Have you ever asked your friend or that special someone what they want for Christmas and they said "I don't mind"? Because same. Every year actually. And, sometimes, the annoying thing is that they either don't like it, don't make use of the present I got them or complain because it's not something they liked or wanted. It's the same every single Christmas, especially with my younger sister whom I find a little bit ungrateful at times.

So, I decided to come up with this gift idea: it's like one of those goody bags you get at the end of a [children's] birthday party - those small plastic bags or boxes with a mix selection of toys, mini games and sweets. It's pretty much like that, but more 'christmassy' and it'll be suited more to the receiver's preferences so they won't complain or return the item (it's sad because it happens to me almost every year :c ).

Here's an example of a friend. This friend of mine wants to have clear skin, enjoys eating and loves food and likes to smell nice so I've gathered a Peppermint mask (the powder kind in which you add water) which I purchased during a day trip to Lille, France, Galaxy white bubble chocolate, a green tea milk candy from Hong Kong and a bottle of perfume from Soap & Glory, all (kind of) wrapped together in red tissue paper in a small gift box which I finished off with a white string tied neatly at the ends. 

I've done a similar thing with my other friend, with the same Hong Kong candy and chocolate but with a Writer's Manual and a crystal encrusted drawstring bracelet because she loves accessories and reading and writing. 

The great thing about this 'goody gift' is that it offers your friend a selection, from food, to miscellaneous items and something useful to something they like whether it's small and cheap or large and expensive. It can be in a gift bag, a box or your items can just simply be wrapped in wrapping paper or (for economical purposes) wrapped in tissue paper or even tin foil! The ideas can be endless :D

I hope that, in a way, this has inspired you or helped you when your blocked for last minute gift ideas, especially if it's for the 'fussy' and 'indecisive' friend in your life (I have many, many of them in mine). 

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year! 

x Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ
Since I haven't done any art or photography related posts in a while, I thought I'd share some of the photographic works I've been working on in the past several months for my photography project. For our course we've done a series of workshops, learning all the different techniques and ways to capture images using camera-less photography and photographing with film and digital cameras.

For this series, I've used a macro lens (it was the only available lens that day lol) and just experimented with it. I explored the techniques we learned like the use of exposure, shutter speed and white balance and I simply captured almost everything I found satisfyingly aesthetic :)

These were actually just photographs to test if the settings are right before taking the same picture with my film camera, since you can only take them once :( 
In my film camera, I've also done multiple exposure techniques where another photo is overlaid on top of another - once I've developed all my film, I may share it :D 

I've also done Edward Weston inspired photographs of close-ups of cabbages and other objects with interesting lines and patters to make it appear surreal and 'strange and familiar' (the theme of our project). 

These are what I've done so far in my project but of course I'll show more, including my photograms and film processes! 

Hope you like my pics and tell me what you think :D

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ

As some of you probably already know, there was the ever-so recent Victoria's Secret fashion show where perfectly tall, skinny and absolutely stunning models strut the glittering catwalk wearing their ridiculously expensive lingerie with the addition of flashy and dazzling 'angel's wings' and accessories along with heels and the powerful and sexy confidence that I know I'll never have.

Victoria's Secret Fashion shows are amongst the biggest and most talked about events on the media because of iconic models such as Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, the Hadid sisters, etc. as well as the gorgeous lingerie that they wear and the artists who perform live music on the catwalk, artists such as Ariana Grande, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, etc.; this makes the industry (in the United States) be worth over $6.5 billion.

Honestly, I have nothing against VS apart from a couple of things. Yes, it does claim that their products 'empower women' and make them feel 'sexier and more confident' in which I'm perfect fine with, but I don't like how they objectified the models to sell their bras. Some of you are perhaps thinking that that would be inevitable since modelling lingerie requires you to be half-naked, but VS overtly sexualises these women. For example, take a look at the differences between these photos:

This image is from the H&M online shop for the Microfibre string briefs. It goes straight to the point and simply shows the product. There's nothing flashy or 'sexy' about this image because of the way the model poses and her facial expressions. 

This image if from VS online shop for the CrissCross Lace Cheekini. Unlike the previous photo, this image is very alluring and from how the model is posing and her facial expressions she looks seductive. The fact that she only has the panties shows us the photograph is very suggestive.

And take a look at this one from Ann Summers (which, like VS, sells sexy lingerie), advertising the Leona Plush Bra. Again, nothing sexy about this image (apart from the product ofc).

Now look at this one from VS which shows the Dream Angels Velvet Bustier. From the model's pose, which is the open legs, and her inviting facial expression it makes this very suggestive.

Do you see my point?

Also, the fact that the company claim that their products will 'empower women' by making them feel sexier and confident encourages self-objectification. Especially since VS is widely talked about on social media, this encouragement will spread amongst younger girls. VS's marketing may convince these girls to treat themselves as objects, to be consumed and seen. (See this interesting article for more about VS's marketing)

Now, I'm not here to perpetually bash the company and make them look bad, I'm just here to open your minds a bit wider towards women's bodies. With the VS Fashion show 2016, it's the perfect timing to talk about bras which is the main topic for this post.

Victoria's Secret is well known for its (expensive) bras, including their most expensive bra line, the 'Fantasy Bras'. Because of its widespread commerciality on media as well as in pop culture, the trendy and sexy bras are extremely popular, with around 70% (in the US) women shopping at VS.

Personally, I've never bought or even tried on a VS bra because they are just too expensive for my likes. I prefer functionality than fashion, because what's the point in wearing a black and magenta bra with extremely detailed lacing when it's going to be covered anyway? Well, in this current generation fashion surpasses function which, like one of my previous points, can encourage self-objectification and make girls obsessed with themselves and the way they look; and with the VS angels, society is pushing expectations of women further up which can turn this obsession into something ugly.

I mean, a bras main function is to support your breasts, it's not something that you could show off which is what VS is exhorting. And if society tells us that bras are 'mandatory', then why make it so expensive?

Lingerie is something intimate, so I think it shouldn't be thrown in the spotlight like it's the most important thing in this planet. Bras are bras, it is not mandatory and we should respect other women's choice of not wearing one. We shouldn't degrade them because it's 'suggestive' or 'sexualised' since the nipples are showing, when VS sells products in a way that is exactly like that.

Thank you for reading this long rant about bras which I've been meaning to let out for a long time! I really hope I somehow opened your mind a bit more to this long-standing issue about our bodies and hope that maybe you'll do something about it to change society's attitude towards women :D

I'd also like to know what some of your thoughts are on this issue, whether what VS markets is "women empowerment" or plain simple "sexism".

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ
Because I'm earning money, I embedded this mindset where I can "do whatever I want" and "buy whatever I want" (although that would not be the case anymore because I end up being broke at the end of every month) and I wanted to try something new. So, as a fellow french student, I ended up subscribing to this cute french subscription box called "My little box".

My little box is  basically a french subscription box where they send you cute little items, whether they're beauty products or accessories or home and lifestyle items, that are part of the 'Parisian chic' style. It also comes with a monthly magazine My Little World that has contributors from illustrators and lifestyle bloggers about the 'Parisian chic'.

As you can see above, the theme of this month's box (the October box) is 'Brooklyn'. The box contains a Givenchy mascara, a My Little Beauty nail strengthener, a mini tin coffee mug with a leaf stencil (for sprinkling cocoa on top of hot chocolate or coffee), a Terry Kôhl gold eyeliner and pins to customise your clothes. 

I love the design and the cute illustrations that come with the box! It does flow with the theme of a New York 'Brooklyn' chic style, however I do not feel like it's a french box. Because it's from France, I expected the magazine and everything else to be in French (it's actually one of the reasons why I subscribed to this - so I can practice my reading for my French A-Level) but it turns out to be all in english with some french. I mean, it would be understandable since they may have english subscribers but I feel like to improve they could've given subscribers the option to receive a box either in french or english. 

I'll start off with the cosmetic products. Above includes Terry's gold Kôhl eyeliner. Honestly, this is a gorgeous colour. It's a lovely warm gold eyeliner - it's not matte or sparkly but when applied, it appears shiny but not too glittery so it's just perfect. It glides on like ice and it's a very easy application. I like to apply this eyeliner in the inner corner of my eyes as wells as the waterline to open up my eyes and bring out the colour. 

Another item is a Givenchy mascara which I'm absolutely in love with. It's probably the best mascara I've owned so far - I mean, it is Givenchy. It naturally extends my lashes and because of its slightly curvy brush it curls my lashes ever so slightly. There are sometimes too much mascara on the brush that I have to constantly brush my lashes out with a spooly but otherwise it's a wonderful product! 

Next is a nail strengthener from their in-house beauty range "My Little Beauty". It's supposed to makes your nails stronger, however I feel like it doesn't make much of an immediate difference after applying it (apart from making my fingers smell nice). To be honest, I'm not entirely sure if it actually works since my nails are always quite weak and bendy. 

These are the fashion/lifestyle items: a tin mug, accessory pins and a coffee stencil. To be honest, I don't often use a coffee stencil or accessory pins anymore. I love the tin mug - I actually use it to store my jewellery and some leftover items lying around my room (I'm a very disorganised and messy person). 

Overall, I love the whole concept of the subscription and the visual elements of it - the illustration, the design and the style. The items inside aren't bad - I love how they're all diverse and are from different companies, however some of these items are not something that I would use. I also don't like how the magazines aren't in french even though it's a french subscription box. 

Unfortunately, I have unsubscribed since the box wasn't really to my expectation but once they've improved it, I may subscribe once again since I enjoy some of the items and the monthly magazine as well as the design and illustrations. I would definitely recommend this subscription to those interested in french culture or french beauty and style. It's very inexpensive - £14.95 monthly including shipping. It is honestly so simple and easy to subscribe and you can unsubscribe anytime; I also find it's a very quick delivery - I received my first box two days early! 

I hope you find this review helpful! 

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ
As part of the collaboration post with Leila, I did a portrait of her in a style that I mentioned I was practicing. As promised, I have made a post explaining this new style. I got the inspiration from a cool illustrator on Instagram - since I have a vague interest in fashion illustration, I was instantly attracted to it and I thought I would try it out myself :)

I've been practicing and experimenting on different techniques and mediums - watercolours as well as ProMarkers and gel ink. To sketch my outline, I followed a technique done by an artist on YouTube whereby the pencil is held almost horizontal, as if you're shading, and held like a paintbrush.

I did not really use guidelines because I don't really need them - since I am more of a portrait artist, I suppose, and have been doing portraits for a long time, I am already familiar with the anatomy and structure of a human.
First off, I did a rough sketch of my reference (Emily Lind photographed by Tyler Shields). I coloured her features in using watercolours, adding different hues to create an atmosphere and make it slightly surrealistic. Then, with my Muji black gel pen, I outlined her features to make it crisp - like an illustration.

This piece was actually my first attempt at the style :P

I practiced sketching quickly in this style using only a pen. 

Above are just a few examples of what I've been working on! I'll be working on more, constantly honing and improving the style of course, and perhaps create a collection of works and maybe selling them :D

I also have a few very exciting announcements to make! Over the summer, I've been asked by Ava to contribute to a collaborative project zine. For now, it's called Sacred Zine Club and the release of the first issue is soon! However, the first issue of another collaborative project zine Paper Comets is out now so you can check it out here :D

Both projects are part of an online art society for teen girls by teen girls known as Freckled Minds and Ava, one of the talented founders, has kindly offered me the position of Editor! You can check out the blog here :)

What's more, I have done a few articles for a US based production company Adolescent Content and this amazing opportunity has helped me gain some experience and knowledge in freelance writing! I am so excited to show you what I've written, and the link for one of them is here :D

If you managed to get this far, then I'd like to thank you for taking your time to read :D

Have a great week and good luck all of you in your first day/week of school! 

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ

With school approaching soon, I have been awfully busy with my new job, summer tasks for my A-level subjects and some writing! Recently was the GCSEs Results day, in which I passed all my subjects and achieved the requirements to get into the sixth form I wanted to go to. I got 2 As and the rest are mostly Bs and Cs - I am so happy that all my hard work studying for the last 2 years has finally paid off! Although I didn't achieve the grades I was expecting on some subjects, I am still very proud of what I achieved :D

With all of this occurring, my new chapter in life is slowly unfolding. Honestly, with what I've worked on and what I achieved this summer has made me feel like a new person. I feel like, with my contributions to projects such as Sacred Zine Club and Adolescent Content, my creativity in writing as well as art has been boosted; with my new job at C and H Fabrics store, my confidence has been lifted and with my recent GCSE grades I can see my future in the distance!

Right now, I'm still working on building my skills, experience, confidence and contacts for networking and I hope that this will all lead to a promising future.

This is a short post but I kept it concise due to time :/ Hopefully, next week I'll show my newest art works I've done with a new art style I'm experimenting with!

I hope you enjoyed and have a great day everyone :D

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ
As part of a collaboration with my dear Filipina buddy, we decided to do portraits of each other! Leila, of dearfutures3lf.wordpress.com, had done a digital portrait of me which you can view by clicking on this link. I did a traditional watercolour, done in an illustration style I've been practicing and on which I'll do a post about it all! Hope you like it :D

For the portrait, I drew a rough outline following with rough sketches of the facial features. Afterwards, I moved on with watercolour paints starting with light greys and then gradually moving onto colours. I then refined the outline and facial features with a black gel ink pen to make it stand out more and finished with some hard shading.

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ
To support my studies for one my A-level courses in Fashion Textiles, I took a trip to London to visit the Missoni Art Colour Exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. The exhibition mainly displays Ottavio and Rosita Missoni's creative process of their textiles work as well as their fashion house, Missoni. I had a wonderful time and I was lit up by the bursts of colours everywhere, from their paintings, their textiles work and their designs!

Ottavio and Rosita Missoni's experimental abstract colour paintings

A series of films showing behind-the-scenes of Missoni.

Costruzione by Luigi Veronesi (Italy 1908-98).
Original plans of Ottavio's colour patterns.

Nina being a badass.

These photos are in the order we went in when we walked around :)

Going to this exhibition really helped me expand my knowledge and give me another perspective in the fashion industry as well as fine art. Plus, the garments and colour patterns which Ottavio produced really gave me a lot of inspiration! This is perhaps by far my favourite exhibition I've been to.

Look of the Day

For my look of the day, I chose an orange and white colour scheme and because it's London I wanted to stand out - I mean, who wouldn't?

The outfit consists of an orange, pink and white striped off-shoulder shirt dress from next, paired with a bright orange short trench coat (sorry it doesn't say where it's from) along with tan Timberlands boots. My hair's up in a bun and my makeup was really simple - brown shadow along the crease topped with black winged eyeliner and then this new lipstick from Kiko in a natural pink colour :)

Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend :D

Nicole ᵔᴥᵔ