Sunday, 8 July 2012

Exercise 7- Using reference

1950’s fashion was epitomised by style icons like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O. A look at today’s fashions shows how designers such as Chanel still take influence from the timeless style of these women. In fact, a look at today’s current fashion magazines shows that the 1950s is very much back in style, especially as we pay homage to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee.
Popular fabrics of the time were naturals, rayon, nylon, poly-cotton blends, as well as acrylic and acetate. Sweaters were generally of wool and of cashmere if you wanted to denote status. Eveningwear veered towards brocades, satin, velveteen, taffeta, nylon net, tulle and chiffon in both natural and synthetic fabrics.
Silhouettes were very much about emphasising femininity with corseted waists and full hips. Blouses and pencil skirts, full swing skirts with waists nipped in by trim bodices were all classic 1950s dress. Popular trends included circle skirts and halter straps, prom-style evening dresses in pastel shades and button sweaters with decorated necklines. Popular colour choices included neutrals and floral prints alongside brighter abstract designs.
On the other hand the younger generations were using fashion to rebel against what they saw as restrictive societal norms. Rock and roll icons including Elvis Presley and James Dean influenced dress, with jeans, tight sweaters and trousers common choices for those who wanted to rebel and become Rockers or Beatniks.
The 1950s were the age of the consumer. The post-war boom brought massive changes in the home; it was out with the old and in with the new. Open-plan living was introduced, and the fitted kitchen with its brand new appliances was the housewives domain. Houses were smaller than pre-war ones with a lot of semi- detached housing, so furniture had to stack or be light enough to move about. Trolleys, sofa beds, and ironing boards are all 1950s inventions and the influx of new products meant that advertising played a big part in selling these to the consumer, with a lot of these directly targeted towards the 1950s woman. With wartime restrictions, gradually lifted came the development of numerous new food products. Adverts for consumer goods were big and bold with graphic type. Typical ad campaigns included the popular “go to work on an egg” campaign and Rice Krispies “snap, crackle and pop”.
There were several looks to choose from in the home; influences from America with bubblegum colours, neon and kitsch, or the designer look with furniture and textiles, which took influence from Scandinavian design.
Major colour trends of the 1950s were pastels in bubblegum pinks, mint green, pale yellow and blue. Brights including vibrant yellow, electric blue, orange , red and black and white were also popular and colour schemes often created a stark contrast. Scandinavian colour schemes and design were big influences with colours influenced by nature in browns, grey and green.
Bold and bright designs such as stars, stripes, checks and polka dots came into vogue. As did atomic graphics inspired by space and science like planets, galaxies and the famous “Boomerang” pattern, which were all used on wallpaper, tablecloths, curtains and furniture fabrics. Fabrics with fruit, flowers and abstract designs were everywhere. Popular fabric prints of time include those by Lucienne Day which were sold in Heals.
Furniture ranged from comfortable upholstered traditional furniture, to Scandinavian with light-colored woods and clean lines, to space age, organic shapes (think boomerang-shaped coffee table). Chrome and vinyl chairs paired with chrome-legged tables with Formica tops were both fashionable and durable. Walls were often painted in the same colour as the furniture, design was best described as ‘graphic’ and the overall message was ‘keep it simple’.
The 1950s kitchen was all formica, gloss paint and colours could be dazzling. Neutrals were popular for walls but when it came to accessories, bright oranges, pinks, mustards and lime greens were all the go. Linoleum flooring was restyled in the 1950s to be colourful and dynamic available in bright modern colours. Among the things that could be found in a 50s kitchen were chrome appliances, pastel plastic, enamel or stainless steel canisters and bread bins. The iconic US range of Tupperware was also behind an early social networking phenomenon –“ the Tupperware party” and baking competitions were also wildly popular.
The production of numerous countertop appliances for the kitchen including mixers blender and coffeemakers were developed to make life easier. Big chrome accessorises and a large fridge (particular in America) was the order of the day.
Atomic age motifs appeared on glassware and fabrics. Sunburst and atomic clocks made of metal and wood.
Entertainment in the home was revolutionized now that nearly every household could afford a television and a turntable. The 1950s was the decade of television – triggered by the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, when 20 million BBC viewers watch the young queen crowned. Subsequent television innovations include Attenborough's Zoo Quest, Blue Peter for children, the creation of daily news bulletins and analysis programmes such as Panorama, and the first ever British TV soap. Top movies of the time included South Pacific and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The years around and following the second world war saw graphic design in the modern style gain widespread acceptance and application. A booming post-World War II economy established a greater need for graphic design, mainly advertising and packaging. The emigration of the German Bauhaus school of design to Chicago in 1937 brought a "mass-produced" minimalism to America; sparking a wild fire of "modern" architecture and design. Notable names in mid-century modern design include Adrian Frutiger, designer of the typefaces Univers and Frutiger; Paul Rand, who, from the late 1930's until his death in 1996, took the principles of the Bauhaus and applied them to popular advertising and logo design, helping to create a uniquely American approach to European minimalism while becoming one of the principal pioneers of the subset of graphic design known as corporate identity.
A new graphic design style emerged in Switzerland in the 1950s that would become the predominant graphic style in the world by the ‘70s. Because of its strong reliance on typographic elements, the new style came to be known as the International Typographic Style. The style was marked by the use of a mathematical grid to provide an overall orderly and unified structure; sans serif typefaces (especially Helvetica, introduced in 1957) in a flush left and ragged right format; and black and white photography in place of drawn illustration. The overall impression was simple and rational, tightly structured and serious, clear and objective, and harmonious.
Artists of the 1950s included the abstract works of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Towards the end of the decade, Pop Art emerged, drawing on imagery from popular culture and advertising, creating new messages through irony, and placing items in unusual contexts.
In conclusion, the 1950s were a time of many changes as wartime restrictions were lifted with a new wave of consumer goods, transport and interest in fashion and interiors. Many of these trends have influenced today’s styles but achieved with modern materials.  Today’s catwalks pay homage to feminine and floral styles of the 50s, interiors take influence from the Scandanavian influenced clean lines and in the Queens diamond jubilee year there’s been a patriotic revival of many 1950s style packaging. There even seems to be a revival of the 1950s traditional pastimes including baking, knitting and partner dancing – perhaps a reflection that today’s society craves the optimism of the decade.

I collated my reference material and made reference sheets for each of the various categories.
After some sketchbook work practising drawing some people sitting I came up with an illustration. Unsure whether to colour this digitally or by hand I decided to have try at both. I was quite impressed at my first attempt at colouring with photoshop (elements) and once I have illustrator I want to experiment a lot more. I also created my own pattern swatch after some experimentation with 50s style abstract shapes. I then used this to fill the background of the room walls and I think it works quite well. I also selected a 1950s colour palette to limit the number of colours in the final illustration and again I quite like how its turned out. I want to try doing more illustrations which stick to a set colour palette which I think can really help to harmonise an image.
If I was to do this exercise again, I would probably try some different scene combinations - perhaps in a different setting and could also try and stylise the character more or conversely could try a more life like drawing.

Watercolour version

Digitally coloured

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