... specifically, I decided on the 1888 one with the felt hat:
This is one of the most stylistic of Van Gogh's self-portraits, and it's also pretty universally recognized. Also, I figured that the clothing items I found wouldn't be that crucial as long as I could find a way to paint the jacket, hat, and tie to look similar to those in the painting.
So I figured that if I found the wardrobe, the major challenges would be painting it, and doing the make-up. I decided about 10 days beforehand to start growing a beard, rather than trying to find a fake one or painting one on. The plan was to dye my hair and beard red, and go from there.
Thanks to a bunch of helpful suggestions, I was able to find a jacket (Buffalo Exchange, $10) and a respectable-looking Homburg style felt hat (Red Light, $12). The Hang found a yellow tie for me (Marshalls, $5), and the white shirt was a cheap-o one I'd had for a while. I planned on just wearing a pair of stone-colored chinos and brown leather shoes to complete it.
I was ready to begin!
Step 1: the hair
I needed something strong and vibrant, since my hair (and beard) is pretty short, and kind of a darkish blond. I got this concentrated color mousse product that promised a "copper blast," read the instructions, ignored at least three warnings (DO an allergy test 48 hours in advance, DON'T put this product on your eyebrows, DON'T put this product on your facial hair), and gave it a shot:
Well, not nearly as red as I'd hoped, expecially on the beard:
I had some left over, so I decided to use the remaining stuff on my beard and eyebrows, since they'd be most visible in the costume. I think the problem was that I didn't apply it the first time thickly enough to completely cover the hair. Take 2:
The mousse dye was creeping me out. It went on as foam, and then hardened a bit to this plasticky texture. My face felt kind of like ...
On the second try, I left the goop on for twice the recommended time.
The results this time were much more satisfactory:
In fact, the results were rather alarming. The picture and my deceptively calm expression don't accurately convey the hue. It was RED. I considered abandoning the Van Gogh plan and doing something a bit different:
Step 2: the clothes
I'd originally thought that I would use acrylics to paint brushstrokes onto the jacket, hat, and tie, but I opted instead for oil pastels that I could draw with by hand. I actually found some that were specifically for drawing on clothing, but the range of colors wasn't quite broad enough, so I used some regular oil pastels as well.
Here's a shot of the various costume components before I got to work on painting them:
To be honest, I wasn't really excited about the cut of the jacket. I really needed something more period, with narrow, high lapels, a rougher cut, and a narrower neck opening. With the color scheme I was using and the brim of the hat turned up, I was afraid I'd look more like someone from Guys and Dolls, or a villian from Dick Tracy, by the time I was through. But the color and fabric were both great for what I had in mind.
I started with the hat ... I had to first remove the green band. It took about an hour to paint:
The underside of the brim took a long time ... I had to hold the hat it in one hand while coloring with the other, and the oils had a tendency to rub off on my fingertips as I handled the painted parts. So I wore the gloves supplied with the hair dye kit.
Afterwards, I applied some spray-on oil painting varnish to fix the color.
Next, the jacket ... much easier since I just laid it flat on the counter:
I faded out the colors towards the bottom of the jacket and the ends of the sleeves, since I wanted the focal point to be the bust area and the face. Plus, I was running out of white. :)
I put on the tie and tied it, then loosened it to take it off, keeping the knot in place, and striped it up, fading the markings out down the length. I decided not to color the collar of the shirt.
Step 3: the makeup
I'd gotten rid of all of my stage makeup years ago, so I just used street makeup. I got the lightest base I could find and started with that ... this pic also shows how red that toxic hair dye concoction made my beard and eyebrows:
I'd purchased a bunch of lip-liner and eyeliner pencils, but then I thought instead that I'd just try using the oil pastels directly on my face ... no such luck.
I had unexpected trauma, though, since the pencils were breaking and not marking my skin at all (well, I bought the cheapest ones I could find) ... and I'd forgotten to buy a pencil sharpener ... The Hang valiantly volunteered to head over to Rite-Aid to get a bunch of different liner pencils (and a sharpener).
Also, I realized that I couldn't just tape the painting to the mirror and use it as a guide, since that would give me a mirror image of the painting (like duh, right?). So instead, The Hang patiently held the painting next to my head so I could see it in the mirror while I did the work on my face. This, while she made dinner for both of us plus a couple guests. I love that woman.
Here are the (somewhat blurry) results:
Step 4: the final product
And a side-by-side with the original painting:
For the finishing touch, although Van Gogh didn't actually lob off his ear until several months after the date of the painting, I figured people would ask, so I taped on a prop bandage with some fake blood:
Well, it was good enough to win a costume contest at one of the parties we went to, and I got several compliments at the other (including what I think was a proposition from a drunk Cookie Monster), although I suspect The Hang was to credit for skewing the ballot count at the former.
The Hang wanted me to include a picture of the prize:
And speaking of The Hang, she went as Andy Warhol ... complete with a framed picture of herself a la Warhol (the artist is my very talented bro-in-law Bill). I don't know if the pose she struck here was in character or not ...
That's it from the House of the Blue Dog.
Halloween 2006: Tintin, in which I look plump and awkward in knickers.
Halloween 2007: Shawn of the Dead, complete with blood-spattered cricket bat.
Halloween 2008: Van Gogh redux, featuring much better face paint.