Yoshitomo Nara nails by Jes Tong
BEYOND stoked to share the manicure to end all my previous manicures.
I met Jes Tong: nail artist during a shoot we both worked on for Nettie Kent's upcoming look book (more to come soon!). Jes did the nails for the shoot, and afterwards, since Fashion Week had ended and both our schedules had cleared up, she invited me to come into her salon in Brooklyn so she could work her magic, and lemme tell ya, it was worth every damn dollar.
Now, I had never gotten a gel manicure before, so I figured this was kind of like getting a tattoo for your nails, and the design should be thoughtful and something I'd feel comfortable telling a story about. After thinking back to some of my favorite artists, Yoshitomo Nara sprang to mind.
There is one particular afternoon from when I was 12 that is associated with Nara's larger-than-life body of work. It's from back in 2004 when my dad and I spent a few hours gallery hopping on the West side. It was one of those afternoons that I knew I would have fond memories of, even then: the sky was clear, the air was warm, and my legs never once got tired like they normally would after a whole day walking through the city.
We managed to file into in a medium-sized gallery that was hosting a show of Yoshitomo Nara's paintings & works on paper; and from there I was hooked. His work at first appears to be deceptively innocent: his subjects usually children and cute stuff, but as you get to know his characters, you find that they're quite sinister and cool, holding weapons, cursing at the onlooker for staring for too long, giggling and smoking cigarettes as if they're blowing smoke in your face just to spite you. It was an important thing to see as a twelve year old kid quickly approaching the bittersweet embrace of puberty and teenage disquietude.
Anyway, I pulled up some photos of his paintings on my phone during my salon visit, and to my utter surprise, Jes was completely up to the task.
I thought my nails would be far too short to paint anything on, but as Jes searched for the right pots of gel colors, she confidently assured me of the countless characters and images she's painted on even shorter nails over the years. In her practice, Jes designs manicures for individual clients, fashion shows and for editorials in magazines like Nylon, so I was in good hands.
After meticulously applying the gel to my nails, making plaid patterns and polka-dots, she took out the skinniest brushes I've ever seen, dabbed them in a palate of gauche paint, and proceeded to create perfect little replicas of the paintings onto my nails. Jes held her damn breath as she concentrated on her brush strokes: rendering letters and curled, cheeky mouths onto my nails. I was blown. away at her level of detail. Still am.
My mom was a graphic designer and an illustrator, so I grew up admiring the work of those who can interpret the world around them with their drawings. The manicures Jes creates are super fun and detailed, and I never stopped to think about how insanely impressive miniature painting on one's nails can be. I'm proud to don her designs for sure.
Here's to the little things in life.
Wanna have Jes do your nails too?
More info here.
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