Not Just a Pretty Face

One of the responses to the portraits of my sister Lillian, by Lily Mae

has been

“But Lilly is prettier then that…”

And yes at times she is,

At other times, she isn’t.

You know, like everyone,

And the criticism bothered me because in portraiture, there is so much more to respond to then whether the sitter is pretty or at their prettiest.

Because in opposition to pretty, (and its slightly deeper cousin beauty)

is ugly

and tween the three of them is nothing but LIMITATION.


I’d hope that art is a refuge from such limiting definitions.

I’d hope it is a place where wit, trauma, pain, normality, recognition, absurdity, flab, shins, deserts, teacups and condoms can all be explored.

And explored without the aesthetically moral judgements of pretty and its cohorts.

We live in a pretty, (and sexy and thin and cute and pretty), obsessed world

Does anyone else find that dull?

I mean pretty is great and all, it has its place.

I collect Holly Hobby for fucks sake, so I do get pretty.

But the saturation….

The pervasiveness of it is so dull.

Somedays it is so hard to find some art, some drawings, some paintings

that don’t feature:

Some doe eyed gal with her bevvy of wild animals and song birds,

Or a svelte 20 something looking at her navel,

Or a technically fantastic drawing of another hip and pretty thang staring moodily into the corner of the canvas whilst wearing odd socks…


Which is why the work of Natalie Perkins has uttery delighted me.

It’s witty, wry and with tongue firmly in cheek-

It turns pretty on its doe eyed head.

Using a pretty palette and pretty lines and pretty shading and pretty faces

She delivers bite, poignancy, a political edge, familiarity, tenderness, forgiveness, wit

and a smile worthy fuck you:

I find the work, fun and beguiling and interesting



This recent drawing of  is one of my faves,

I have viewed it several times over the last fortnight:

Each time it makes me laugh and it prompts me to be brave…

To play with the idea of feminine,

The idea of hygiene,

The idea of private,

The idea of pretty.

This picture’s familiarity is what makes it surprising:

because if there is one of you who hasn’t squeezed a pimple…

Enjoyed the satisfaction of the pop and squirt….

Who hasn’t blown their nose in the shower….

and enjoyed it.

Or, hasn’t farted a particularly tension releasing whopper

and enjoyed that…

Then you haven’t lived.


I find my journal fills with these admissions:

These issues of ‘body shame’, of what is considered secret, of what actual living includes, of the less romantic side of life, of the nitty picky side, of what we define as acceptable and pretty….


Now, I have not explored the media’s role in this conversation about pretty.

This post is long enough as it is, however,

I do urge you to check this out as I reckon you’ll enjoy it:

(Go here for the back story)

A great, honest, turning pretty on its head response to life and feminity:


  1. Not a pretty post, meant in the very best way;) Wonderful drawings!

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