Sunday, July 5, 2009

Scent made visible

Remember my post earlier this year about my encounter with some art students at a local university? (If your memory needs jogging, click here.) I gave each student a couple of scent samples to use as inspiration for a drawing project. The instructor, Billy Renkl, has sent me JPEGs of a few of the pieces they created. A couple of them are reproduced below, with the artist's permission. I'll put up more if/when we can track down the other students to get their okay.

Le Parfum d'Ida, (c) Sarah Andrews, 2009.

Yep, that's right, this earthy image was inspired by Neil Morris' tribute to the sweetly outrageous Ida, aka Chayaruchama. If you haven't been lucky enough to sample Le Parfum d'Ida, you'll get an idea of its character from the list of notes on the NMF site. It's rich, complicated, sexy, and warm. This was my review when it was introduced:

Le Parfum d'Ida--yes, named for Ms. Chaya--is a truly classic floral/leather/aldehyde. Ida says it's "skanky," and so it is, but in the most genteel sense. (Note to normal people: Perfumistas smile on skanky, within limits. Don't try to figure it out.) This baby is a real throwback to the great scents of the pre-WWII era. Think of the vivid richness of the classic Lanvins combined with the earthy sensuality of Tabu. But there's a bit of post-war wit and sparkle, too. Imagine the love child of Scandal and Miss Dior, and you'll have a notion of Le Parfum d'Ida.

Initially, I couldn't see much connection between Sarah's drawing and Neil's glamorous creation, but then I realized that the image references the perfume's base notes. Oakmoss, vetiver, myrrh, and black agar give Parfum d'Ida's drydown a dark, primitive character, perfectly in keeping with the organic quality of Sarah's work. It's interesting to me that the quiet base notes, which almost never get any attention in the promotion of conventional perfumes, seem to be what got the artist's attention here.

Oil of Almadina Musk, (c) James Linkous, 2009.

The Almadina musk James worked with is from The Fragrance Shop. It's an unconventional variety of musk--bitter, herbal, slightly leathery. The animalic quality of this musk is pungent, not sweet or creamy like most popular musks. I wear it occasionally, but it's very masculine, heavy and linear. I suspect if you asked me to "picture" this musk, you'd hear about images of vegetation, or maybe a rough, green cloth. James' drawing evokes the latter for me, though I doubt he had anything so concrete in mind.

Thanks to James and Sarah for letting their work adorn BitterGrace Notes.


jmcleod76 said...

These are great - I've never tried to draw a smell before. What fun!

ScentScelf said...

What I love about the first image...other than the image itself :) the way I anthropomorphize, and see dancing figures...earthy dancing figures...and I think of Ida.

The second one I'm going to contemplate a bit more. There seems to be a hum in there.

Alyssa said...

Oh hurray! I'm so glad you followed up with these.

jizames05 said...

Hey, this is James. I actually did think of fabric and forests on my piece. It was also my first dive into something so abstracted. I just wish i had more time to work on it and make it richer, since the scent was so strong. Id love to hear more feedback, by the way. My e-mail is

BitterGrace said...

Hi, James. Thanks for coming by. Being a perfume lover and not an artist, I can't help wondering whether you liked the scent. The abstract form seems to evoke the properties of the scent very effectively, but I don't get much of a sense of how you feel about it. It's such a weird fragrance, I'd love to know whether it smells good to you.

jizames05 said...

I am impartial to the scent. It was very pungent and overpowering, but I might find it more enjoyable if it were diluted, or mixed with a smoother scent. I'm unsure how the perfume world would react to that solution. Its like mixing vodka with orange juice to take the edge off.

BitterGrace said...

That's actually just how most perfumes are formulated. Subtle amounts of really potent smells are used to enhance the tame "good" smells. Almadina musk is very harsh to wear on its own--but some of us like that. I guess you'd call it an acquired taste.