table, listening to hypnotic and sexy tunes, we had a beautiful evening of it. Thanks to friend, Bana, for her purchase of this piece at auction.