Tag Archives: art deco

A little joyful nonsense

I’ve been joyfully distracted for the last few weeks. After years of digestive distress, my new meds are helping so much that the rhythms of my life are new and spontaneous. Without the burden of constant discomfort, I’m more curious, quicker witted, and less anxious.

One of the great joys this summer is playing water polo and knowing that I won’t spend two days being dysfunctional from the exertion. That joy and my obsession with art deco posters cross-polinated and the result is….

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Art Deco Posters: Water Polo, the gentleman’s game

The Olympics are coming up! It’s that rare time when non-professional sports get to shine! As a lover and player of water polo, I get so inspired watching the amazing men and women of the world expressing their mutual disdain through grabbing, elbowing, and splashing in the big pool. Water polo is GREAT.

As I type this, I nurse a bruise from a deliberate kick in the back, some mystery bruises on my arm, and a sprained thumb. I can only hope I gave as good as I got. But really, one of the wonderful things about water polo is the intensity of the violence compared to the mildness of injury. You cannot fall down or run into a wall, and any underwater shenanigans are dissipated by the water. As I have often said, water polo enables to player to express all of the intent, but little of the impact. That’s perfect!

As I have demonstrated again and again, I love art deco design. I love old art deco Olympic posters; they’ve inspired my water polo art before. Water polo is a niche sport, and there isn’t a ton of art out there for it. Additionally, I enjoy contrasting the gentility of art deco design with the brutal public image of water polo. The soft civility of art deco posters in many way jives with how the game feels as a participant—it’s like a big tea party with all of my scantily-clad friends.

So, as we near these (hopefully sewage free but probably not) Olympics, I hope you’ll enjoy my water polo posters. I got inspired when the Olympic Trials were on TV a few months ago, so you can only imagine how much I’ll enjoy the Olympics.

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The delightful illustrations of George Barbier

I am two years into a project of science fiction illustration inspired by Hiroshige’s 100 View of Edo. I’m working on 100 views of Vironevaeh. I’ve completed 75 line art drawings, and am satisfied with 44 of them. It’s a project that ebbs and flows, and I constantly seek new sources of inspiration. The floor of my office is littered with books tabbed with post-it notes—a photo essay of the Koreas, French war illustrations from World War I, a Western photo essay, amongst others. This weekend I found art deco master George Barbier.

I’ve written about my interest in art deco and art nouveau before. (see: Victor Horta’s architecture, Alphonse Mucha’s posters and Walter Crane’s childrens books.) When I found a book of George Barbier illustrations on my shelf, purchased over a year ago, but forgotten in a cross-country move, I found inspiration.

The book is the top Barbier hit on Amazon, though it is mostly in Japanese with some original French. Barbier was one of the top artists in France after World War I, but disappeared largely after his death in 1932, a fate that seems to happen to many of the commercial artists of this period. Blissfully, he is in ascendance, even if the most accessible manifestation at the moment is an unreadable rendition in metallic blue. The illustrations are good enough that that doesn’t matter.

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The book has hundreds of illustrations from what seem like a variety of sources. The impenetrable Japanese let my imagination run wild. Below are just three.

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One inspired me rather directly. Can you tell? Time to take my scattered brain back into the world of inspiration.

 

Water Polo Designs & T-shirts

Is there any greater joy in art than seeing a project through and sharing it with others? I designed some water polo t-shirts, and finally they have arrived. They look phenomenal!

Plus, it’s a great joy to design for water polo. It’s a small sport. Maybe you’ll see a neat poster for the Olympics, but that’s about it. The women’s game is especially short on designs. This year, I took my design inspiration from art deco sports posters and the National Parks vintage poster series.

Art Deco poster style

I wanted to convey the sense of motion I like in the art deco posters. The curve of the water surface suggests energetic water. It could also suggest the curve of the ocean.

Vector artwork for t-shirt

Vector artwork for t-shirt

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Final t-shirt result

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Source pencil drawing

Below: An art deco poster I particularly found inspiring. Early versions of my design incorporated gradients to suggest form, as in this poster. In the interests of simplifying printing, I chose to go with two colors.

Mistrzostwo Swiata: Krynica by Stefan Osiecki and Jerzy Skolimowski, 1930.  For the 1931 Ice Hockey World Championships in  Krynica, Poland.

Mistrzostwo Swiata: Krynica by Stefan Osiecki and Jerzy Skolimowski, 1930. For the 1931 Ice Hockey World Championships in Krynica, Poland.

Below: an alternate idea. Like basketball, a lot of action in water polo happens at the center position. Unlike basketball, the offender and defender stay relatively fixed, facing away from the goal. The offensive center wants to turn forwards or backwards to take the shot. The defender waits to react. I hoped that the slightly disjointed postures suggested depth or motion.design2 text-01

Design made into a poster. Perusing Wikipedia, I discovered that water polo has a surprising variety of names for a sport invented only about a century ago.design2-poster-01

Original pencil sketch. Eventually dropped the water ripple and turned it more geometric.design2

National Parks poster style

All the teams in our water polo conference, the Atlantic Conference, are in North Carolina and Virginia. Three out of the five are close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and none are coastal. This gave me the idea that the conference could be thought of as the Blue Ridge Conference.

The championships this year were held in Charlottesville. Humpback Rocks are a popular hiking destination along the Blue Ridge near Charlottesville. People often hike Humpback rocks at sunrise to get the view of the Rockfish Valley. This fell quite naturally into a vintage style poster look.

This design was a super rush job. I drew the sketch at 10PM before the deadline the next day. The next morning I vectorized it. The shirts arrived a week later. I probably now would choose to make the figure white, for better clarity at a distance, but I still like the design.

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They didn’t go for my conference renaming. =Ptshirts-1774

Original sketch.IMG_0769

One of the national parks posters that inspired this design.

Victor Horta: Art Nouveau Architect

I pretty much love anything art nouveau. So whenever I go to European cities, I look to see if they have any art nouveau icons. In Prague there is Mucha, in Berlin there is the Bröhan museum, and in Brussels there is Victor Horta. There is a Horta Museum, as well as a number of buildings he and others designed nearby. A bunch of walking tours (like this one with a nice video) can help you cover the various buildings or get a peek from wherever you currently are via the pictures.

Like many architects of the period, he also designed the furniture, wallpaper, and interior structures like staircases. The museum has great examples of these. Alas no pictures were allowed and there aren’t any fair use pics. But if you’re curious you can google for yourself. Here are some pictures of his lovely buildings:

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Hôtel Tassel in Brussels

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Hôtel Solvay

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Horta museum building

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Horta museum building

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Old England building, designed by Barnabé Guimard, closer to the Grand Place in Brussels. (not Horta, but still very cool. This hosts the instrument museum so you can go inside and enjoy that too.

Staircase from Horta museum

 

Style: Art Nouveau

My favorite style is art nouveau. I first learned about art nouveau when I was living in Prague. The works of Alphonse Mucha, a prominent Czech art nouveau artist, remain throughout the city. There is a museum of his various prints and a few paintings, that explains the motivation behind his work. The municipal house (Obecní dům) is in the art nouveau style, with stained glass windows done by Mucha. The Prague castle also has a stained glass work by Mucha, among its many others. Mucha often depicted images of slavic nationalism and women with slavic features. Mucha’s interest in the slavic and czech identity, and his works on this identity, make learning about him an interesting way to learn about Czech history.

One of Mucha’s famous posters. (pic from Wikipedia)

Thumbnails above, from left: Mucha stained glass at the Municipal House, the Municipal House and the Powder Tower, and Mucha stained glass at Prague Castle.

Besides the locations in Prague, I’ve visited several other Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Bauhaus collections. The Bröhan museum in west Berlin and the Horta museum in Brussels are both great. You can also sometimes find museum collections online, like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.