Well Red

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Recently I’ve been playing around with my makeup. A lot. In fact, every morning I watch CNN in my bathroom and spend about an hour viewing YouTube videos and learning how to apply my makeup better or style my hair differently. It’s actually become a fun part of my morning routine, and for someone who has NEVER had any skill at makeup application, well, I guess finally figuring it out at age 48 is better than never learning at all. I know it’s not time spent making the world a better place or anything, but it puts me in a much better mood for the day, which certainly isn’t making the world worse. So there you go.

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Some of the cool things I’ve learned recently are how to effectively apply winged liquid eyeliner (the key: pull the eyelid way out and extend the line so far out that it looks ridiculous, because when you let go of the lid it will just barely extend past the outer corner of your eye and look amazing) and how to apply a fairly decent red lip (still working on this one, actually). In fact, on my recent trip to my local MAC counter to pick up a few more bright lipsticks, blushes, and shadows, the makeup artist actually complimented the eyeshadow I’d meticulously applied that morning, and having never, EVER been complimented on my makeup application before, that thrilled me to a ridiculous degree.

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Now, before you get too confused, keep in mind that most of the makeup I have on in my photos has been Photoshopped to perfect all the blending and application flaws I always make. My general method is to apply a ton more makeup than usual, just so it all shows up, and then pull it all together when editing. And as much as I love using bright colors for my photos, in real life I’ve never, EVER worn anything other than neutral makeup shades. I’ve tried on occasion, but always felt terribly overdone with a bright red lip or a multi-colored eyeshadow trio on my lids. My general palette for the past 15-20 years has basically been neutral, golden browns on my eyes, cheeks, and lips, with foundation and powder – period. But, it’s finally happened – my skin has reached that stage where it really does call for more color, and all those neutrals were starting to wash me out. Not only that, but they were also starting to bore me, and lately I’ve been wanting to have way more fun with my face. So, here I am.

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I’m also loving my new pink backdrop! It was pricey, but worth every penny.

Aside from some of the nice, bright eye shadows and blushes I’ve purchased to pop up my look, I’ve become obsessed with getting a good red lip game going. And, in typical fashion, I’ve attacked this by over-purchasing makeup products and then taking pictures of all the new shades to justify the ridiculous expense. So, lucky you – you now get to scroll through photos of NINE of the TWELVE different red lipsticks I’ve purchased over the past two weeks! Why only nine, you ask? Well, because three of the colors just didn’t photograph well for various reasons. Being me, I couldn’t just quickly take photos of all the different lipstick shades while wearing the same outfit, because that would be boring, so I made a costume change with each new color, and in one of them I wore a blue top that made me look washed out and horrible (I’ve discovered quite recently that blue just isn’t my color, but sometimes I still forget). In another one, the outfit was a mess because after about the seventh costume change I was starting to run out of ideas, and the third color went bad because, after applying and then wiping off eleven different red lipsticks, most of which were a long-wearing liquid formula, my entire mouth and chin were a disaster. On the plus side, I currently have the most exfoliated lips in history. But I digress.

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Because I actually have never gotten much into makeup and I get easily overwhelmed by the limitless array of choices available, I tend to stick to the two or three brands I know well when it comes to trying new things. I may venture out a little when I feel the need to change my foundation or some other more fundamental product (and I did, actually, change my base recently as well; I figured if I was going to change things I might as well go for broke – I went with Chanel’s Ultrawear Flawless Foundation, but I’m not wearing it in these pics because I have special, heavy-duty foundation I use for photos) so the only two lipstick lines I tried here were by MAC and Lime Crime. I’ve worn MAC since my 20s, and all my blush and eyeshadow still comes from them even though I moved on from their foundation long ago; and I’ve always liked Lime Crime’s aesthetic even though they’re more outrageous than I’ve ever worn in public – I’ve been wearing their lipsticks and shadows in my photos for years. I’ve always liked both of their long-wearing liquid lipsticks, but always took issue with the more neutral colors from both lines. In fact, I’ve always found neutral long-wearing formulations problematic; while the brighter colors maintain their pop in long-wearing lipsticks, I feel like the neutrals just go flat and gray and muddy on my lips. The only one I’ve ever liked is one I found about a year ago – Kylie Jenner’s King K (see photo above) – and it’s still my favorite neutral lip in the world which is why I have about ten unopened tubes of it in my lipstick drawer; I want to have it on-hand forever (it’s currently sold out and I don’t know if they will be re-stocking it).  And it’s still the color I wear when working; I tried wearing a bright red lip ONCE to my tutoring sessions, and when I got home in the evening after my three tutoring sessions and looked in the mirror, I was mortified. At some point while teaching and talking and driving from place to place, without any real time to look in a mirror or touch up  my makeup, that bright red had slipped completely off my lips and settled into my chin as well as my upper lip, leaving only a weird, dark red line outlining my cupid’s bow. I hate to say it, but my first thought when I saw my reflection was that I looked like I’d had a quickie in my car between sessions; it was THAT bad. I looked insane. So, I’ve never worn a red lip to a tutoring session again. But I digress again – let’s get on to the lipsticks!

#1: Psycho by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

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I played around with my eyeshadow and skin tone as I always do in these photos – but I do want to point out that I left the lipstick colors alone, so they should be pretty true to how they really look. 

One of my issues with red lipstick has always been that, on me, it always seems to turn pink when I put it on, even if it doesn’t look like it has blue undertones in the tube. So, I was careful to stay away from shades that had any sort of blue or pink in the color descriptions. Psycho, however, is about as far away from a blue undertone as I could go – it’s pretty much flat-out orange, and in real life it’s too bright to work for every day. But it’s fun, and it will work for photos, and I can see wanting to wear it every once in a while. I knew this one was a longshot when I bought it, but as with all the lipsticks I tried I got it during the Black Friday sales so I was feeling more adventurous due to the added savings.

Oh and speaking of Black Friday sales, the reason I am just now getting these colors reviewed for you when I bought them two weeks ago is because UPS had a complete meltdown after Black Friday, and took forever to deliver my packages. Here’s just one little snapshot of the sort of insanity they had going on while I waited, fairly impatiently, for my deliveries (keep in mind this is the tracking for just ONE package; I had three that were lost in the UPS loop for days and days):

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Allow me to explain.

First of all, I ship most of my packages to a shipping business that rents mailboxes; usually shipments to a business will arrive way earlier in the day than shipments to a residence, and I like knowing when a shipment is out for delivery that I will get it by 3:30 instead of at 8 PM (even if it means I have to drive up to my mailbox to get it). I also like that if something needs to be signed for, I don’t have to worry about it, because there’s always someone at my mailbox who will sign for it. So, that first reschedule above was legit, because the business was closed the day after Thanksgiving. After that, though, things just got ridiculous. There actually was NOT an adult signature required for this stuff, because IT WAS A BOX OF MAKEUP, and MAC has never required signatures on anything. So that was just a flat-out UPS lie. Then I got the dreaded “due to operating conditions” update, where “operating conditions” means “untrained, inept, and overwhelmed UPS drivers.” Then, it just goes Out For Delivery for a few days in a row without ever showing up, then it was back to requiring an adult signature again…you get the idea. Also, make note of the times of those delivery attempts – 9:42 PM, 9:35 PM, 7:55 PM. The office where I rent my mailbox closes at 6:00, and is supposed to have a shipment guarantee with UPS that all shipments will arrive by 3:30. Sigh.

Anyway, on to Lipstick #2, which is: Red Velvet by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)red velvet

This is one of those reds that went pink on me; it’s described on the website as “reddest red,” which I figured probably meant it would be a blue-red, and I was right. However, I Googled all these lipstick shades before I bought them, and overall I did love the way it looked on other people, so even though I knew it was a longshot I figured I’d give it a go (what can I say – probably the Black Friday sales getting the best of me again). It’s pretty, but definitely no orange undertones in this one that makes it too pinky for my taste. It’s really too bad that in my frustration waiting for my wayward shipment with this color in it to arrive, I actually went online and placed a second order from another website in the hopes I’d get it sooner (or actually get it at all,  because I was pretty convinced that the shipment had actually been lost and was never going to arrive), because now I have two. Moving on.

Lipstick #3: Pumpkin by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

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Ah, Pumpkin. I really like this one. It’s orange, but not bright, and in more of a brick-red kind of way, so it works as a neutral red I can wear with all my neutral-toned clothes in tan and gray (I’m also working on incorporating more color into my wardrobe, but hey, let’s take this one expensive step at a time, OK?). By the way, this is probably a good time to talk about the formulation of Lime Crime’s Velveteens (the name of their long-wearing liquid lipstick line). As with all long-wearing lipsticks, these are quite dry, and in fact I find them drier than the MAC Liquid Matte lipsticks I tried. And I will say it was a Lime Crime lipstick I was wearing the night of my disastrous red-lip tutoring fiasco, so, there’s that. But, I wouldn’t say Lime Crime’s formulation is the driest I’ve ever tried, or is so dry it’s unwearable. I think it’s more that the MAC formulation is less dry than the others I’ve worn, and Lime Crime’s are the usual amount of dry, if that makes sense. I purchased MAC’s Lip Primer as an afterthought and have been wearing it underneath all of these the past few days, and I do think it helps a little, but dryness is just part of the deal with all of these matte, long-wearing, liquid lipstick lines. And although Lime Crime didn’t survive one of my marathon tutoring sessions, the truth is, nothing else I ever wear makes it through five hours of teaching, talking, and driving – not even my stand-by, still-loved King K. When I’ve worn Lime Crime out of the house for anything else, like shopping, or visiting friends, it’s held up just fine. So there you go. And while we’re at it, I might as well finish up the Lime Crime lineup all at once, so on to the last one of that batch. This one also happens to be my favorite lipstick of them all!

Lipstick #4: New Americana by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

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I. Love. This. Lipstick. 

As far as colors go, this one wins, hands-down. The color is GORGEOUS. It’s very bright, but since it maintains the orange undertone I love so much instead of leaning pink, it really makes me happy.  I have to say, if I were ranking these lipsticks, I would knock off half a star because I know the MAC formulation isn’t quite as dry, and dryness is my one tiny complaint about this one. But I think if I tried to wear something this bright and red in a non-longwearing formula, I would be a mess within twenty minutes, so overall this is a big win. As long as I get it applied right, and have time throughout the day to check myself in the mirror and touch it up now and then, it doesn’t end up all over everything (although you’ll still see some of it on your coffee cup) and stays in place. And the rich, red color is really stunning.

Which wraps up our Lime Crime reviews, and as we move on to MAC I’ll start with the red from them that I think is closest to New Americana.

Lipstick #5: Fashion Legacy by MAC (liquid matte)fashion legacy

Fashion Legacy is from MAC’s Liquid Matte line of longwearing lipsticks, and as I already mentioned, these are a little more moisturizing than Lime Crime’s Velveteens. That said, I notice a bit more color transfer onto my coffee cup with these, but they can still endure a lunch date while maintaining most of their color by the end of the meal. Fashion Legacy has the same nice, rich brightness of LC’s New Americana, but as you can see it’s also a bit more pink. Honestly, I didn’t really notice the difference all that much until I put these two pictures side by side, and Fashion Legacy can probably do anything New Americana do – but it doesn’t do it any better, to quote the song. So, this is a great one to wear if for some reason I’m wanting my lips to be more moisturized than they would be with Lime Crime’s version, and for that reason I’ll give this one four and a quarter stars (I’ve got to give New Americana my highest marks, even if it is just slightly).

Lipstick #6: Quite the Standout by MAC (liquid matte)quite the standout

Look out Westworld! I chose the black hat. 

I like this one. It’s a great orange-red, nowhere near as bright as LC’s Psycho but much more so than the brick-ness of their Pumpkin. I will get a lot of wear out of this one, even though it doesn’t make my heart go pitter-pat like New Americana does – and by the way, how great are all of these names? I even love just saying “New Americana” over and over. Quite the Standout? Fashion Legacy? All so much more lovely than the $60 Chanel foundation I just bought in “Color 40.” And speaking of names…

Lipstick #7: Lady Danger by MAC (matte lipstick – non-liquid)

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Lady Danger – how’s that for a great lipstick name? This one is one of the handful of non-liquid, non-longwear ones I tried; I thought maybe I could make a more moisturizing red lipstick work on tutoring days without coming home looking insane, but I haven’t tried it yet. I do like this color, even though I can’t tell much difference between it and Quite the Standout aside from perhaps a touch of coral in this one; since I really like how Standout looks on, what I may do is carry this one with me when wearing Quite the Standout out of the house as I could use it to moisturize my lips while adding some color if they get too dry. I don’t know; I’m really not sure why I bought this one other than to try out some non-liquid reds while I was on my Black Friday lipstick-shopping kick. I tried a few others that aren’t so entirely similar to something I already had in liquid form, but a few of them were in the batch of photos that didn’t work out, so I don’t have anything to show of them yet.

Lipstick #8: To Matte With Love (MAC Liquid Matte)to matte with love

That’s right, you guys – I even tried a pink. Me, in PINK. In a PINK LIPSTICK, y’all. Me, who never ever even wore pink in high school in the eighties, when pink lipstick was basically the only available color in the drugstore. I figured if I was trying out new things, I might as well try a pink or two, and again – BLACK FRIDAY SALE MADNESS. Plus, this one looked quite pretty and not obnoxious at all, and I actually quite like it. Not sure how much I’ll wear this one, but since I also bought some bright, deep pink eyeshadow and an awesome bright lime green, I could see putting that all together and making it work.

OK, last one for now, and it’s not all that thrilling, quite honestly:

Lipstick #9: Dangerous (MAC matte)dangerous

Why do I look so much like Jared Leto here?

First of all, this is the last lipstick I photographed, and it really shows. By this time, all the scraping and wiping I did on my lips had taken its toll; you can see how much the other colors had kind of faded into the skin around my lips here. Plus, Dangerous really doesn’t have much pigmentation at all; I think it’s buildable if you want more depth, but on its own it is rather sheer. This isn’t a bad thing, but because of that it looks more coral on me than I’d like, and I feel it’s an odd color for such a sheer formulation. For now I don’t feel like I have any real use for this one, but who knows. It might grow on me.

So at last we reach the end of this massive lipstick post. Keep in mind I still have three other shades I didn’t even review! Which one of these did you like best? Do you agree with my #1 winner, or do you like another one better? Let me know in the comments, or don’t, it’s up to you. But if you made it to the end of all of this madness, at least drop me a line in the comments and say hi, so I can thank you for your dedication. 🙂

Ice as Nice

We had another unexpected day off Tuesday – an ice storm blew through the city early in the morning, and although the temps didn’t get low enough in our area to ice up the roads, it did knock out power at the school, so the administration decided to cancel. I was already up and halfway ready to go when I got the call, so I decided I’d try out the makeup my friends want me to do for their shoot and see if I could pull it off, and I figured if I was going to go that far I might as well take some pictures.

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This is the look my friends/models want for their shoot

I don’t know what magic fairy dust was sprinkled over me on this occasion, but I must have done everything just right without realizing it, because the makeup and the portraits I shot came out amazing. I’m not saying that because they’re portraits of me, of course, but because the makeup really popped on camera, the lighting was dead-on, and to be honest, there just wasn’t a bad shot in the bunch. Well, of the portraits anyway.And although I didn’t pull off the exact look of the makeup in the photo above, I got the idea down.

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A few things I did different with the makeup that helped me out here: the last time I was at the MAC counter stocking up, the salesperson gave me samples of a new color-correcting BB cream they’d just introduced. I hadn’t tried it yet, but decided on this day to slap some on underneath my foundation – I have the yellow tint to cut the red in my skin. I have other color correctors on-hand that I normally use (just for photos; I find it’s too much under my daily makeup because my skin is  dry and can’t handle too many layers of stuff without looking cakey and accentuating my pores) but I think this one worked better to create a nice neutral base to my skin. Or maybe it had nothing to do with it and I just lucked out with the lighting, but my makeup was really on point here. Another thing I learned is I can use MAC’s Studio Fix powder foundation on my neck and decollete and it works quite well to cover up my sun damage and hyper-pigmentation. Again, I wouldn’t do this for day-to-day because I’d end up with makeup all over my clothes, but it worked incredibly well for photos, which is when the sun damage shows up the most anyway – I’m really happy with how much of my discoloration the powder foundation was able to conceal. I also think working against the black background helps the studio lighting pop better, because the light is being absorbed behind me rather than bounced back at the camera. It makes for crisper photos overall.

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I had loads of Madame Alexander dolls when I was a kid.

I have a lot more portraits I’d like to edit, but I had other things to do and didn’t want to spend all day at the computer processing shots, so I’ll have to share those later. For example, I realized late in the afternoon that I needed to go vote, so I grabbed Doug and we headed out to our local elementary school, getting there right as class let out for the day and fighting through traffic the whole way as a result. We were both so flustered when we got inside, that we rather forgot we were there to vote in the primaries, and pitched a bit of a fit with the poll worker for asking us if we were Republican or Democrat before we remembered why we were there. I’m sure we appeared just super intelligent, not to mention being the only Democrats they’d probably encountered all day. Anyway, go Wendy Davis.

Back to shooting. I was less successful with my experimental shots, but that makes sense since they’re, you know, experiments. I had a vision of shooting myself standing up with my hands over my face, looking windblown, and then having several images of myself dancing about behind me, all blurry and ghost-like. The shot of me standing still was easy enough, and then I slowed the shutter speed way down so I could dance around and get some blurry movement pictures with the idea that I would create a composite shot to put them all together, but the end result didn’t quite work:

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It’s not bad, but I didn’t take any blurry shots that were posed in a manner where I could place them fully off to my left, like I managed to get one placed to my right, so it’s not symmetrical. Everything was positioned with me leaning out to the left in such a manner that to get the image placed fully to that side, my arms and/or legs would have been completely cut out of the frame (side note: in almost all my movement shots, I lean my body to the left and almost never the right. I don’t know why). I’m not sure I’m even articulating this well, but suffice it to say that I had to stick the second blurry image almost directly behind me instead of having it be off to my side as I envisioned. Also, I was using the camera in portrait mode, and using landscape would have given me much more room to fit the blurry images in, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

I also thought I’d try some levitation/composite shots, so I got a trusty kitchen chair, threw a black fleece blanket over it, and went to work.

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I bought the blue gown off eBay for twelve bucks, by the way. I thought it was an usual color for this type of nightgown, since they’re normally more pastel, and I liked how the white lace contrasted with the bright color.

I played around with a feature in Paint Shop Pro called ‘drop shadow’ that required  me to select just what I wanted to have a shadow in the photo (in this case, my body) and then it created the drop shadow on a separate layer. I then messed a bit with different settings and opacity levels for it to try and make it more convincing, but quite honestly I didn’t spend too terribly long doing this. I was a little tired of editing at this point, and I’m discovering that all this photoediting of composite shots and leviation poses and adding shadows and stitching different photos together blah blah blah kinda bores me. Probably because I don’t really know how to do it all that well, so I get frustrated and bored with it pretty quickly. So, I think the shadow here could have been better – softer, probably – but it isn’t bad. So there it is.

More from this set later. I know I won’t have another day off tomorrow, because true to Texas, although it was 31 degrees here last night, it’ll be back up to 70 by tomorrow – so it’s time for me to wrap it up and get to bed. Crazy weather! More later!

Medusa shoot

I had some time to work with one of the wigs I got from Target today. I also did some more light experimentation, but those shots are so different from these that I am going to create a separate post for them later.

I don’t have a whole lot of preliminary stuff to say about these, because it’s quite late and I’m tired, so I’ll just show you what I’ve had time to process so far. Between this shoot and the tutu pics from last weekend, I have a ton of stuff still to work with, so I may lay off doing any more shoots for awhile until I can catch up.

For this first one, I decided to change the color of the snake wig to match the backdrop and the dress. That’s not something that always works out, but it was easy to pull off this time. I also have a plastic shower curtain hanging up behind me; the creases in it can’t be steamed out, unfortunately, but it still creates an interesting backdrop, and I managed to pull off some cool stuff with it in my light experimentation shots I’ll share later:

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Not bad, but I do like the bright green of the wig so I didn’t do this again.

For the second one, I cut up this cheap old Cleopatra hat so I could use the silly-looking snake that adorned it as a tongue. This really didn’t work all that well so I don’t plan on processing any more of these. But the Cleopatra tongue-snake did match the silliness of the wig, so it was worth a shot.

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I’m torn on this next one. I love the color but at the same time, I think it might work better and as black and white shot. I can’t make up my mind which one is the real winner. The goggles, by the way, were purchased off Amazon a few years ago, and have been used in several shoots. This dress was an eBay vintage find; it was pricey but it’s great for photos:

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I pulled out all sorts of old props and doodads to throw on with the wig; one of them was this bellydancing scarf I picked up somewhere. In this shot I’d flung it around a bit and I liked the way it was moving across my face here:

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The sequined gown I am wearing in most of these shots, by the way, belonged to my mother-in-law. It is full-length, all sequins, weighs a ton, and cannot be pulled over my hips to save my life. As a result, I had the whole thing yanked up like some sort of weird miniskirt during the shoot. Also, it is backless with one of those little hooks at the neck to keep the entire top from falling down due to its weight; there was no way I was going to be able to fasten that hook on my own, so the dress is being held together at the neck by a chip clip. Nothing but the classiest for me – YEP.

More pics to come!

Aftermath

So for my final shots from Saturday’s session, I decided to get some shots of me taking all that makeup off. I don’t really know why. The camera was set up so I figured, why not?

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One thing about all that stage makeup is it does a real number on my rather sensitive eyes. The only eyeliner I can comfortably wear is MAC Powerpoint eye pencils; the liquid liners and glitter shadows I use for photoshoots stings when I apply it, and if I leave it on too long will cause my eyes to swell and itch a bit for a day or two after. And the glue from false eyelashes is bothersome too, so my eyes were itching during the entire shoot.

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At the same time, when I spend an hour and a half putting on makeup I hate to wash it all off right away, so I tend to keep it on longer than I should. As a result, my eyes were a red, itchy mess the day after this photosession.

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This one needed to be black and white for some reason. I think it was the shadow created by my hand that convinced me.

At first I had the idea of wearing a different wig while taking the makeup off, because I rarely take photos of me with my real hair. There’s nothing wrong with my real hair, in fact it’s longer right now than it’s been since I was 30 years old (although it’s still short). It’s just that my wigs have become such a part of my photography-persona that I never care much for shots where I’m not wearing one. But it was too much hair covering my face and I couldn’t get the shots I was after, so I took it off and left the wigcap on. And for some reason I don’t quite understand I chose to put this chambray/ruffle top on; I actually bought it thinking I would wear it for real, but on me it looks pretty ridiculous IRL. However, I am always on the lookout for tops with interesting detail that would look good in portraits, so I kept it. Honestly, it still doesn’t look all that great, but I thought I’d try it out.

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It kind of pains me to post a photo of myself without makeup, but I’m willing to suffer for my art.

And, a few photos of the mess I make on picture day:

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Neither of those clocks are accurate.

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Torture tools for sensitive eyes.