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Second Identity: Flossy P

To think that hiding behind a mask or pseudonym would give you the courage to show the world your true self seems ironic, but artists and writers throughout history have created secret identities to conceal their ‘real’ identities from those who know them. Charlotte and Emily Bronte used the pen names Currer Bell and Ellis Bell, respectively; Dr Seuss’ parents knew him as Theodore Suess Geisel; Lewis Carroll’s name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; and the boys from KISS wore extreme costume makeup so they wouldn’t be bothered in their downtime. These days, in a world of blogging and social networking, it seems that almost everyone has an alias and no one is who they say they are. Whether this is creepy or morally correct is another story, but for Flossy-P, creating a pseudonym was simply a way to keep her real identity hidden while she navigated her way through the big, wide world of illustration.

“I started an anonymous blog under the pseudonym ‘Flossy-P’ and no one knew it was me except my husband. It was my safety zone until I was confident enough to put a face to my work,” she explains.

And where did the name come from? Well, when Flossy-P was a little girl who answered to the name Sarah, a crazy Scottish lady convinced her that all children had names that were already assigned to them, but their parents changed them when they were born – much like the proud new owner of a Cabbage Patch doll would do. This lady convinced Sarah that her assigned name was in fact Alice Flossy Pumpernickle, and that her parents were well aware of this but had been lying to her.

“I was completely convinced,” she says. “But this lady was so sneaky about it that when I eventually confronted my parents about it, they had no idea what I was talking about.”

The name stuck in the back of Sarah’s mind and followed her into adulthood, acting as a fa├žade while she broke away from web design into illustration. The ability to draw has been with Flossy-P since she was known as Sarah, but she didn’t get into illustration until recently: “I actually went anti-art after college. For a while after studying at COFA (College of Fine Arts) my whole life became so much about conceptual art that real life became a foreign concept. I turned myself inside out.”

She didn’t touch a pencil for eight years and found herself working in web design management, but it wasn’t long until she realised that she needed to draw again; and so Flossy-P was born.

You might already know Flossy-P from her incredible use of watercolours, her participation in group exhibitions, her contribution to the Curvy books, her painted mural on a bakery wall and her very own stock pile of greeting cards in the Art Gallery of NSW, but the inconspicuous thing is that Flossy-P’s works are not just about pretty faces. If you look closely enough, you’ll find a subtle metaphor or hidden meaning.

In the form of Sarah, she takes inspiration from nature and music and has a photographic memory of people’s faces. She then takes these images into the world of Flossy-P where they are melded together to create works that have a whimsical, vaguely surreal quality about them that is slightly reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits – only in Flossy-P’s works, Kahlo’s wild monkeys are replaced with native Australian flowers and birds, and the girls in the paintings wear less tormented facial expressions. Not only does this make them much more commercially appealing, but also makes them seem fantastical and nostalgic; conjuring up mental images of frolicking through fields and diving into piles of leaves.

The leading lady in Flossy P’s next work may well be you, should you pass her in the street or the World Wide Web. “There is a girl who has a store in Adelaide, and I saw a photo of her on her Flickr site and ended up doing a portrait based on her because I thought she just looked so interesting. Anyway, about a year later, her store ordered a print of that work and after it was sent to them, the girl emailed me and asked if the painting was of her,” Flossy-P laughs. “It was so embarrassing, and I had to say yes because it was so obvious.”

Flossy-P’s website features both commissioned and personal works, but “the personal ones always come out bad,” Sarah says. “If I’m doing a commissioned work, I’ll research flowers or costumes or something. But when I try to be spontaneous and do a personal work, it’s always terrible.”

Flossy P

words: Alex English


May 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM Cath @ chunkychooky said...

it brings a tear to my eye that Flossy didn't draw for 8 years- that art college stopped that urge... we are lucky to have such amazing talent right on our doorstep...

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