AUTHOR OF PENNY BLOOD'S BLACK BOOK, OIL PAINTER
Written + Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
A name has the ability to create an extraordinary persona. Dripping with subliminal messaging, heritage and history, a name creates a personally tailored state of mind much like the exhibition of individualistic style.
Choosing your own name and aesthetic grants you power. It merges together the fantasy with reality while bringing to life an uninhibited sense of identity.
The true identity of London based writer and painter, Penny Blood, shall remain secret by majestic disorder, but we were happily given permission to share the story of this talented and gracious artist.
The Penny Blood pseudonym was inspired by the 19th century British fiction publication entitled Penny Dreadful, which featured lurid serial stories about adventure, crime and aristocracy. Sweeney Todd first appeared in a Penny Dreadful.
“Growing up people referred to me as Wednesday Adams. I was seen as the scary little gothic child. I was obsessed with very dark and theatrical elements. I discovered fashion at an early age but was very drawn to what Alexander McQueen and John Galliano were doing.”
Armed with her fitting Victorian Era name, black Chelsea boots, vintage Harley Davidson leather jacket and an extremely edited wardrobe, Penny creates her own concept of what she describes as “motorcycle gothic chic.” It’s the perfect mixture of Alexander Wang inspired luxe street sports wear (she bikes everywhere) and iconic British style (long tops, fitted jeans, Chelsea boots).
“I’m inspired by individuals like Alexa Chung and Mary Kate Olsen. Oh, she’s a goddess and guru in my book.”
Unique and captivating, Penny’s approach to personal style is hauntingly intimate and emotive. Inside each one of her cherished jackets she irons on a patch displaying her real name and phone number – an interesting concept for someone who likes to live life below the radar.
Born in Scotland in what she refers to as the middle of nowhere, Penny grew up being all about the art. Having spent most of her childhood at a very academically driven school, Penny began exploring oil painting when she was 14 while she was in school in Edinburgh.
After completing her A Levels, she spent three months living in Alaska in a place called Skagway, an old gold rush town and part of the setting for Jack London’s book The Call of the Wild.
She worked at the historical Liarsville Gold Rush Camp, an open-air museum crafted around the 19th century yesteryears. Surrounded by wooden sidewalks, saloons and brilliant architecture, Penny wore period-piece costumes such as knee highs and corsets, which was a first immersion into her soon to be adopted 19th century name.
Afterwards she moved to London to study fashion design, but quickly changed to fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, a place worldly recognized for its reputation of pushing the boundaries of art and design with a killer list of alums – McQueen, Galliano, Posen to name a few.
Around 2006, Penny’s life took an interesting path upon completion of her studies. She spent time in Los Angeles doing commissioned paintings, which was when she developed the idea for Penny Blood’s Black Book, an eclectic collection of the coolest places around London to eat at, converse in and get overly caffeinated.
“I’ve always had a thing for exploring restaurants and places with unusually interesting aesthetics. While I was in LA I was looking for the restaurant in Reservoir Dogs and came across this amazing blog that featured unconventional locations throughout LA. I knew then and there I had to bring the idea to London.”
A female version of Todd Selby, Penny radiates with cool originality and ambiguity. She has curated an existence most authors dream to write about. Full of life and the most infectious craving to create, her drive almost makes me hyperventilate from excitement.
“I really love when a place has the owners personality in it. You just walk in somewhere and know that they picked the chairs, the tables, the cactus in the corner. I love the industrial thrown together look. I call it the ‘welcome to our living room’ style.”
Penny’s approach to style (less is more, editing is important) is inspiring. But it’s her alternative resume of past creative positions that is relentlessly motivating. It reassures us that creativity and the East London scene is not in fact dead.
Aside from running Penny Blood’s Black Book, Penny has worked as a taxidermist, taught by the same man who taught Polly Morgan and lives in Cramond Tower in Scotland.
She’s also done layout design for industry magazines, oil panting, graphic design for a film company in SoHo, aided a cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph and worked inside The Last Tuesday Society where she encountered loads of quirky people such as John Waters.
“I find it’s really unnerving to be around people whose lives are just centered around a normal routine of a mortgage and mundane 9-5 desk job. I need to be overly consumed with creativity. I can’t live without it.”
Penny nourishes each one of our longings to pursue life in an original manner, venturing down an abundance of avenues, twisting and turning without knowing what to expect next.