Tag Archives: art

Sweet like Chocolate Rain

I promised you more Chocolate Rain cuteness after my post on Hong Kong Creative Ecologies and whaddya know… it doesn’t just rain here but it pours!

The mall in Olympian City (yes, named after the Olympics) had a super-kawaii installation dedicated to Chocolate Rain and I couldn’t resist taking some photos, much to my boyfriend’s annoyance (‘You’re so local’).

I’m more used to shopping centres in the UK too depressing to even warrant a George A Romero-style zombie stampede but malls in HK are a totally different ball game. [Remember that awesome Lane Crawford installation in Pacific Place?]

What’s more, there are so many malls here that it’s a competitive game, especially during Christmas and other special occasions, where they all attempt to out-do each other with special decorations, performances, giveaways and exhibits – HK folk do love their photo opps, after all! Hence the Chocolate Rain one here, called Olympian City’s Easter Dream Brûlée.

I just love artist Prudence Mak’s distinctive patchwork style for Chocolate Rain – absolutely lovely and just that little bit quirky too – and I love that a locally-designed brand can challenge the cute character powerhouse that is Sanrio. But most of all, as you know, I just love pretty things! And this delivered pretty things in abundance.

The Fatina doll character was dressed in colourful costumes inspired by different ice-cream flavours whilst the centrepiece was a 30-foot banana boat. Overall, it felt like I’d wandered into a village straight from a fairytale!

Truly scrumptious!

Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies @ HK Heritage Museum – Like peas in a pod!

During our trip to the Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, we had a quick scoot round the rest of the place. Emphasis on quick – you’ll have noticed my usual grumble about crappy café quality (see Museum of Coastal Defence, History Museum and Botanical Gardens posts for further moaning) was missing from the Pixar write-up… because this time there wasn’t an eating facility at all!

Sadly, nothing was as awesome as the colourful display of Fei-Fei’s plus-sized cheongsams we stumbled upon when we visited the Age Of Couture Exhibition (a greater aesthetic juxtaposition you could not imagine!). Yes, HK ‘affectionately’ nicknamed their much-beloved actress cum singer cum media personality Lydia Sum something that translates as ‘Fatty’!

This time, we happened upon the Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies exhibition – or what of it had been placed in the foyer of the second floor. Dozens of identical ‘Tin Tin’ figurines, all decorated, styled and re-imagined in different ways by various home-grown artists and designers.

It was fascinating to see how so many people could take one identical thing and end up with something so different yet still recognisable. Designs ranged from the beautiful to the comical to the bizarre to the slightly macabre (I didn’t take a photo of the one that had been mocked up to look like a see-through human body, with all the vital organs glowing inside, as it freaked me out too much), whilst many had a uniquely HK flavour – one had a map of our MTR system, another had silhouettes of our trademark bamboo scaffolding system with workers hanging out un-harnessed and causing heart attacks to Western Health & Safety bodies.

My favourites were the ones who thought ‘outside the box’ and mixed it up a little. I noticed that whilst many of the fashion and accessory designers decorated their models, the artistes chose to do more abstract things – like one completely encased in a steel box, with just that recognisable pointing finger sticking out, or the one that appears to be melting. I was engrossed by the one that seemed to have sprouted alarmingly naturalistic-looking roots and was even growing foliage up top!

The only HK artist whose work I recognised instantly was Prudence Mak. That distinctive bright patchwork style couldn’t belong to anyone but the founder of cute quirky local brand, Chocolate Rain, who you will hear more of later…! Apologies for the picture quality – I haven’t figured out how to minimise the reflections caused by the glass cases – so I’ve compared it with a nice HQ photo from the Heritage Museum’s website so you can see it in all its detailed technicolour glory!

Hopefully these will be kept together as a display once the exhibition has ended and housed somewhere else, as they’re far more powerful and dynamic as a collection rather than if they were split up. It’s certainly nothing to warrant a special visit to the Heritage Museum (though apparently there was a Creative Ecologies gallery that I was too hungry to visit), but it’s a cool little diversion nonetheless! Enjoy!

Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies, 5 Feburary-11 May 2011, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, 2180 8188. See Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies Website for further details.

$10 admission, free on Weds. Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7pm on Sunday and public holidays. Closed Tuesdays.

Here comes the bride…

Traditional but modern, simple but extravagant, classic but youthful, a homage to Diana but absolutely nothing like Diana’s at all… it seems like everyone has an opinion on what THE dress should be like. THE dress being (obviously! what else!) Kate Middleton’s wedding gown.

As you might already know, I am impossibly excited about the Royal Wedding – seriously, I’ve been welling up just watching the archive stuff in the documentaries that every channel over here is showing – and I can’t wait to see what Princess Catherine will be wearing down the aisle. It seems I’m not the only one though; there have been dozens of designers queuing up to offer their take on a suitable outfit – well, I guess it’s not every day you get to dress a real princess!

Two of my favourites by Alberta Ferretti and Valentino (inspired by a Botticellian Venus)

Since you know I’m also a fan of pretty things, dress sketches (like those gorgeous Robert Best Barbie ones), weddings and the idea of being a princess in general, these wedding dress drawings are like a culmination of everything that gets me cooing with pleasure. Some were done for a feature on WWD, others by Project Runway alumni for My Lifetime.com (the folk behind William & Kate: The Movie), others for The Times fashion section (scanned in thanks to the paywall, sorry for the quality) and Mad Men designer Janie Bryant (banner picture) seems to have done it solely for her own pleasure!

There were some wacky ones – black, yellow, red, Gothic, futuristic, Boudicca-inspired, denim, feathers, knitwear – and some interpretations of Princess Kate’s face leave a little to be desired but these are a collection of my favourites. Enjoy!

Series of three amazing gowns designed by Pronovias from Confetti.co.uk

From the WWD feature (see all dresses here)

Two of my favourites, J. Mendel and Jason Wu

Two of the most romantic designs by Nina Ricci and Lela Rose

‘A patchwork lace dress reminds us all that a true princess can mend and make do!’ Nanette Lepore

Yigal Azrouel, Tommy Hilfilger


Tory Burch, Lyn Devon (one of the more successful minimalist designs), Rachel Roy

Reem Acra, Rebecca Taylor

Monique Lhuillier

Doo.Ri, Vera Wang (whose bride looks angry! I found Vera’s a bit disappointing as she’s renowned for her bridalwear)

Prabal Gurung

Chado Ralph Rucci (‘NO GLITTER!’), Maria Grachvogel (from The Times)

From the My Lifetime.com feature (see all dresses here)

Simone Le Blanc, Ivy Higa

Irina Shabayeva (more of a runway dress but still stunning) and Carol Hannah Whitfield, which features a removable overskirt for the ‘par-tay!’

Mila Hermanovski with my favourite minimal design of the lot, Leanne Marshall (I love how it looks like a blooming flower or like it’s rising from the ocean froth)

Heidi Nora, Shirin Askari

Two of the more conceptual dresses that actually worked, even if I can’t imagine Kate actually wearing them! Gordana Gelhausen’s Maid Marian-esque gown and Michael Drummond’s fusion between ‘ancient folklore’ and two of his favourite British fashion houses, Marchesa and McQueen

Wesley Nault, Vincent Libretti (love that abstract drawing style, even if the design itself doesn’t amount to much!)

Daniel Franco, Christopher Collins (that skirt looks like a butterfly wing!)

Scanned from The Times

Suzanne Neville, Mark Fast (famous for his use of knitwear)

Viktor & Rolf: quirky and obviously not suitable, but too cute not to include!

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition @ Hong Kong Heritage Museum review

Every so often, I do try and escape the confines of my nail polish packed bedroom and see the real world. Previous escapes have included seeing a waterfall, a load of beautiful qipao, a load of quirky lanterns, a silent Hitchcock film and most recently, a stunning array of Spring flowers. My latest venture – a trip to Hong Kong Heritage Museum’s special exhibition, Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation.

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is quite a trek away, up in Sha Tin near the Shing Mun river (get off at Che Kung Temple Station on the brown KCR line for a shorter walk), so any exhibition that has me making the long slog up there had better be a good one! The last time I visited was for the Golden Age Of Couture dress exhibition, held in conjunction with London’s V&A Museum, which was utterly spectacular (and which I will get around to writing about some time, promise!). Meanwhile, the fact that I am a Disney/Pixar geek of the highest order – prone to parroting facts learnt from audio commentaries whilst my boyfriend tries to watch and breaking into Under The Sea on public transport are specialities – meant the omens seemed good.

The Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation exhibition showcases various types of conceptual and character art done by the studio’s artists for all of Pixar’s work, giving some artistic insight into the painstaking process that goes into making their much-loved CGI films. Taking in over 400 items, from early pencil sketches to storyboards, maquettes (small scale models) and exclusive specially-designed media installations, it features some never-before-seen-outside-the-studio artwork, with Hong Kong’s Heritage Museum the first stop on a global tour. A similar exhibition toured five years ago (including a stop in Singapore) but it has been refreshed and reinvigorated with the addition of new items, such as a large and extremely popular section dedicated to Toy Story 3. There’s also the amazing Toy Story Zoetrope (which you can also see at Hong Kong Disneyland), featuring rotating sculptures of characters that seem to magically come to life before your eyes.

We arrived early afternoon on a non-school holiday weekday and the queue was the biggest I have ever seen for a museum in HK. Having seen some photos taken by people who went on Easter Holiday weekend showing 300-strong queues, thank God we went when we did! Much of the artwork shown was obviously never intended to be displayed in a gallery and as such, there’s a limit on how huge a crowd can cluster around an A4 sized drawing and get much out of the experience.

Picture from Pixar artist Lou Romano’s blog, where you can also see his entire colour script for Up

There are two galleries devoted to the exhibition, the first dealing with character and the second with environment and scene-setting. The huge number of children visiting will obviously enjoy the Woody, Buzz, Sully and Mike models that greet you at the museum’s entrance, yet whether they have much appreciation for conceptual artwork of, say, Parisian landscapes in Ratatouille remains to be seen. Sure enough, the first exhibition gallery, which boasts the large Toy Story 3 section, a fairly big selection of Monsters Inc stuff (poor old Wall-E, one of my favourite Pixar films, sadly only gets about a quarter of a wall!) and lots of maquettes of characters, is the more family-friendly and consequently, much busier and noisier. Meanwhile, the second gallery is a much more tranquil and sedate experience!

As a full-blown Disney geek who exhaustively watches all the making-of features on her DVDs (or did before they started moving them to Blu-Ray only), some of the artwork was familiar to me already, especially for the earlier films, and I’m not entirely sure you garner that much more from looking at the originals rather than digital copies. Some art (particularly storyboards and colour scripts) have even been enlarged to suit the gallery experience more, in which case you’re looking at reprints anyway!

[By the way, you’re not meant to take photos inside the exhibition galleries. Not that this stops many HK folk. But I play fair, meaning the photos in this post are either taken outside or by scouring the net to find the pictures I’m referring to! (Further proof, incidentally, that lots of it may already be familiar to us geeks.)]

Pictures from Hong Kong Heritage Museum and Oakland Museum Of California

Nevertheless, the artwork itself is brilliant. What part of the exhibition you enjoy the most is strictly down to taste but my favourites were the wistful colourful designs for Up and its dreamy South American landscapes (you get to see a life-size version of the Paradise Falls mural that Ellie and Carl paint above their fireplace in the film) and the spiky dynamic work by Lou Romano for The Incredibles (the style seen in the film’s credits) – looking at the art, I could practically hear that exhilarating thrilling score pumping into my head!

A few interesting titbits to note: some character studies are annotated with comprehensive notes seemingly from John Lasseter himself (‘Dot is not so cute with 4 arms!’, ‘No antenna here’), with some Finding Nemo sketches stamped with a fish bearing John Lasseter’s head saying ‘I guess it’s alright’, whilst others are marked as checked by the man himself with a doodle-like representation of Lasseter’s face!

I’m also in awe of the fact that so much life comes out of these pencil sketches alone. Just a few lines manage to create a sense of motion and vitality even before the mammoth digitalisation process begins. I love this one of Russell, above, which totally captures his bustling sense of movement – Disney geek-dom ahoy, the character’s original name was changed to the onomatopoeic Russell to reflect his inquisitive nature. There’s also two maquettes of Russell where each and every Explorer Badge has been sculpted, with different designs on every single one!

The Up storyboards and colour scripts are also fascinating. There’s one storyboard just of that first 10-minute dialogue-free segment ‘Married Life’ and, in just a few small still-life pictures, it still managed to make me well up! Truly powerful stuff.

The second ‘environment’ gallery feels a lot more abstract in comparison to the ‘character’ one. You enter a room where the walls are covered with animations of the doors from Monsters Inc and the effect is quite hypnotic. I really loved some of the (at times, surprisingly dark) concept art for the settings of Monsters Inc, whilst all the pictures involving those huge cascades of doors are just wildly imaginative and wonderful. This gallery also contains, for me, the absolute highlight: Artscape.

Artscape is a highly-immersive, richly-detailed wide-screen projection that takes you inside the artists’ sketchbooks and experience environments from all the films in first-person. Frankly, it’s more 3D than most 3D movies. It’s indescribable and something you just have to experience for yourself. You feel like you’re swooping through the jungle and dashing across water in the chase sequence from The Incredibles, that you’re ant-size amongst the blades of grass, leaves and army of workers in A Bug’s Life or that you’re hurtling through the galaxies in Wall-E (oh ok, that one did feel a little like a Windows 95 screensaver!). I particularly fell for the Parisian scenes from Ratatouille – one of my least favourite Pixars – which felt like you were flying above the rooftops, looking down and around the city in all its romantic glory. This is all done by some trademark Pixar magic that manages to turn 2D drawings and paintings into a 3D visceral experience. Stunning.

Pictures from The Art Of Ratatouille book, featured on Pixar Talk

Despite the cutesy Pixar characters, Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation was definitely not designed with small children, nor I suspect the HK hoards, in mind (for example, there are kiosks where you can watch interviews with animators that can only be used one person at a time, whilst I struggled to see the small screens showing early Pixar shorts in just the small crowd that day). Whilst I enjoyed it, if I’d have seen queues of hundreds, I’d have definitely turned back round – I just don’t think you can give the artwork the attention it deserves if you’re having to elbow your way in or become absorbed in the detail if you can barely hear yourself think.

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation is a largely captivating exhibition, although one which requires you to appreciate the animators’ work as art rather than pure entertainment. It makes you recognise the scale of Pixar’s achievements and value the dedication and talent of their artists even more. This is stuff that deserves to be on walls rather than hidden away in dusty backrooms and I would love to see a similar exhibition for Disney films (some of the concept art for their older films, as seen on DVDs, is just stunning). So, yes, worth the trek to Sha Tin. Make it on a week day, though!

Check out some more fun Pixar artwork here

Pixar: 25 Years Of Animation, 28 March-11 July 2011, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, 2180 8188

$20 admission, $10 on Weds, including free memo gift pad containing money-off vouchers. Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7pm on Sunday and public holidays. Closed Tuesdays.

Sweet Valley High just got sweeter!

What’s this – photographs not taken during a season of Next Top Model making the pages of my Pretty Things section?! Yes, you read right, but this summer ad campaign for American brand Wildfox is too delish not to drool over.

It’s based on 90s teen book and tv series Sweet Valley High – I know, awesome already, right?! It’s all sleepovers, crushes, sunshine and secrets, basically an all-American summer encapsulated in one photoshoot by Henrik Purienne. Rather than delivering the typical ‘buying these clothes might make me as pretty as the models’ aspirational campaigns that many brands go for (cough Abercrombie & Fitch cough), there’s a sense of ease and fun to these images that means the models look like genuine BFFs.

I particularly love the sun-bleached look these photos have – you can practically feel the heat radiating off them! – and it all adds to a slightly vintage feel (check out that retro Pepsi can!) that makes you feel like you’re flicking through an old family album. Admittedly, one in which the girls seem particularly ill-disposed to wearing anything over their underpants (it’s a shoot for tees, who can blame them?!).

My favourite photos are the ones with the phone (above), which instantly make me think of racking up my parents’ phone bill on late night calls to my bessies It also reminds me of this amazing 90s board game called Dream Phone where you had a giant pink phone that played voice recordings of boys, so you could work out who had a crush on you (‘You’re right! I really like you!) – very apt, given the slogan on the tee!

I also love the pizza ones above, which call back to all those sleepovers where you all end up in hysterical laughter about nothing in particular, and the models perfectly capture that conspiratorial sense of fun in a way that just looks effortless.

So grab your sunnies, shorts and SPF – summer is here! [Wildfox tee optional]

Photos from Wildfox’s blog via Rock N Rose HK blog

Barbie: still the Best

Obviously, if I had known about this calendar instead, Heiner Meyer would be sitting gathering dust in a bookshop in Hong Kong.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the coveted calendar in question is a Barbie one. No, wait, come back! Not just any old Barbie calendar but one featuring gorgeous fashion sketches of everyone’s favourite blonde bimbo. Except she’s not always blonde and her outfits are way too classy for anyone to be calling her the b-word. [Banner picture: 50th Anniversary Glamour and Generation Of Dreams Barbies – the latter’s skirt is a collage of images of Barbie throughout her fifty years.]

My absolute favourite – The Artist. Totally my colours, totally my style… If only I could look this good in a beret!

They’re by Robert Best, a former Project Runway contestant, who has been designing outfits for Barbara Millicent Roberts for the past 15 years. He is the main designer behind the highly coveted Silkstone Collection (also known as the Fashion Model Collection), which use the retro face, hair and make-up style of the original 1960s dolls, and the occasional special edition Barbie, like those in the banner picture, too. The beautiful couture outfits and attention-to-detail are amazing – these certainly aren’t dolls for practising your hair-cutting and decapitation skills on!

Violette & Tribute Barbie (celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Silkstone Collection)

I am absolutely head over heels for these sketches. I tend to love the style of  girlie fashion sketches anyway but these are even more stunning than most. Firstly, the clothes are amazing and the detail is exquisite. You can feel every ruffle, see every flower. The sense of movement, texture and weight created by just pencil and watercolour (I think!) is astounding. We’re not just talking about the dresses though – it goes as far as fabrics, shoes, hair accessories, jewellery and just about everything else you could think of. Everything just goes together so wonderfully. I want Barbie’s wardrobe!

Second favourite – Market Day Barbie. Love the colours, love the flowers, love the eyeshadow!

Secondly, lots of fashion illustrations skimp on the face, often omitting eyes, nose and mouth all together. Not Best. As you can see from some of the gorgeous close-ups, there’s more expression going on in some of these sketches than in Nicole Kidman’s last few acting roles. A tilt of the head here, a seductive pout of the lips there, a sultry sweep of the eyes – these drawings give a better modelling masterclass than Tyra herself! I love how he even does matching eyeshadow too – Best does a better smoky eye than me!

I do have some history with Barbie (my parents were beginning to despair of the sight of her when I was ordering collectible ones on a near weekly basis from Ebay) but she has literally never looked better than when drawn with Best’s pencil. It’s something about the perfect slant of the eyes and the way their hair falls just so. In fact, I think most of the drawings look prettier than the dolls themselves and I’ve thrown in a few like-for-like comparisons for you to make up your own minds!

The Siren – drawing vs doll comparison

Finally, there’s just some magic about them. The below sketches of Hollywood Honey and Red Hot Review (“On The Set”) best epitomise how evocative Best’s work is; you just know these are glamorous divas from the Golden Age of Hollywood, with just a few strokes of the pencil. All of these sketches feel like they’re from some other time but without looking old and dated, settling for supremely classy and elegant instead.

I think I’ve banged on enough. All of these pictures are taken from mawphoto.com’s excellent Flickr set ‘Robert Best Illustrations’, where there are hundreds more drawings for your viewing pleasure. You could be a cheapo and frame pictures from the calendar once 2011 is over but if you can’t wait that long, you can buy framed limited edition prints here and here. Now I’ll try and keep schtum whilst you enjoy the rest of these beauties and remember to click for enlargements – it’s worth it!

Third favourite. This is getting silly now…

Delphine (the first proper Silkstone Barbie) from a sketchier drawing to a more polished one. This dress reminds me of the one Grace Kelly won her Oscar in.

Parisienne Pretty drawing vs doll, round 2. I want these shoes!

Haut Monde; Southern Belle

Garden Party & Barbie as Betty Draper from Mad Men (I can totally see Betty working the other look too!)

Secretary; Tout de Suite; Nurse. I really love how stylised all these looks are (and does anyone else think sexy Nurse looks a little Chinese?!)

Black Enchantment – this dress with Parisienne Pretty’s shoes. Please?!

Fashion Editor, Showgirl, Fashion Designer

Stolen Magic, In The Pink (hello Liz Taylor!), Stealing The Spotlight

Capucine in 3 ways

Congrats! You made it to the end of my most picture-heavy, time-consuming post since the Qi Pao. You have my permission to eat a chocolate digestive as reward.