Tag Archives: art

The Future Dimensions

From The Artistry of 3D, now we’ve got fashion with a futuristic edge. With graphic shapes and neon colours, we’re pushing forward to the era of science fiction, the kind of world which first spawned the idea of 3D printers.

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As soon as I knew I was going to write about 3D printers, I knew I wanted to put together a futuristic, scifi-inspired outfit. This immediately made me think of graphic, brightly coloured shapes and prints. My mum passed down this Claude Montana dress a while ago, but I’ve always been too terrified to wear it because of the fluorescent colour, but for this it was perfect, reminiscent of The Fifth Element almost. I accessorised with extremely shiny black nails and Office shoes, trying to bring an element of plasticity to the whole thing, being the material which is firstly one of the most commonly used in 3D printing, and also one of the most popular materials of modern times. The gold Accessorize  cuffs were added partially to stop it all looking like Halloween dress up, and partially for the graphic edge they added.

I wanted to play with the editing of the photos, partially inspired by Nick Knight’s iPhone editing, and so (after downloading about six different Glitch apps) I settled on using Glitch.Simply to bring a distorted post-modern edge to the whole thing, as it was ridiculously easy to use (hence the name), and also created a kind of ‘printer error’ effect that I thought fit very well with the theme. Especially as this look was put together and shot quite hastily due to my exams, I thought it’d be good to try and add something different to the look through the editing process.

I really like this outfit – I think however I’d maybe want to develop it slightly more before it would be a very good ‘night out’ outfit, possibly by experimenting with different shoes and nail colours, and looking at other accessories. Even so, I’m very glad I finally put the amazing dress to use!


This look was shot in South Kensington by my lovely friend Noor, who’s been an absolute star at helping me out (slightly easier as she lives in the same building as me!).

Even though I’ve finished exams, I’m still bogged down by project work at the moment, meaning that things are still a bit rough around the edges – but I now have time to actually do something, which is an improvement on last week! Hopefully in the next few weeks the quality of my posts will be improving massively, as I’ll have far more free time on my hands, so you can look forward to that. 

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The Artistry of 3D

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3D printing has opened so many new doors in the scientific world. From everything from engineering to medicine, now scientists can create new parts for machines and people at the click of a button, drastically reducing manufacturing costs (once you’ve bought the ridiculously expensive 3D printer, of course). But now prices are dropping, and you can even find instructions online on how to build a basic 3D printer in your home, and of course, there’s always the concept of renting or borrowing a 3D printer and printing a 3D printer with it. Either way, this once elusive and science fiction object is become more and more of a reality day-by-day.

Of course, there have been a large amount of worries surrounding the fact that is becoming increasingly easy to download plans for anything off the internet, and print it yourself. Will people just stop buying things completely, and high street shops go into a downward economic spiral? It seems unlikely, although there’s sure to be a shift towards more personalised products as it becomes easier and cheaper for companies to produce one off items through 3D printing.

But what about people printing things they can’t find in high street stores – things like guns, and other weapons. Already there is a group based in America called Defense Distributed who have created a working, fully 3D printed plastic gun. It’s a worrying thought that nearly anyone could print out a working gun that would be undetectable to metal detectors (legally Defense Distributed have to insert a block to metal into all their guns so that they can be detected by metal detectors, but who’s to say that every person who 3D prints a gun will be so law abiding).

But whilst there’s been a lot of worry surrounding the danger of 3D printing, and excitements surrounding the technical and scientific breakthroughs it could bring, there’s been less focus on the amazing new format it gives to artists. For the first time in history you can create a picture-perfect sculpture – scan anything you like in, and print it exactly as it. What photography was for the visual arts, 3D printing is for sculpture. And just like photography did, it opens up new avenues; both by opening up sculpture to a whole new realm of artists, but also through the ability to edit sculpture. Instead of working for months to try and create a perfect representative of the real world, 3D printing allows artists to capture reality instantly, and then do with it what they will – destroy it completely and build it up even more. Whether it be digital customisation before you print the sculpture, or whether you print as is and edit after, it opens up a whole new world within sculpture that the other visual arts experienced at the dawn of photography. And look how many amazing artists of the past century were photographers – will the coming century spawn it’s own generation of 3D printing artists?

There are some who are already using this new material. Nick Knight and SHOWstudio have used 3D scanning in many of their projects, both 3D printing the final images, or purely using the scans themselves to create strange ‘more-than-2D, less-than-3D’ images, things which are almost fractal, but one dimension up. Iris van Herpen created the first 3D printed garments to grace the catwalk. There are so many artists from so many walks of life now using 3D printing as their medium, and their numbers will only grow as it becomes more accessible.

3D printing is literally something out of a science fiction novel, and although it brings with it so many opportunities, it also brings a large amount of responsibility. Like all exciting and new technologies, it is in the end not defined by the technology itself, but by the way people use it. Let’s try and make sure we use it well, and for the right reasons.


This blog post was inspired by the Science Museum’s ‘3D: Printing the Future‘ exhibition (hence the subtitle), which you should definitely go check out, but if you can’t they’ve got lots of very interesting information about the whole thing right here. It was also partially inspired by Nick’s use of 3D scanning and printing in his work – it really opened my eyes up to a whole new way of using the medium. Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed clothing also got me so excited, and I wish I could have seen the show it was all in! However, there are many many 3D artists out there, and I do not know all of them, and couldn’t talk about each and everyone one anyway. If there are any out there whose work you really admire and love, please leave a comment below about them, as I’d love to learn more!

On the more general things: I’m back! My exams are over! (Although I’ve still got a big project going on, which is why things may still be a little rushed and hasty at the moment). It’s all very exciting, and now I will be getting back to regular posting, and I’ll also hopefully be uploading some of my older work (essays, poems, etc) soon, so you have some new stuff to peruse. 

Metamorphosis

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For millennia nature has been a source of inspiration for humanity and the artists within it. From cave paintings depicting the birds and the beasts to fertility sculptures celebrating the human form, from the earliest of times we’ve received artistic inspiration from the organic forms and beings surrounding us, to a point that many early religions were based around the worship of the natural world. And really, who can blame them? Even now, with scientific explanations for so many of the wonders of the world so many people’s belief in a divine architect stems from the mindboggling creativity and complexity of the forms that surround us. Of course, whether or not you want to invoke the celestial, the science behind some of the beauty has it’s own elegance.

Take the colour of iridescent butterflies for instance, such as the Morpho butterfly.

The fabulous Morpho butterfly.

If you haven’t had the luck to see one of these in the flesh, then you’ve most definitely seen pictures of them before, or other creatures with the same iridescent colouring. It’s easy to wonder how the hell such brilliant blues can be created through pigment alone, and that’s because there is no pigment involved. In fact, the colour of the Morpho butterfly’s wings come from the physical structure – lots of overlapping scales with grooves in – as the wings themselves are actually colourless and transparent. How could transparent scales create such vivid colours without pigment is obviously the next question, and here the answer is physics! (Although technically, physics is the answer to everything.) To try and explain it simply, the grooves in the scales cause the light to reflect off the scales at slightly different distances, means the peaks and troughs of the waves (time to remember your GCSE physics!) start to add up, causing what is called constructive interference, which causes iridescence (as it makes the light brighter and therefore the butterfly wings shinier!). The reason the butterfly appears blue is because of the spacing on the groves of the butterfly scales, which correspond to the wavelength of blue light (or well, half the wavelength, but the spacing is equal to half the wavelength).

But I digress – but that’s kind of the point. The sights and science of the natural world are so inspiring it’s hard for me now not to go on another spiel about bioluminescence. Of course, it’s easy for everyone to get inspired by nature, but it takes a true artist to be able to communicate the beauty of the world without simply replicating it, and Shaun Leane is one of the few who can do it well. Not only is he inspired by organic forms, but as an artisan jeweller he also works with organic materials, which adds a whole new element to the elemental inspiration. The new SHOWcabinet exhibition demonstrates this all, not only showing bespoke pieces of his work, but also artwork, fashion pieces and natural specimens that inspired them. From emeralds in their natural forms, to feather Philip Treacy headdresses, an actual live snake, and a Damien Hirst butterfly painting, the sources of inspiration unlocks the story behind the showpieces. It’s an inspiring exhibition, and one that I would definitely recommend that you go see, whether your interest is purely aesthetic or deeper. Just be careful not to become broke from wanting to buy it all!


If you’re based in or around London you should totally go check out the SHOWcabinet: Shaun Leane exhibition, which is held at SHOWstudio (19 Motcombe, SW1X 8LB), which just in general has awesome stuff going on in it. Even if you can’t go there (if you’re not based in London, or whatever) you should check it out online. If you like Shaun Leane‘s work, or are interested in finding out more about his life and artistic process there’s a wonderful interview of him by the fabulous Lou Stoppard which I used as a primer to write this piece.  

Pretty much everything which goes on at SHOWstudio is awesome (although I may be slightly biased), so you should follow them on twitter/tumblr/facebook and also check out their website. I love seeing all the exhibitions and things which go on there – I haven’t been to a bad one yet, and everyone there is so lovely it’s ridiculous. 

Fractal Fashion

Following on from Sunday’s ‘The Fractal Universe‘ post, this shoot was also inspired by the concept of the elegant Universe. Elegance is understated and simply, whilst being perfectly coiffed and composed, and that was exactly what I wanted this look to be like. The universe is not elegant because it tries to be, it just is, and that was what I wanted to convey.

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Right from the start I knew this was going to be a dress look because of the needed simplicity yet striking nature of the outfit – I just had no idea which dress. The right dress – if cut well and with the right fabrics – can be utterly simple and yet completely captivating. It was stuck for a while on this, it being a bit of a Goldilocks and the Three Bears problem: this one’s too complex, this one’s too simple, and this one just isn’t simple enough!

When I did find the centrepiece of the outfit though, I realised how perfectly it fit. My Edina Ronay dress, handed down from my mother, was sleek and bias cut, having that form and shape which accentuated natural beauty. The spirals burned out of the vibrantly coloured velvet panels suited the fractal theme perfectly (as although I dearly wish I had fractal patterned clothing, it is unfortunately not so), drawing together that mix of simplicity and sophistication I was looking for, mirroring the elegance of the artistry of the universe.

Keeping with the understated look, once I had decided on the dress I wanted the other pieces the accentuate but not over complicate the look. The creased black silk shawl did that, bringing a complimentary texture to the outfit, but not taking away from the dress itself. With the skimpy straps and lack of jewelry the dress definitely did need the shawl – otherwise my arms and collarbones felt far too bare, and just like expansion plains of white.

For an elegant look, heels are nearly always the way to go, as they make your legs look longer, and at least for me make me stand much better. My mother’s brown Billi Bi heels worked perfectly, once again being mute enough to not detract from the outfit.

Overall, I think the outfit really did show effortless elegance that the universe exudes, and the pseudo-fractal effect of the spirals on the dress tied in with the fractal forms of nature.


So this time for ease I’ve already linked the designers of the garments within the post! However, none of the items I’m wearing are on sale any longer, and with regards to the black silk shawl I have no idea where it’s from (and it doesn’t have a label). 

The shoot was shot in the Holy Trinity Brompton gardens in South Kensington, which are absolutely lovely this time of year. The photographer was my amazing friend Noor M Mulheron who, shock horror, has neither a twitter nor instagram(!) but whom I’m sure you’ll see on here again (seeing as I live in the same building as her and also as she’s great at that photography lark). 

The Elegant Universe

So, today was the release of an editorial I’m in! It’s called ‘The Elegant Universe‘ and published in V magazine, and was shot by Nick Knight, and styled by the lovely Amanda Harlech (and then there’s so many other awesome people who worked on it – Sam McKnight, Marian Newman – pretty much everyone was awesome).

It’s really inspired by the artistry and elegance of mathematics and beauty, and vice versa –  how maths and science turn up in art. It was such an amazing thing to shoot – firstly because I love everyone on the SHOWstudio team & co (they’re like some sort of fashion family to me), so I was comfortable with everyone and in my element, but also because (as you’ve probably realised by now) the junction between science and art is my element. If you watch the video, everything I babble on about in the video is straight from my head, no prompts or practice.

You should definitely go check it out – not least because this weeks posts are sort of inspired by the themes that inspired the shoot (or at least the tangents that I managed to babble on about, not all of which made the cut for the video). Also, because it’s turned out really well, and for all you geeks – there are 3D scans involved! It’s for both the science and the art nerds!

 

Imperial Geek Chic

Geek chic is a look that has been done many times, and all too often seems to revolve around a pair of glasses and a button-up shirt. Although I wanted to keep elements of this, I also wanted to portray the modern ‘geek’, someone who is more than just books and libraries, someone who I would identify with, and whose outfit I would want to wear. I also didn’t want the look to be too androgynous or masculine as too often intelligent women are seen as intelligent despite their femininity, whereas in fact many are both  intelligent AND feminine – one does not negate the other.

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Even though the official colour of Imperial College London is purple, we’ve got navy blue everywhere, and my deep imperial blue Uniqlo shirt was one of the first pieces I knew I wanted to include, accessorising with my brass feather necklace (a charity shop find). Initially I was going to pair this up with a pair of dark trousers – but I own mainly jeans, and as soon as I tried that ensemble on I knew it wasn’t going to work. After being stuck for a while, I opened up my cupboard to browse, and as soon as I saw the black pleated school-style Topshop skirt I knew it was meant to be.

As always, it was then the eternal question of what shoes to wear – heels to make it classy, DMs to punk it up, Converse to make it fun. In the end, I wanted to go with a strong feminine edge, so it was my (surprisingly comfy) lace up heels.

The whole look ended up being quite a slick/glam geek chic look, which I liked – it most definitely wasn’t the stereotype of the physics student stuck in the library, but the type of girl who can is intelligent and attractive, fashionable and bookish – like geek girls most definitely are.


Once again, most of the stuff I’m wearing is no longer available in stores; the Uniqlo shirt and Topshop skirt are both from previous seasons, although I’m sure you can find similar garments in store now. The brass feather necklace was a charity store find, so I have no idea where that’s from, and the heels are from Office, but from at least five years ago (if you find any like them, please tell me as they’re falling apart and I want new ones!). Finally, the backed seamed tights were from trusty old M&S who are really great when it comes to that sort of thing. 


We (meaning me and the fabulous Freya, who you should definitely follow on twitter and instagram) shot this look out and around Imperial, in an area colloquially known as ‘Albertopolis’, which encompasses the Albert Hall and the surrounding areas such as the museums. We were very lucky with the weather – about half an hour before we shot this in the dazzling sun it was raining! It’s such a great area to shoot in – there’s so much great architecture, and even the brickwork is fabulous. There’ll definitely be future shoots done around there, both because of the beauty, and because it’s right around the corner from my halls! 

 

The Da Vinci Code

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The general understanding of science in society heavily influences where and how science turns up in art. However, often that understanding is flawed, with many misconceptions. Whether it be the fact that here in Britain we start academic specialisation very early (first GCSEs, then A-levels, before down to usually a single subject at university), or simply the way that art and science are taught as mutually exclusive subjects, most people in the artistic community have little core knowledge of science through no fault of their own (although many do hold pet interests in the topic).

One of the major problems faced with people trying to get their heads around science isn’t even a problem of academic knowledge; it’s one of definition. Too often scientific terms lack clarity; the Big Bang wasn’t actually a big bang, the ‘God Particle’ doesn’t have many religious properties (apart from the fact it holds mass, hah!). If you don’t know the details of the theory (as most don’t), terms such as this can really throw the whole concept into confusion – I’ve had a number of people ask me questions about the Higgs boson, having heard of it as ‘the God Particle’, who are severely disappointed when I inform them that it isn’t actually the be-all and end-all of particles. Yeah, it’s pretty damn important, but it’s more part of a pantheon than the One True God.

Even if you do happen to understand all the terminology, you could still be doomed if you wanted to try to understand the science in more detail. Ever tried reading a scientific paper? I wouldn’t recommend it – they’re usually dry and boring, filled with equations and without any human touch. The reasons behind this writing style are valid – it can reduce bias to remove the human elements – but it creates a form which makes the media very hard to access, and difficult to get used to. The whole thing makes papers read like all experiments were performed by some kind of magic science fairy, who makes things happen with a puff of their wand, instead of actual human involvement having happened.

All this opacity within science added to the general misinformation and ignorance surrounding scientific topics means that effective scientific communication is absolutely crucial. This has been getting better in recent years – we’ve got all of Brian Cox’s programs, and then we’ve got David Attenborough as always – but there’s still a long way to go. For one thing, whilst we love our mainstream science celebrities, they don’t truly show the great variety of people who love science – that science isn’t just for scientists, it’s for artists, and musicians, and dancers, and writers: it’s for everyone. We need to demystify the language of science – to clear up the hazy metaphors, and inject some life into the whole thing. We’re in luck though, because there are people out there who do that, people who show just how varied science can be. When I went to Imperial Festival this weekend – a festival held by Imperial College London (my uni!) to showcase and celebrate so many really cool scientific things –I had the privilege of encountering so many people who went outside the stereotype of scientists being maths geeks who never leave the library. I met a doctor of material sciences who does ballet on the side (and she’s pretty damn good – she’s en pointe) with whom I made cocktails with in the name of science, a science songstress with the voice of an angle (get it???) who did the same course as I’m currently doing at Imperial, and shares my interest in the bizarre sexual habits of animals (definitely look up angler fish – you may be scarred for life, but it’s worth it!) and so many others. When people try to portray science as some dull, textbook filled subject, it might be a good idea to remind them that one of the greatest artists to walk this Earth was also one of the greatest scientists – Da Vinci! Maybe we should try and take a leaf out of his book, and add some science to the art, or perhaps some art to the science.

 


Being a student of Imperial College, I felt that this week I definitely had to write something up on the Imperial Festival, so I have! I saw so many wonderful and interesting things there, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to mention them all, as that would have become extremely cluttered. The en pointe materials scientist I mentioned is the lovely Dr Suze Kundu, whilst the science songstress is the amazing Helen Arney, who was joined by Simon Watt (Life President of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society) and Gemma Arrowsmith as part of The Science Comedy Collider. The other group of people who really helped with this piece are the wonderful Science Communications MSc students, whose talk ‘Playing with Perception’  informed the topics discussed above. 

Although Imperial Festival only happens once a year, there are events going on at Imperial College throughout the year, and at the Science Museum and Natural History Museum right next door. If you want to keep on top of all the events going on, I recommend following them on twitter at the links I’ve just given. I particularly recommend the Lates at both museums, and also the Imperial Fringe events (mini themed versions of the festival) which’ll be starting back up again in September. In the meantime, you can keep on top of imperial events by following Imperial Spark

 

Empirically Curated Art

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Imagine the scene. You’ve had a long day at work: maybe your boss was being especially cruel today, or your boyfriend broke up with you at lunch over the extra special anniversary picnic you had planned. Maybe you’ve been nominated to organise the surprise birthday party of that one person in your friend group who is just never satisfied. Whatever it is, now you’re home you just need to take a break from it all. You turn on your TV (A.I. controlled of course – everyone has one now darling), and the biosensor around your wrist bleeps once. Almost immediately, Mulan is playing on the screen in front of you, and before you know it your troubles begin to melt away as you join in singing ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ (with choreographed dance and martial arts routines, of course).

It’s actually a scenario which isn’t that improbable; one where A.I.s can gauge your mood through biosensors and respond accordingly – in this case, choosing just the right film to allow you to let out the stress of a hectic day. Of course, we’re not quite there, but a performance at the V&A last Friday – ‘Conducting Shakespeare’ – went someway towards opening the door to let us have a peek at what it might be like.

The set-up at the V&A involved four volunteers all hooked into biosensors. There was a muscle tension gauge, a heart rate monitor, a brain wave monitor (which measures electrical signals from neural activity, giving a measure of ‘emotional arousal’), and a galvanic skin monitor (measures the conductivity of the skin, which increases when we sweat). All of this data was then combined together in a linear weighted sum and interpreted by our “A.I.” in this scenario to curate the arts that would be seen and performed. However, our A.I. here has a not-so-artificial intelligence, being Alexis Kirke from Plymouth University. He was to act as conductor, orchestrating and guiding the emotions of the performance. Performance of what, you ask (although you may have guessed, given the subtitle)? Well, performances that have captured the hearts and minds of audiences for centuries – the words of the bard!

This was no ordinary performance of Shakespeare – this was to be a Shakespeare remix, with successive scenes being chosen based on the emotion reaction of the audience (as measured by the biosensors hooked up to the volunteers), the whole thing being curated by Alexis the conductor, who could then direct the path of our emotions as he liked.

We started out with a bit of light comedy, with Benedict and Beatrice’s quick-witted sparring duologue from the opening scene of Much Ado about Nothing. Romance then began to spark in the air with Juliet’s ‘Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds’ monologue, before the tone begins to turn altogether more sombre with an appearance of Hamlet in his tortured ‘Frailty, thy name is woman!’ speech. Staying sad (although with a distinct change of tone) we move to Hermione’s ‘Tell me what blessings I have here alive that I should fear to die?’ monologue from A Winter’s Tale, before back to Hamlet, although this time he is chastising Ophelia and demanding she ‘get thee to a nunnery’, ramping up the anger and bitterness.

Finally we get a reprise from all the sorrow (although anyone with knowledge of the play will find it bittersweet), as Romeo and Juliet enter and talk of love – ‘how silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night’ – before straight back to the sorrow with Queen Gertrude’s dead Ophelia monologue from Hamlet. Then we’re back to anger and annoyance with Richard II, and ‘no matter where, of comfort no man speaks’, before tricksy ambition enters the room as we see Lady Macbeth reading the letter describing Macbeth’s encounter with the three witches. Staying in the same play, the power begins to build as we see the Macbeths planning the murder of Duncan, with Lady Macbeth chastising Macbeth and telling him to ‘screw your courage to the sticking-place’, before we come full circle, and return to humour with Katharina and Petruchio duelling with words, a nice bit of comedy with allows us all to let off the tension that was building in the room – sexual innuendos will make anyone laugh, especially those of Shakespeare’s finesse – ‘my tongue in your tail’ indeed!

The performance was extremely effective – my heart was in my throat the whole time – and the eternal iambic pentameter of Shakespeare (and the brevity of the scenes) meant that even with the differing plotlines and characters, the whole thing flowed together smoothly. However, whilst the scenes were in part chosen from the data provided by the volunteers’ biosensors, a certain amount of human intuition was needed to make the whole thing run perfectly, as demonstrated by the final scene, an artistic decision on the part of the director that worked perfectly to let everyone let off some steam.

The need for this human component (instead of simply letting the conductor be an A.I.) comes down to many reasons – not least because this set-up had only been calibrated once before so the output data itself needed to be taken with a pinch of scientific salt. More so, however, the biosensors themselves can only detect the (fallible and fickle) physical symptoms of emotions, not the emotions themselves. In fact, with our limited biological understand of emotions, it’s hard to see how we could use biosensors to perfectly measure emotions (although some could argue this is the role of a combination of biosensors and fMRIs), and therefore whilst this problem still exists, the role of human understanding and intuition is crucial in this scenario.

Whilst perhaps we’re not quite at the stage to implement handy empathetic TVs, the use of measured emotional and physical responses to guide and curate performance (and other kinds of) art opens up some very interesting avenues, as demonstrated by ‘Conducting Shakespeare’ at the V&A. Imagine exhibitions where you wear headsets, and your emotional arousal if monitored as you wander through the gallery, and you get directly to things that you’d probably like based on it! The ability to empirically measure the body’s response to art is extremely interesting, and opens up the possibility of looking into things like how art affects your short-term and long-term mental health and emotional state. It’s an area that holds much potential and interest, both for the scientific and artistic communities, and as a personal interest for myself!

‘Conducting Shakespeare’ was part of a series of events held at the V&A to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. It was produced by Alexis Kirke and Peter Hinds from Plymouth University in collaboration with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, with actors Melanie Heslop and James Mack playing the female and male roles respectively. 


 

And, well, there’s my first ever blog post done! The image used in the header is part of a tie-in little shoot I did inspired by Shakespeare (it kinda turned into a femme Puck look by the end) which will be published this Wednesday. I hope you enjoyed the piece, and please comment below (I’d really appreciate concrit and suggestions)!