Tag Archives: silhouette

Aesthetic Preference – Art Deco Industrial Chic

Art Deco carved Penobscot facade

Ooh this is one of my personal favorite Aesthetic Preferences! I find it appealing on so many levels – partly because of where it leads visually (to Steam Punk especially in one direction, and Craftsman in the other) and partly because of the places where it is found – those wonderful glamorous movies, books, theater and retro magazines. I like clean lines and simplicity, but I also like curves.

Here’s how I describe it on my Etsy Treasury:

Geometry, repetition, symmetry, Fred and Ginger, high contrast, the Chrysler Building, Erte, clean lines, metals, hard edges, Ayn Rand, “Metropolis”, Poirot, the Nile, luxury train travel.

To this I would add the Pyramids and Scarabs, 1930’s Vogue magazines still lush with fashion illustration, and some of that hard edges, three color screen printing that transformed so dangerously into totalitarian propaganda. (That’s where I stop liking it.)

Cunard Line Poster

Of course I was imagining “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile”. Add “Hugo” for the clockpunk end, and never forget Busby Berkeley and all the theatricality of “Gold Diggers of 1933” and the harder edged “42nd Street. Had it softened by the time “Casablanca” added Moroccan lushness?

Thoroughly Modern Millie movie still

Julie Andrews in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

You can see still it in Gary Cooper’s ties in “The Fountainhead”. You can enjoy it on the roof of spook central in “Ghostbusters”. “The Great Gatsby” – both the movies, and the book. For a very light take try “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. For the dark side try Fritz Lang. “Metropolis” is his most famous, but his work includes “M” a film noir classic.

In no other style or time period are the architectural forms so clearly influential in jewelry design.

So many of those wonderful buildings are lurking in New York, but Los Angeles has a surprising number of them downtown – the old Wiltern Theater on Wilshire is one example. You can see many examples on my Pinterest board.

In terms of design Elements, Art Deco Industrial uses line to create simplified shapes and moves away from the uneven abstracted leaves and flowers of Art Nouveau nature forms (that’s coming, never fear). The Principles it embodies include high contrast (High Major Tonal Schemes), repetition and symmetry. (This is coming too.)

Using Art Deco Industrial Chic

As a style of decor, it can be quite easy to incorporate into many modern homes, by the use of painter’s tape and paint. Try a little Trompe L’oeil and create some faux molding with painted shadows. Chevrons, so popular right now, are an offshoot of it.

 

 

Winged Circle from Egypt

Collect vintage posters and frame them simply, or incorporate a bit of Egyptian into your decor like my late mother-in-law did with her black and white striped mirror frames.

Egyptian applique scarab

Art Deco definitely lends itself to stencils. Try layering – start with a light grey or silver paint over white, then offset the same stencil again in black.

Silhouettes, that work so well with romantic styles, look great in an Art Deco situation, with simple black and silver frames or perhaps with a fan shape in the background.

I like it because it is so easy to incorporate actual and reproduction vintage with very simple modernism and the clean lines of Mid-century Modern furniture – although I would be cautious with the textile prints and textures from that period and let Art Deco textile designs create my drapes and pillows.

Is this one your favorite too?

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The Elements of Design – Shape

The Second of the Elements of Design – Shape

Shape – the outline of an object. It will have at least height and width, and in three dimensions, depth/thickness. Shape is often defined by line, but also by color, and texture. In a sense, a shape is defined by where it ends.

The simplest shape – the circle – is the foundation of technology – the wheel.

There is positive shape – the space occupied by the object – and negative shape – the space left empty. And there is optical illusion – variations on this famous face vs vase illustration.

Vase or profiles

Silhouettes – distinctive shapes in the absence of detail – can be extremely evocative. Instant shape recognition is something advertisers have long known and taken advantage of, as do graphic artists, logo designers, and the designers of public signage. Fact is humans are hard wired from birth to take note of high contrast simple positive and negative shapes that represent faces.

Shapes

Shape in garments – well shaped garments create shape in bodies, including illusion and enhancement.

Proportion is a factor in shape. The visual meaning of a shape alters with changes in proportion.

Proportions

Shape is important in set design. First the floor plan, dependent on the performance space, is a 2D shape. The floor plan facilitates movement and flow. The elevations might show levels. Set pieces  show the architecture of the set – realism, abstract, expressionist. The shapes may have soft edges and curves, or straight lines and hard angles. Geometry, the science of shape, is important – especially for defining sight lines and the effective wedge (the part of the stage visible from every seat in the audience).

The Golden Mean

This is a magical seeming ratio produces rectangles that are considered to be the most pleasing to the eye, the most balanced and the most restful. It is believed to occur all over the place in nature. It has been called the Divine Proportion. Euclid is known for exploring it, and it is a big feature of Classical Greek architecture.

The actual number of the Golden Ratio is represented by Phi, and like Pi, goes on forever. The mathematical formula is:

.

but for artistic purposes we can approximate the ratio as 1:1.618, so a rectangle where the long side is a little more than one and half times the short side is getting there. (Long side divided by short side.)

Try using a drawing program to draw a pleasing, comfortable rectangle. There will be a moment when intuitively it just feels right. I bet you will be very close to the Golden Mean. Some artists are known for intentionally measuring to use the ratio. However it turns up automatically in all kinds of art because of aesthetic intuition. The proportion looks and feels right.

Looking for Shape

Just as once we started looking for line, it seemed to be everywhere, once you start looking at shape inside art, and appreciating the shape of objects in your environs, shape will be really obvious.

Animal silhouettes

Spend time appreciating the pleasing shapes of your belonging and shapes in nature. Shape is often governed by function – leaves, birds’ beaks, animal’s teeth, teapots. Ergonomics influence shape, how a well designed tool feels in the hand. Look at shapes within architecture. It isn’t all rectangles.

Disney Concert Hall

Fun with Shapes

Play with kids’ blocks. Look at the shadows cast by your towers.

Play with tangrams.

Negative Shape – Space.

One reason people stand with their hands on their hip in photos is to create the negative space under their arm. It breaks up the shape and makes you appear slimmer.

The beauty of an object on a shelf can be better appreciated if the space around it is defined – hence shadow boxes, and bookshelves. Many pictures look better framed with a mat.

In music, moments of silence can give clarity to the next notes. It’s called “phrasing”.

Originally the editing of the penultimate scene from “Casablanca” (1942) went like this.
Captain Renaud: “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects”.

Adding in some space made the moment immortal.

Captain Renaud: “Major Strasser has been shot…”
Rick stares at Renaud.
Renaud looks at Rick, and makes a sudden decision.
“Round up the usual suspects”.

Here’s a quote from Doctor Who:

“Oh, you’ve been eliminating yourself from history. You know you could be reconstructed by the hole you left.” Cyber Doctor, Nightmare in Silver.(Series 7, Ep.12)

The History of Interiors in architecture is the history of shape defining space, and space defining function. But that’s for another time.

Steps

Steps – shape and line

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