When I started this class, I was really excited. I knew I was going to learn a lot, because Brenda Sue Lansdowne has a lot of practical experience to impart. Being something of a perpetual student, my studies have been primarily from formal education, although I’ve supplemented a great deal through reading books, watching YouTube videos and experimentation. I’ve never before had the pleasure of learning directly from someone who has “lived the life”, so to speak, and I knew this class would take me in directions I’d never expected.
I did not expect that I was also going to learn so much about myself.
Who am I?
One of the things I’ve struggled with for years, in all forms of expression, has been trying to find my own unique style. As an artist, I want to have a voice through my work. I want my work to not only tell a story, but also to be uniquely recognizable as MINE. I’ve fought for years trying to make my work distinctive. I can’t even explain the frustration I’ve felt – it’s almost been enough to cause me to quit art altogether!
Within the first week, Brenda taught me to look backwards – not forwards. Instead of predicting what I wanted to do or trying to force myself in a particular direction, she had me examine my previous work. It was one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned. She had the entire class take pictures of previous work, and create collages of those pieces. Then she had us examine those collages to determine if there were any similarities. I was sure there were none. I was sure that I didn’t have a style, nothing was similar in what I did, and it was all experimentation. Boy was I wrong!
I discovered trends that pervade not only my jewelry work, but paintings I did in college thirty years ago, as well as the objects I like to surround myself with, and the style I’ve been trying to develop for my company image and show booth. I never saw these trends. I was doing these things subconsciously. Brenda made me SEE them.
My Design Style and Influences
Examining my work made me see the common elements. My artwork and jewelry are full of flowers, vines, leaves, pearly colors, bright metals, graceful wires, soft curves and spiraling shapes and ribbons. I have a love of dangles, and hand-painting. I like to cast resin into shapes or cameos and paint them in various ways – sometimes in abstract styles, others in realistic styles which appear heavily influenced by Classical Greece and Rome. I always believed that my love of abstract styles, graphic art, and natural elements, were at odds with one another. Studying these things together, made me realize that nothing could be further from the truth. The curved lines I prefer in my abstracts, mimic the literal curves of vines, flowers and the human form. I travel back and forth between these style influences because they ARE related: there is no need for me to choose.
When we shifted our attention to design eras, and various design styles, my eyes really opened. I didn’t know the terms for the things I liked – I only knew that I liked them. I didn’t realize that my love of strong graphic design had similarities with my love of Oriental deco, or why they were related. They are.
When we hit Art Nouveau, I realized all of my jewelry incorporates the graceful elements of the Art Nouveau style, and that over the years, much of my collected jewelry is in that style, as well. When we hit Art Deco, I came to understand why I love strong colors, bold graphics, and yet, I could still love Art Nouveau so much. The transitional period between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, is all about strong graphics combined with graceful lines and floral motifs. This is also when Oriental artwork began to have a heavy influence again, explaining where my love of Oriental style derived.
In a seemingly-unrelated design shift, I’m also very influenced by Classical Greek and Roman art, by way of the Renaissance. Renaissance (Latin renāscī – which means “to be born again”) was a revival of interest in Classical Greek and Roman art. Again, I had to see with new eyes, or I would’ve missed the elements in common. Sculpture from both periods share a lot in common with Art Nouveau – graceful lines, focus on the human form, leaves and vines. The paintings share something with Art Deco, in its use of rich color and vivid imagery.
All of these design influences are clear in my life, but only in retrospect. My living area is full of Oriental influences, and I love Sumi drawing and Japanese painting. The costumes for my costuming groups are based off organic, flowing Indian garb, with it’s motifs of luminescent colors, flowers and geometrics. For months, when people asked, I told them I wanted my business to evoke Victorian boudoirs. Things you’d find in a high class ladies’ bedroom. Lace, vintage pieces, jewelry, silver, trinkets, candleholders, jewel boxes – these are the things I wanted to incorporate as sales, and also as part of the style of my show booth. At first, none of these things seemed to be related, but they are. All of these styles and items have similar elements, natural subjects, organic lines and epitomize romance.
This exercise made me realize that my style is romantic, with a little bit of an edge – a little of the unexpected. I tread a line that crosses back and forth between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and often combines both. It’s right up my alley to mix simple shapes – such as circles and squares – with flowers, leaves and lace. The contrast appeals to me. Early in my artistic career, I painted brilliant ribbons gracefully floating in space, and I attempted mixed-media work which incorporated pieces of lace and flowers into my paintings.
The Past… Going Forward
How does all of this translate into my new line? Well, my theme of fairies is quite romantic, and the wings, vines, leaves and flowers are all consistent with the voice I never realized I had. I’ve decided to call my line, “Fashion Fairies”, and each fairy will have a specific story to tell, which should be fairly obvious from these mockups.
I love what I’m doing. There’s a continuum between hobbyist, maker and production designer, and I’m still trying to figure out where I fit. I don’t want to be just a hobbyist. I want this to be a life. I love making things, but I’m not interested in the marketing and listing of products, or keeping up with the website. Does that make me solely a designer? I’m not certain if I want to design pieces and have others make them, or if the joy for me is “in the doing”. I may have to try things different ways to find out.
Regardless, I intend to make a living at this, someday; and perhaps even a name for myself. Like Gabrielle Chanel, I’d like to leave a legacy.
Thanks for visiting, and have a look at the other blogs on this hop – everyone is working so hard on their lines!