Monthly Archives: September 2014

Aesthetic Preference – Mid Century Modern

Rialno Designs

As we move forward into the new century, Mid-Century Modern refers to a period increasingly distant in the past. In this case even the word “Modern” refers to what now seems a quaint retro aesthetic – but one that has seen a rediscovery in recent years, especially in interior décor and furniture.

The Mid Century Modern style is characterized by simple, geometric shapes with an emphasis on the horizontal. Related to Danish Modern, the woods of furniture tend to be light in color. Surface details are minimal, with the emphasis on repeated shapes rather than textures.

Furnishings are often low in over all height but still float above the floor on think legs, rather than anchored with weight like Traditional or Art Deco styles. Close to Minimalism, the furniture tends to sleek and slim – never overstuffed or puffy. Alternatively, pieces display amoeba type shapes, again reflecting the post war fascination with science, and new technology.

Stylized botanical print

The textiles and art work of the era include barkcloth – a heavy plain weave cotton – usually printed in either large muted stylized florals or sci-fi/technology themed motifs. It was the dawn of the atomic age, and the designs that looked so futuristic then, look so fun and retro today. Both original yardage and reproductions of these fabrics are available today, and are used to restore original pieces as well as make focal point or accent pieces.

Vintage Mid-Century Modern pieces look cool upholstered with contemporary fabrics and colors. Wooden pieces like sideboards or floor lamps tend to work great as individual statement pieces. If you furnish a whole room with the style using reproduction textiles, you might find you look like you live in a 1960’s sitcom.

Finding it

  • In the 1959 scandalous melodrama A Summer Place, the film shows a pointed visual distinction between the traditional Victorian style boarding house, the titular summer place, and the new Frank Lloyd Wright designed modern home where the unfaithful spouses take up residence. Ultimately they are considered the better people, the film having gone to considerable lengths to highlight the inadequacy and downright evil of their first spouses.

Interior of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Clinton Walker House as used in the movie. The public living areas are on the street level, while you go downstairs to the bedrooms.

(In an interesting piece of cultural trivia, the posters of the American version of the hit film feature the young lovers, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, as the beleaguered lovers who learn the folly of judgmental attitudes. However the Italian versions of the poster highlight the parents’ steamy sexuality, and their story of love rediscovered. I can only imagine this reflects the different mores and attributes of the ideal between the two cultures.)

  • Jacques Tati’s humorous masterpiece, Mon Oncle (1958) makes much of some of the extreme characteristics of the futuristic style, especially the furniture.
From Jaques Tati's Mon Oncle

The interior of the modern home

Life in the future

  • The USS Enterprise  NCC-1701
Photopin.com

Photopin.com

  • North by Northwest (1959) – it is interesting that this architectural style was often used to signify wealth and luxury.

To Take Lessons or Not

Art doll

Art doll available on my Etsy

I believe that creativity is the foundation of all human learning from the time we are infants. Human infants are hardwired to learn, develop and communicate. Children apply creative thinking to all their play and enjoyment. Creativity itself is a natural state, that unfortunately can be squashed by lessons, tests and strictures at the wrong time, even by well meaning teachers.

For this reason I believe it is crucial that any kinds of creativity lessons or classes:

  • be freely chosen by the learner, for their own reasons
  • be skills based, rather than trying to teach creativity itself
  • that teachers consider themselves facilitators of the learner’s agenda, rather than insisting that what they want to teach is more important – you can always write a blog to carry your own message 😉
  • have a transparent grading or feedback system structured around the student’s goals
  • be flexible

For me, I found the classes I took to learn particular skills invaluable. They were absolutely what I needed at the time to gain certain esoteric skills, and for the most part I was not concerned with grades. However today, with the information available freely on the internet, I might make different decisions for some of the classes.

Nor do any of the desired characteristics I listed preclude following a course designed by a teacher. Even a tough instructor who pushes for excellence, like my lighting design mentor, should still be facilitating the learner’s desire to improve their skills.

Places where you can find guidance include:

  • YouTube – there are so many filmed tutorials for all kinds of arts and crafts skills, or science projects, as well as people lecturing about theoretical constructs.
  • Khan Academy – free classes in an immense range of subjects
  • Art Museums often hold classes or workshops for their members in all kinds of esoteric areas.
  • Craft stores hold classes, most at low cost.
  • Universities with online coursework
  • Community Colleges often offer personal enrichment courses in various artistic disciplines
  • Individual tutors, coaches or mentors.

 In praise of trial and error

What I want to emphasize today is that while lessons, classes, tutorials or workshops can be wonderful, and guidance can be time saving, the “slow way” of trial and error – personal experimentation – also has immense value.

 A skill that you have discovered yourself, painstakingly, or just from following the manual, can feel wonderful. You have true ownership of your own learning process and skills. Once you have been through the trial and error process you will truly know how something works, and works for you. You are unlikely to forget – and you still have the chance to practice further and compare your experience to that of others later.

Trial and error can be fun! Working in private can also alleviate nerves or feeling self-conscious.

But know when to look for help, guidance or hints & tips too!

Auditing

With any luck, you will have the chance to sit in and audit many classes you might be considering. You will see if the class will be useful to you – expanding, challenging and inspiring.

Talk to the instructors to ascertain whether they are flexible and sympatico. Talk to the students to see whether they have the opportunity to offer feedback and change the plan as needed.

And remember this – it’s never too late to practice a new art form or learn a new creative endeavor.

 

Design Principle – Progression

photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

Progression of hues. photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

You will remember that a Principle of Design acts on the Elements of Design to create meaning and impressions.

Progression, sometimes called “Gradation” means difference, change and interest, and relates closely to Repetition.

The change might be smooth, like an ombré, or a series of steps – like pixels. Progression might show the feeling of fast acceleration, or ponderous movement. It might be steady or jerky. It might be symmetrical or lopsided. Plus Progression may go in two directions like a bell curve.

In functional design, the pace of progression might relate to functionality – like a clock, designed specifically to maintain a steady pace of movement, through time.

Consider Ravel’s “Bolero” – a constant build of energy and complexity with the same few notes and beats.

Consider any kind of narrative, building to a climax and catharsis or resolution.

Calligraphy is made possible through gradations of Line. Progression of Size creates the impression of perspective, or discombobulates it. Progression is used to create the sensation of solidity – shading and shadows for 3D in flat artwork.

Photos of a sequence of events over time – the illustration of a work-in-progress, or a garden’s flowering, or a child’s growth – are a common use of Progression.

Here’s about 9 1/2 minutes of serenity with flowers blooming for your enjoyment.