Apologies to Alphonse.

The marquees and bunting are up, and every available vertical surface in town is festooned with fringe flyers. Yes, it’s Festival time in B-town.

As usual, SCAC, our Arts Club, are exhibiting work produced by members throughout the month of May as part of the city-wide Open House trail.  Following my decision last year to produce something a little different for the show (the mdf ‘cut-outs’ described in tiresome detail in this earlier post), I once again set about developing something especially for the exhibition. This time my idea was to take one of my many 10-minute life-drawings and see if I couldn’t develop it in a more graphic, illustrative style. It is my day-job, after all.

One piece that I’d already earmarked for potential further development was the drawing of Laura, below. It’s difficult to define what makes any one sketch stand out from the others, but with this one it was something about the backwards-arching, Amazonian verticality of the pose, and the simplicity of the overall outline. Will that do?

Here’s the ‘illustrated’ version, worked up in Adobe Illustrator. I adjusted the palette but kept the form and shading pretty close to the original source; the aim throughout was not realism, but an interpretation of the sketch. While I was working on this, it struck me that the vertical format of the figure was reminiscent of the wonderful Art Nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha, so I added a simple decorative border to gauge the effect. Adding this formal structure to the image immediately took it even further into the realm of graphic design.

So why stop there? In for a penny, in for a pound, and all that. I started looking more closely at those old Mucha prints, and decided to try something along the same lines – not a slavish copy (that would be foolish and doomed to failure) – but rather a similarly decorative approach, hopefully with a more contemporary feel. It so happens that as well as being a fantastic life-model, Laura is also a demon double-bass player, so I tried to incorporate a number of associated motifs into the design of the surround to give it some direct relevance to the model. The image was at once more whole, integrated, and alive.

Here’s the finished piece:

By now the hanging date was looming, but I was seriously in the zone now, and keen to develop another of my sketches in a similar fashion. The drawing below, of Laura Kate, was another favourite that I felt could be taken to another level. Anatomically it’s all over the place (those shoulders!), but for me, that sinuous asymmetry was part of its appeal. That and L-K’s elegant insouciance with the kimono. Or any other item of clothing, come to that. Plus, the overall outline again seemed like a promising one to work with.

This time there was no intermediate stage – my modus operandi had been established. I made some minor anatomical tweaks to the figure, but tried to keep the essence of the original alive. The form of the figure and accessories lent itself to a circular holding structure , so that formed the basis of the background design. The profile inserts were taken from another sketch made during the same life-drawing session, and as before, certain motifs relevant to the model herself came immediately to mind, and were used to inform the background detailing. No prizes for identifying them.

Here’s the completed piece:

The Sussex County Arts Club annual exhibition, where giclée prints of both the above images are on display, is open every weekend during the May Brighton Festival. Further, limited-edition prints will be available in due course; details to follow.


3 thoughts on “Apologies to Alphonse.

    1. Cheers Paul. We’ll be at the Kate Tempest show at the Dome, but will see you either at the end of the PV, or whichever hostelry you adjourn to afterwards. The exhibition looks great, btw!


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