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Arty Farty Friday: Ai Weiwei, Without Fear or Favour

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I’ve done quite a few Arty Farty Friday posts in the past few months, loosely interpreting what art is.

I’ve tried to cover a variety of topics, from artists and their paintings and origami to fashion and documentary films.

Today I’d like to suggest a documentary film about Ai Weiwei, one of China’s best knows artist, who is also regarded as the one of the most dangerous public figures.

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His work don’t reach the highest prices at auction, but he has become the face of human rights struggles in China.

  His criticism of the authoritarian regime has resulted in prison time and a ban on traveling without official permission.

The Chinese officials certainly have a problem with Weiwei.

On the one hand he is kept under house arrest, on the other he is the most noticeable artists of his generation that cannot be erased so easily, if nothing else he’s the architect who designed the Beijing Bird’s Nest stadium.

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If you’d like to read more about Weiwei, I suggest a brilliant article at Smithsonian.com.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Without Fear or Favour and remember that art isn’t only about beauty or subjective emotions.

Arty Farty Friday: What could you do with a sheet of paper?

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Have you heard about The RA Silent Auction?

The response has been amazing, but we’re still looking for items that can be auctioned off, so if you would like to do so please leave info in comments and I shall email you!

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Last week I missed Arty Farty Friday, but I will certainly make it up to you today.

What could you do with a sheet of paper?

I’d either write a list on it (shopping, books, post ideas) or I’d use it as a wrapper for my old chewing gum.

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The documentary Between the Folds shows what amazing things others can create using a single sheet and a gift of folding.

This is not merely a documentary about origami, believe me, I made that mistake and was discouraged until I had nothing better to watch.

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This beautiful documentary shows folding paper as a means to create art, solve mathematical puzzles, but also as means to making scientific breakthroughs that can influence the way we live our lives.

I dare you to watch it and not be compelled to at least learn how to fold the most basic origami shapes!

Here’s an instruction on how to fold an origami crane:

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On John Thornton moving into my bedroom…

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Friday was a very busy day for me as I was feeling crafty.

I was planting herbs in lovely and ridiculously expensive French rustic pots and preparing for a new Thorin project that I won’t utter a peep about just yet.

I’m also on a high of adding artwork to my walls, I’ve always favoured a minimalistic approach to décor, but I figured it’s time for a wee change.

I’m not going to bore you with all the stuff I’ve made, but I wanted to share one I’ve been meaning to do for some time.

There just aren’t enough sexy British men in cravats in my bedroom, so I decided to remedy that.

Here’s the result:

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(BTW, not my bedroom, Thornton’s temporarily housed in Magzy’s living room till I can get my dad over with a nail and hammer)

I took the beautiful image that can be found here, but stuck it on a background.

I chose a page from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, but wanted to have it hand-written.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a Jane Austin font that can be downloaded for free (me likey!).

 

Originally, I had intended on going a bit artsy with the image, I considered making the silhouette float above the writing background (as in sticking it on foam), maybe age the image so it looks like old parchment etc, but in the end the simplicity really worked.

I mentioned “men in cravats” and ultimately I would like to add a similar image of Mr Darcy.

My two favourite boys stuck on one wall aiding me in getting a good night’s sleep full of delicious dream.

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The problem is I can’t find a good Darcy silhouette that would rival the beautiful Thornton one.

Have you come across any good ones?

If so, let me know in comments and my bedroom wall will be eternally grateful, not to mention seeing my boys first thing in the morning will surely add a spring to my step.

Arty Farty Friday: A Guide on how to spend your Millions

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I’ve got something simple but useful for you today.

Instead of stuffing your mattress with all those banknotes, or wallpapering your room with them, how about investing in a little art?

For some it’s mere pocket change, but would you give $100 million for a Picasso (if you had it)?

I sympathise with museums who are unable to compete at auction with major corporations looking to get the greatest return on their investment.

Many paintings will disappear completely only to resurface in fifty years on the selling block.

How can we possibly price art anyway?

Does the price make it more accomplished, as Soames Forsyte would say?

You can check out the list of the world’s most expensive paintings with their prices adjusted here.

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Turns out my least favourite painters, Willem de Kooning’s and his Woman III takes second place.

Seriously, no offence but there’s something about his work that turns my stomach and not in a good way.

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The painting I would have taken a loan out for is Tamara Lempicka’s Adam and Eve, which sold at auction in New York for $1.98 million in 1994.

I would have paid off 0,0000001% by now ;)

Anyway, here’s a documentary shedding light on the world’s most expensive paintings, but also proof that Jeffrey Archer is indeed a pompous tw*t.

Arty Farty Friday: The Art of the Steal

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During the summer I spent a lot of time learning more about art.

Apart from reading and watching stuff connected to artists and their works, I also delve into the functioning of the art work, museums, forgery and such.

One of the patterns you see repeated is how museums will do anything to get their hands on a valuable collection.

An owner works sought after by museums promise to keep the collection together, never sell off individual pieces, to display them together in their own separate wing etc.

The museum holds up their part of the bargain… till a better collection comes their way, but by then no one really cares about the benefactors wishes and all contracts and promises are broken.

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I encourage you to check out Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art written by Michael Gross.

It’s a fascinating read about how one of the most influential museums was founded, but also takes a peek behind the glamour to reveal secrets that I bet the MET would want kept in the shadows.

Gross sums up what he learned when he was researching and writing about the MET:

“Behind almost every painting is a fortune and behind that a sin or a crime.”

Before you start thinking that only the MET has shady practises, think again.

The 2009 documentary The Art of the Steal follows the story of  The Barnes Foundation, a $25-billion collection(conservative estimate) of mostly Modernist and post-Impressionist artworks.

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It is the most valuable collection of art from the period ever to be accumulated by one man and includes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, and 14 Modiglianis.

The collection, created by Dr Albert C. Barnes, operated its gallery in a residential neighbourhood with restrictions on access, in Merion, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

The main aim of The Barnes Foundation was to be a school for artists and the artwork was supposed to inspire students and serve as teaching tools.

Barnes loathed the establishment at the time and was adamant that his art collection would never be taken over by Philadelphia’s art museums.

As long as Barnes was alive, the foundation could function in the capacity he had intended, but on his death there was a  mad dash to acquire the collection by any means necessary.

Dr Barnes was so adamant that the art establishment wouldn’t get their hands on his beloved art works that he drew up a seemingly iron-clad will that would protect the foundation.

What happens next defies belief and is a painful reminder that where there’s a will (in this case Dr Barnes’ last will and testament), there’s nevertheless a way to break it with just enough money, power and politics.

This story is particularly painful because the theft of paintings from the Barnes Foundation happened in broad daylight and was engineered by the powers that be.

This documentary is a must-see!

The YT link is inactive but you can watch it on Vimeo HERE

Arty Farty Friday: McQueen and I

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This is the last Arty Farty Friday of September and I wanted to take the series of posts in another direction.

One of my graduation thesis papers was titled “Is Fashion Art?”.

To make a long story short, I summarized that, indeed it was, and when you look at collections produced by top designers, you can have no doubt.

I also included examples of how fashion and art collide, one inspiring the other, but that deserves its own post.

When I was at Fashion Design school I realised how hard it is to come up with a collection that fits trends, it sellable but original, one that is your voice but appeals to others.

It really is a terribly hard task (not to mention expensive) and as much as I enjoyed the process, I knew I’d never make fashion design my profession.

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I think it takes extraordinary talent and tailoring/construction skills to make something that is ground-breaking and beautiful.

When designing you feel like everything has already been done before and the few original ideas  you have (lego shoes anyone?) are beyond difficult to construct and make practical.

The world of fashion looks glamorous on the outside, but it really is all blood, sweat, and tears, tantrums and even the odd tiara.

The “it” designer at the time, the one all students looked up to in awe, was Alexander McQueen.

He was a visionary who combined theatricality with superb tailoring, a new voice in the stale world of fashion.

He had taken the catwalk show and had turned it into a performance.

I came across a 2011 documentary titled McQueen and I which follows the designer’s journey into the world of fashion, but which especially focuses on his muse and friend Isabella Blow.

Their relationship was both a burst of inspiration and creativity, but also one marred by depression and resentment.

Blow had an incredible eye for talent and would use her influence in the fashion world to launch new talent like McQueen or McDonald, but felt unappreciated when they’d inevitably move on.

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McQueen designed some of the most recognisable fashion pieces of our generation and I regret that the documentary doesn’t focus more on his creations, having said that we learn about his tumultuous private life and what would inspire his vision.

This is a tale of an incredibly talented and sensitive visionary who led a pace-paced life releasing 10 collections each year, but also about the pitfalls of fame and the pressure to constantly produce something that will outdo everything you’ve done before.

Arty Farty Friday: Exit Through the Gift Shop

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I think I’ve already mentioned my love for Banksy, the notorious graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.

He’s also published a few books which featured photos of his graffiti work as well as a hilarious commentary on art, life and politics.

He also shares anecdotes about how the works were created.

Nothing is known of his identity, however he has become the symbol of street art, his art works are a political and social commentary and have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.

He is one prolific artist, and a cheeky bugger to boot!

One of his most daring stunts was to graffiti Israel’s 425-mile-long West Bank barrier, separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.

The images are thought-provoking and I urge you to google them.

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Banksy has made some interesting statements regarding museum, galleries and the art work in general.

Although they are meant to be places for the common folk, the decision about what gets to hang on the walls, therefore what is deemed high art, is made by a chosen few.

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Apart from that, only a percentage of the public actually go to museums, therefore the access to art is limited.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of street art.

It enriches the cities, with walls serving as a platform, a canvas to express ideas to the passers-by and Banksy is the loudest and most recognisable voice among graffiti artists.

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Banksy backed up his statements regarding museums  when he pulled his infamous museum prank.

He would go disguised to places like The Tate or The British Museum and hang up his own work among the exhibits.

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He pulled the same prank in New York museums—the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Less said about museum security, the better…

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Some of Banksy’s pieces were removed a few hours later, other lingered for weeks, other still were added to the museum collection as a valuable piece.

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I could go on about how important and revolutionary Banksy’s approach to art is, but this post is really about his 2010 documentary Exit Though The Gift Shop.

The project started out as a bunch of footage of street artists taken by an amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta who managed to document this elusive and short-lived art form.

What the film ended up being is a head scratching account of how the art world will embrace, and spend a fortune on, anything that is deemed the next best thing.

The documentary is hilarious and you will fall for the array of mad characters.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps this documentary is one of the greatest pranks the elusive Banksy has even played.

You’ll see what I mean when you give it a try :)

Even if neither graffiti or art is your thing, this is perhaps one of the most interesting and entertaining documentaries you’ll ever see.

And here’s a funny little thing I made as homage to Mister Brainwash, Magzy really liked it, so this ones for her ;)

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Arty Farty Friday: Grey Gardens

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I have something special for Arty Farty Friday today as the topic I’ve chosen isn’t really about art in the exact meaning, but concerns a 1975 documentary that moved me to bits.

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Grey Gardens depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive socialites living in a decrepit mansion in East Hampton in increasing squalor and isolation.

Although Edith Beale, known as Big Edie, and her daughter Edith Beale- Little Edie, are quite well known in the US as they were related to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, I had never heard of them before this documentary ran up and punched me in the face :)

Let me tell you, both Big Edie and Little Edie are a piece of work, but you can’t help but fall in love with them.

These women redefined the stereotype of the crazy cat lady everyone in the neighbourhood avoids!

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The Bouvier and Beale families were a sort of American aristocrats, and both mother and daughter were socialites who lived in a beautiful house called Grey Gardens, named so after the colour of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist, in the affluent East Hampton.

After Big Edie divorced from her rich husband in 1946, the women continued to live in the mansion, although didn’t have enough money to sustain it.

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By 1975 when the documentary was shot, the house had already become so decrepit and an eyesore in the posh neighbourhood that an intervention was staged.

The Beale women faced eviction and Grey Gardens underwent a thorough clean-up.

In 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill, Big Edie’s nieces,  provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

What they found was terrifying.

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The house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with rubbish and decay, deeming it unfit to be lived in.

By 1975 the house was slowly creeping back to the squalor it was three years before.

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This isn’t a story of how the high-flyers of society can fall, but rather a portrayal of two women living in seclusion, a story told in their own words.

I struggle to summarise what this documentary is about.

On the one hand it shows two women with huge personalities who defied social norms and chose to live their life on their own terms.

It’s a tale of an incredibly close relationship between mother and daughter, of the freedom to express your artistic impulses even if it means being shunned by society.

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On the other hand, it’s a story of co-dependency, emotional blackmail and living with regret over what could have been, resentment of decisions made in the past.

Like in any true American gothic tale, disturbing things happen in remote locations unregulated by the scrutiny of the outside world.

Perhaps Grey Gardens is ultimately about women suffering from a hereditary mental illness which, if left undiagnosed and unchecked, poses a threat and excludes the sufferers from society.

The story of the Beale women was expanded on in the consequent 2006 documentary The Beales of Grey Gardens, which consisted of footage not used in the first film.

Here’s a clip from it, I could have sworn I watched the whole thing on YT, but I can’t find it now.

It focuses more on Little Edie, who has since become something of a fashion icon.

Suffering from alopecia which resulted in hair loss, she created a specific style of dressing which would consist of make-shift turbans and scarves, accompanied by her beloved brooch.

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Edie was a master in fashion recycling, a good 20 years before it became a popular movement, and the documentaries are worth watching if only for her quirky sartorial choices.

Although a devoted catholic, she spends her time reading horoscopes and flirting shamelessly with the filming crew.

Both women love to sing and perform in front of their friends, displaying a need to be the centre of attention and admired.

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The story of the Beale women is so incredibly touching, and they have both become cult figures.

The notoriety they dreamed about didn’t come during their lifetimes, but this documentaries carries on their legacy.

Watching them, it seems like time has stood still for Big Edie and Little Edie, just as it had when they were living together in Grey Gardens.

In 2009 the story was turned into a movie Grey Gardens, with Jessica Lange playing Mrs Beale and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie.

Although the film catches the nuances of the Beale spirit, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

After all, those are some mighty big shoes to fill…

If you’re wondering whatever happened to Grey Gardens, here’s a slideshow illustrating its extraordinary history:

Arty Farty Friday: Herb and Dorothy

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I’ve been meaning to clean up my blogging habits and trying get some kind of rhythm going, but I’ve been also wanted to share with you some of the great finds of this summer, especially ones connected to art.

That’s why I hereby announce the start of Arty Farty Friday, a series of posts devoted to artists, their works, and the art world in general.

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Today I’d like to share with you the extraordinary story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a middle-class couple living in New York, who amassed the largest and most important collection of contemporary art despite being on a limited budget.
Their collection consisted of over 4,782 works, which they kept displayed, but also stored in closets and under the bed, in their one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

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The couple would lived on Dorothy’s librarian salary, while Herb’s postal clerk income was spent acquiring art from relatively unknown New York artists.

They’d spend all their free time visiting artists in studios, attending exhibitions, and expanding on their enormous art stash.

Their collection, which was donated to The National Gallery in Washington in 1991, focuses on minimalist and conceptual art because, by their own admittion, other types of art were just too expensive for their meagre budget.

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Although they were regarded as the mascots of the NY art scene, and became authorities in “the next big thing”, it wasn’t until the 2008 documentary titled Herb and Dorothy that the extent of their passion for art was revealed to a wider audience.

This is a story about the love for art, a love that is all-consuming but ultimately incredibly rewarding.

You can watch the whole documentary here.

In a time when artworks go for astronomical sums and have become the safest way to invest money therefore pricing it out of the market for mere mortals, this pair redefined what it meant to be an art collector.

The Vogels collected works by Chuck Close, Pat Steir, Robert Mangold, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Richard Long, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons, and Richard Tuttle, just to name a few.

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All of these artists works are worth a fortune at auction, but I don’t think it ever even crossed Herb and Dorothy’s mind to actually sell of any pieces from their stash.

When their collection was turned over to The National Gallery and the couple received an annuity to keep them financially secure, they just continued to buy more art.

Herb and Dorothy was so successful that a follow-up documentary was created which continued the remarkable story of the Vogals.

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Herb and Dorothy: 50×50 follows the launch of The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a program donated 2,500 works to 50 institutions across 50 states.

To watch the whole documentary go here.

I really do urge you to check the documentaries out, even if you’re not all that interested in art.

This is a touching tale of what happens when an art lover is also a hoarder exhibiting compulsive behaviour, of how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things with enough commitment and quite a bit sacrifice to their own personal comfort.

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Ultimately, it’s a love story about two kindred spirits who share a passion and allow it to consume their life and it’ll warm your heart.

Word of warming, before you rush off and start buying art in a Vogel-inspired haze, I think it’s important to mention that Herb had an incredibly eye for spotting artists who would go on to become acclaimed and sought after.

He would acquire works by an artist that especially moved him at an alarming pace, revealing his compulsive nature and, luckily, many of these pieces turned out to be a sound investment.

Secondly, by their own admission, not all the artwork the Vogals bought for their collection stood the test of time and is valuable now.

You can take The Collector Challenge to test your eye for art by trying to pick out works from the Vogel collection.

Let me tell you, I’ve never gotten so many wrong answers in one go before, but it’s so much fun.

A Vogal I am not!
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You’re in my Heart just like a Tattoo

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I think I can be described as a pretty hardcore fangirl.

No, I don’t own celebrity toenails turned into earrings, I don’t even collect autographs, but I can see how spending hours ogling pictures of hot British men, or creating posts for my own amusement, as well as for a limited group of like-minded people, could read as a bit craycray to the outside world.

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I do, however, like to think that there’s a certain method to my fangirling madness and I have long established certain boundaries that I can’t see myself crossing.

Oddly enough the same rules apply to my lovelife…

Cue the celebrity faces tattoos:

I have a tattoo.

I got a rather unimaginative tramp stamp that looks a bit like pea pods, done using the same methods as permanent make-up, which was supposed to come off in a year or two.

Twelve years later it’s going as strong as ever.

Then there’s that hole in my right nostril left over from my nose ring which, 14 years later, looks like a giant black head.

I use my own foolish decisions from a misguided youth to illustrate that some things are forever or at least are harder to get rid of than me at a sweet’s buffet.

The next time you start thinking that maybe a nice doodle of Richard Armitage tattooed close to your heart is a swell idea, I’d urge you to put the half-empty bottle of vodka down, take a deep breath and give yourself a nice big slap.

Go on, you probably won’t remember it the next day anyway, and you’ll save yourself the trouble of having to explain why you have “So, where do you want me to sleep then” etched across one buttock, and “Well, there you go” on the other.

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That Richard Armitage tattoo you so lovingly applied to your arse in your 20′s is going to end up looking like Stephen Fry a few decades later (for the record, I love Stephen Fry, I’m just illustrating a point).

Before I’m accused of being an ink hater let me stress that I hold good tattoo artists in high regard, and some tattoos really are works of art.

The human body can serve as a wonderful canvas to etch images that have meaning onto, and real tattoo lovers map out a plan to cover their bodies that I find fascinating.

No tattoo hating here!

This is an amazing example of a beautifully shaded image of Thorin:

Getting a tattoo of Richard’s face is one way to get women to want to see you naked ;)

I think there’s also a difference in getting a tat with a celebrity’s face as opposed to a fictional character.

OK, I’ve done my bit to raise awareness and now I’m of  to get some subdermal implants…

(click on images to go to the source)

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