So, I didn’t write a new blog anything last week. I decided to use my day of publishing tasks as a writing marathon day to rest after a very physically intense week of cleaning and moving and walking in the spiderwebs … literally. This week, I’d like to share some art.
My most recent art adventures took me way back into the study of Art Nouveau. Why? I have no idea. Lol … I’ve never ever attempted to do anything in this style before, but for some reason I started listening to the music of the era and then studying the art. Maybe it’s because I had just ordered a pair of palazzo pants, and my mind always associates music, fashion, and art together as a historical and cultural bookmark. Palazzo pants, by the way, are similar to wide-leg and bell-bottom pants; they are a loose fit that widens toward the ankle. And they are usually made of light fabric that flows. I remember seeing pictures of Coco Channel wearing these pants in the 1920s. And they were first worn by women in the 1920s and 1930s as a socially acceptable alternative for women who wanted to wear pants. Of course, they were still controversial at that time because some people felt they were inappropriate attire for women in public places. So palazzo pants didn’t really catch on as fashion “thing” until the late 1960s and early 1970s. They came back into popularity again in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Personally, I associate them with the Women’s Rights movement. Why? Because my school’s dress code restricted girls to dresses at a time when more girls and women around me were wearing wide-legged, bell-bottomed pants. I so badly wanted to be able to wear pants to school. My legs froze on winter mornings waiting to go to school. Boys would stand below me on the stairs of the playground ladder or stairs inside the school to look up my skirts. And then one fateful day during P.E., my class was playing “Break-the-Chain” on an asphalt parking lot. And when I held on tight to avoid breaking the chain, I was dragged … on my bare knees … until they bled so bad I could barely walk. I remember being taken to the school nurse and having huge bandages wrapped around both knees and then hobbling to my desk to cry. And then I couldn’t walk by myself, ride my bike, or do anything else that active kids normally do because my knees were so messed up for a while. Just bending them would break the hardened scabs and make them bleed again. Pants might not have saved my knees. But I tend to believe ANYTHING would have been better than a dress! I feel like I have been at war with unfair dress codes, particularly for women and girls, ever since.
Anyway, before I knew it I had gone from browsing photos and illustrations of palazzo pants to jazz and dances of the 1920s. And then I moved straight into Art Nouveau. So, of course I had to try my hand at drawing something from that style myself. I decided to start with something simple, copying a bit of text and graphic design from one of the websites that I was reading about the topic. Art Nouveau was popular in Europe and America but was inspired by Japanese prints — namely the muted colours and wavy lines of those prints, but also a fascination with Japan in general from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. It is characterized by themes of nature, “whiplash” lines the curve back on themselves, muted and flat colours, and was in many ways a rebellion against the Realism art movement from that same period. It is so much harder than it looks! I had a lot of problems with whiplash lines, so if I want to continue learning about this art style — which I do — I just have to accept that I will need to be specific in how I practice it. But it’s fun to challenge myself in a study that I’ve never attempted to do before. And hopefully I will soon get the hang of it enough to produce something of my own, original design. For now, my sketchbook and I have a lot of “copying the masters” to do and learn from.
And if you were curious about the differences between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, they are not the same but often mistaken for one another. Both of them place an emphasis on modernity to some extent. But Art Nouveau often included elements of classicism and ancient arts, too — things like Roman columns, Greek gods and goddesses, and ancient Egyptian motifs. Art Deco followed on the heels of Art Nouveau in the late 1920s-1930s. And its traits are straight lines, geometric designs, and splashes of bold, extravagant colour. It is no coincidence that Art Deco is associated with luxury; it rose and fell with the economic boons and crashes of those decades. Art Deco probably would not have been what it was, however, without Art Nouveau’s emphasis on modern graphic design, particularly poster art and lettering. Maybe I’ll try my hand at Art Deco, too, eventually. Right now, I’m just following my muse. And my muse is definitely loving these navy, floral palazzo pants, enjoying some Earl Gray Blue Flower tea and listening to “The Charleston,” whilst contemplating what kind of Art Nouveau lesson to study next.