Jul 27, 2011

Paint Brushes and Airbrushing.


Margaret Olley - 24 June 1923 - 26 July 2011

There are a suprising number of good things about being on the road to work at 6 in the morning.  Besides the traffic (or lack of it), I had the chance to listen to a radio interview the late artist Margaret Olley gave at her Paddington home / studio.  I am not an art expert but Olley was one of Australia's most talented female artists, more recently famous for her still life work.  She has been a very generous benefactor to the Australian art scene too donating her own works to many galleries across the nation.

The radio interview was fascinating.  Then 78, Olley took her interviewer through her lushly decorated townhouse. After she had greeted him at the door and graciously took the bunch of flowers he offered her.  The house sounded like a series of scenes and props for her work.  There were flowers and vases everywhere as well as cold cups of coffee and full ashtrays.  Each room had four or so canvases casually arranged within, Olley would just move around the rooms lead by season and her temperament.  As she got older, she hardly left her house to paint, relying on what was around her, her memory and the changeing light in her house with the season and time of day for inspiration.  Hence the need for all house guests to arrive at the front door with a bunch of flowers.

Imagine if blogging was an artistic medium akin to painting.  There'd be a laptop or desktop in every room of my house with objects of inspiration waiting to be written about (or to be ordered online).  I'd never leave a cup of coffee to get cold though or smoke, perhaps I'm not an artist at the same level.

On a personal note, Olley revealed the source of her success.  It was to have 'just one person who believed in me'.  In her case, it was her mother, but the artist went on to say that 'all we need is that one person ... lover, parent, sibling...'  She also was continually striving to push her boundaries and that sometimes involved 'painting over' parts of her work she thought were the best part of the piece, 'often that's what needs to go, you see'. 

It struck me then that for many artists, their work is both an execution of their great skill but also an expression of their internal journey.  That art changes lives and life also changes art.  The gift to those that view the final work is that there are two journeys being offered - the artists as well as their own.

Margaret Olley died at the age of 88, in her townhouse and in the middle of preparing her work for a major show.  I know that the world will mourn her passing, but she died on her terms, in sound mind and body and doing what she loved most in the world.  I'm happy for her that it ended this way.

From birdsdecoratebranches.blogspot.com
One of the ads that fell foul of the ASA
Moving right along.  From paint brushes to airbrushing.  In the UK, 2 L'Oreal Paris ads have been pulled by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for false claims about just how much two of their foundations can do to a real woman's skin without the added benefits of extreme airbrushing. 

The women at the centre of the ads are Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington.  Two beautiful women who I suspect look better than most of us even without makeup.  But whose digitally unaltered faces still didn't meet the exacting standards of L'Oreal's advertising campaigns. 

There is one part of me who applauds the ASA and their stance on the increasingly unreal world of 'natural beauty' in the cosmetic industry.  But there is another part of me that is able to just look at these ads, take them at face value (pardon the pun) and think how lovely the model looks in the ad.  Without beating myself up for not looking the same no matter how much I spend on cosmetics and how much of it I wear. 

Am I alone in being able to separate my self image and self confidence from the high gloss, super perfect world of advertising?  I don't buy cosmetics with the aim of looking air brushed perfect.  I take the generally vague and imprecise claims of the make up houses with a whole salt pig's worth of salt and buy products which make me look better and don't break me out in hives.

What are your views?  I'm not a mother so perhaps I don't see the same self esteem issues that unrealistic magazine advertising has on young women's psyche.  Yet I did grow up surrounded by media images of unrealistic women.  But perhaps air brushing and photo editing was not as sophisticated  back in the day.


  1. Hi girl:)
    Love your new design¨:)
    Have a great week girl....


  2. I think that it's a bit of an overkill to pull a cosmetics ad for being too airbrushed or whatever it was. Like you I wouldn't expect to come out the other side of the makeup brush looking like Julia. Maybe we have that elusive quality called common sense. Too nanny state for my liking. And I have never used the term in conversation, until now. Not one to throw it around all the time... Just so you know.

    And I'm off to find out more about the artist you wrote so beautifully about. You've peaked my interest. Very much so.

  3. oooh, oooh, look at you in your new blog clothes!! Grrooooowlll ... (oh, hang one, Zebra's don't growl)

  4. Margaret Olley was an amazing artist and such an amazing benefactor. Her donations have been pivotal for some art galleries. I love hearing people who share their wealth where they can. She really was a national treasure.

    I personally hate overly airbrushed ads, not because I can't differentiate what I should look like, but because it doesn't really show the product! Like the "false eyelash" mascara where you can clearly see the model is wearing false eyelashes with her mascara. It makes me feel like I'm being treated like a moron by the companies. All I ask is for them to treat me as an adult who can make decisions based on real information.

  5. Margaret Olley was a great Australian - one whom we can all learn something from. Her works were simply beautiful.

    As for airbrushing - I do believe it's getting a bit ridiculous. I agree with Lisa in regards to mascara ads, I've even seen a fine print disclaimer that the model was wearing false lashes and not to expect similar results. Isn't advertising to display what their product can do? Not fantasy.

  6. Keely and Lisa: agree about the mascarr ads.

    Leanne: thank you :-)

    Melissa: here's to common sense.

    SP: hope things are making sense in Norway at the moment.

    SSG xxx

  7. I am so happy to hear that somewhere something is being done about airbrushing! Now it's time to tackle the ridiculous culling of flesh from model's thighs so we can all start to feel normal again!! x


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