Archive for December, 2010

Chic Chicago attracted primarily women.  But it was also an occasion for a few males.   I drew exactly ten men in dresses during those ten months.   Six of these chose the red dress.  Now, the red dress was a slinky thing in silk crepe and you could wear it like a major expression of your inner lady-in-red, or you could regard it as useless feminine yardgoods.  A couple of casual conversational exchanges with the gentleman revealed to me which category I was dealing with: he was either gay, or so straight that this silliness didn’t faze him at all.

Because of the setting—a book store in a museum!—I couldn’t go wild with this work.  But when Wayne from Montana sat down and asked me to draw him in the red dress, I knew he was egging me on to come up with something.  Hey, full frontal nudity, fine with me, go for it.  Right, Wayne, I can do that at 11:00 p.m. at some party where the shoes and ties came off an hour ago, but not here in this pristine, sun-drenched tourist spot that takes itself verrrry seriously.

—————————————So, I did my loincloth compromise.  Still pretty funny.  His wife Ruby responded with an expression of tolerance.  But he loved it…may well have been the highlight of his day.



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Chic Chicago: The Red Dress

Chic Chicago ran from September 2008 to June 2009.  In those ten months I probably drew three hundred to four hundred visitors, every one of them wearing one of the gowns in the exhibit.  By far, the most popular dress was the red evening gown from 1938, a design attributed to the French designer Marcelle Chaumont.  It had been worn by Mrs. Howard Linn, née Lucy McCormick Blair before she donated it to the Chicago History Museum.

A long strip of fabric (silk crepe) threads itself over the left shoulder, down to the right thigh, around the back, and back up to the shoulder.  Along this route a thin loop could be slipped through a finger of the left hand, allowing the wearer to ham it up when making an entrance.  Strike that, strike “ham it up.”  Let’s say, the Lady in Red made an entrance.  At any rate, that’s the only way I could imagine this dress. Entering and, maybe waltzing.

It was the dream dress of ten-year-olds and grandma’s; of the thin and the plump; of a shrink and a house cleaner; of Muslim and Moody Bible Christian.  I’ll show a few of those happy ladies in red here.

But, what is it about a red dress, exactly?  Has anyone made a study of its drop-dead allure?




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The recent International Family Festival at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston featured music, dance, all sorts of freebees  from  local businesses and organizations, face painting and—ta-tah—caricatures by me.  It was an honor to be chosen from the list of Chicago area  caricaturists.  Thank you, Lawrence and Mary!

One boy’s father told him to get in line to be drawn, but instead of getting in line, the boy stood behind me to watch.  Grayson  was fascinated and asked good questions.  His father came back to tell him to stand in line, but Grayson preferred to learn. He is among the few who “get” it.  He wanted to know how I learned to draw so good, and I explained that you have to keep practicing.  He was eleven, the age when kids who love draw often trade in this solitary interest for more gregarious, conformist peer activities. Grayson was  delightful and good company, but I finally said he deserved to be drawn and he agreed to sit.  Thank you Grayson!


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The baby grand’s lid was covered with family pictures—weddings, family gatherings, beaming toothy kids. Great food, relaxed friends.  Before I sat down to drawn I caught glimpses of the art collection:  Ed Paschke, Max Beckman.  Good company, I thought.  As I drew one of the couples, the dentist half of the duo reminded me offhandedly to do a good job, because I had to measure up to the standard of Roy Lichtenstein, whose paintings were in the collection here.  Very funny.   A great evening.  Thank you, Stacey and Lowell.



That’s a small selection of the twenty-four drawings I did in those two hours. Just for fun, here’s my caricature of Roy Lichtenstein, coincidentally also done this December as one in a series of artists I felt like drawing.

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The Chicago History Museum ran a hugely popular exhibit called “Chic Chicago” for about a year starting in September 2008.  I was the lucky caricaturist.  What!!  A caricaturist for such an elegant affair!?  Yes, moi.  I do elegant when elegant I see.

“Chic Chicago” was an exhibit of sixty-four historic gowns from the 1850’s to the present.  All gowns had been designed for and worn by Chicago society ladies who then donated the gowns to the museum.

Women of all ages came in droves, alone or more often in clusters of three or four, as in “ladies who lunch.”  Little girls were tickled pink to see themselves portrayed in these sophisticated gowns . Tourists, of course, also visited in great numbers from all over the world and for them, I’m guessing, this was an extra treat.  The treat was not just seeing the exhibit, but then to wander downstairs and get a caricature by a fairly well known Chicago artist.  I was set up in the spacious, light-flooded gift shop.  The drawings were free.  After assuring the visitor that this was indeed the case,  I asked in what gown she would like to be drawn.  We had postcards of the gowns at hand to refresh the memory and to tickle the imagination.  I can’t describe to you how much fun this was–for the visitors and me.

More on this truly fabulous gig in future posts.

The  small sampling in this post starts with Alison (above) wearing the “Delphos” gown in pleated silk by Mariano Fortuny of Italy, 1948

Next is Alana, age 12, wearing the “Infanta” evening gown (glass beads, silk net) by Charles James, USA, c. 1952

Then Amanda in an evening gown by Charles Frederick Worth, France c. 1884.

Avis, hobbling in now,  is wearing the “Sorbet” evening gown (silk satin and glass beads) by Paul Poiret, France 1913

To conclude this introduction to “Chic Chicago,” Cardi enters in the red evening gown attributed to Marcelle Chaumont, Fance c.1938

See also, www.khilden.com

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Cartooning is a highly specialized art form that is sometimes confused with the art of caricature. Let me be brief here about the distinction.  A caricature focuses on an INDIVIDUAL,  bringing out the uniqueness of this individual and, therefore, stressing distinctive facial features and also personality quirks.  A cartoon deals with a TYPE of person.

In the early days of the art of caricature, artists focused on social types.  For example Hogarth in 18th century England satirized that country’s social classes, especially the affectations of the upper class; Daumier in 19th century France satirized the new, rising bourgeoisie and its attitudes, but he also caricatured the king, an act of courage that landed him in jail.  In the 20th century the word “caricature” was more and more applied to individuals.

If you’re interested in cartooning and want to get a sense what’s involved in learning that art form, see today’s post at http://artamaze.wordpress.com.

For caricatures, www.khilden.com

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