Adventures in make-up: the problem with brushes

Make-up brushesI started my adventures in make-up with a large face brush, a blush brush, an eyeshadow brush and whatever applicators came with the few products I owned.

I thought I was doing pretty well.

I was quickly disabused of this notion by Google and YouTube. If you want to apply make-up artfully, they said, then you need the right brushes. The better the brush, they said, the better the result. And the key to a natural look is really, really good brushes and a hell of a lot of blending. They said.

Bearing in mind that my first visit to Mecca Maxima for a consultation on a ‘simple’ day look entailed the use of 11 different brushes and scared me silly, I approached this advice with some caution. Continue reading


Eating clean: definition pending

frozen berries
Berries. Love ’em. Also, they’re clean. Apparently.
I’m going to be completely upfront here: I have no clear idea what ‘clean eating’ means. I think that’s at least partly because it means different things to different people. But mostly, I think it’s because, objectively, it doesn’t actually mean anything at all. Continue reading

Sunlight: portrait of an American lady

John White Alexander, Sunlight, 1908

John White Alexander was an American painter who began his career as a political cartoonist and illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. Known particularly for his society portraits, he was considered one of America’s foremost artists during his lifetime, but after his death in 1919 he dropped quickly out of fashion.

‘Sunlight’ shows a young woman standing with her back to us, streaks of sunlight raking across her gown. The curve of her neck and the folds of her gown create a graceful sweep; the soft palette and rich tones lend a lyrical quality to a deceptively simple composition. The background is muted, the brushstrokes sketchy; the focus is on the central figure, and the play of sunlight on her gown. It is, I think, quite lovely, both luminous and luxurious, if a little sentimental.

The painting was lauded at the time (it was completed in 1909) for the  ‘Americanness’ of its subject and execution. This was in stark contrast to the self-conscious cosmopolitanism of earlier works painted while Alexander was studying and living in Europe. I’m not sure what makes it  distinctly ‘American’; whether it’s the nationality of the painter or the subject, the style, or the fact that it was painted on American soil. Very probably a combination of all three; America’s artistic identity was still forming, and would not be clearly articulated for some time to come.

This week in stupid: Sarah Palin is not a scientist

imageYou’ve got to give Sarah Palin props for consistency. She is wrong about pretty much every issue she takes on – whether that’s evolution, US foreign policy or climate change. And now she’s taking on Bill Nye the Science Guy.

At the invitation-only premiere of the climate denialist film  Climate Hustle on Capitol Hill – an event hosted by Lamar Smith, the Republican Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee – Sarah Palin had this to say:

Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am. He’s a kids’ show actor. He’s not a scientist.

Continue reading

Dappled art: Renoir

Nude in the Sunlight
Auguste Renoir, Nude in the Sunlight, 1876

My first trip to Paris was brief; I only had enough time for one gallery. (One! in Paris!) I’ve loved Impressionism since I was a child, so I chose the Musee d’Orsay.

I was not actually a huge fan of Renoir before this visit, although I understood his contribution to the Impressionist movement and had been taught to appreciate his handling of light and his rich colour palette. I quickly discovered reproductions do not do him (or anyone, really) justice. I still find much of his work is not to my taste, but this portrait is an exception: luminous, sensual and timeless.