Looking At Art In A 'Nouveau' Way

Looking At Art In A 'Nouveau' Way

by Cindy McClure

My Mucha, 14 x 17. My first Art Nouveau piece. I used circular shapes and lots of gold

“Your work reminds me of Alphonse Mucha”. This remark made on a portrait post ignited my desire to learn how to draw in Muchas Art Nouveau style. I love Art Nouveau and, with a year of colored pencil practice behind me by 2017, I was ready and excited to give it a try.

Drawing what you love is a powerful motivational force. Having spent months putting my dear grandchildren on paper, I knew the level of creativity and commitment needed to complete an art piece was directly influenced by the level of interest I had in what and who I was drawing. Who better, then, to be part of my first Art Nouveau pieces but my grandchildren?

Mucha excelled at creating pieces with exact geometric shapes, perfect balance, engaging composition, vibrant, saturated colors, and (often) text. Given my inexperience and developing skills, my biggest consideration was deciding what combination of these elements would work for me. I needed a plan.

I learned having a theme for each piece helped dictate and unite my design elements. It was daunting to conceptualize a large, intricate piece of art so I simplified the process, placing one design element at a time, beginning first with a large orb then adding other complimentary elements. It was slow progress in unfamiliar territory. To keep from being overwhelmed, I kept the design elements simple and similar. The end result was my first Art Nouveau learning piece, fittingly titled “My Mucha.”

One of the strongest elements in Muchas Nouveau work and, which to me, embodies the essence of good Art Nouveau, is hair. Hair plays a very large part in the overall effectiveness of Art Nouveau design. Mucha took hair to a celestial level! I love drawing and designing Art Nouveau hair! I drew “Mucha-style” hair in my first piece. In addition to discovering my capability to adequately compile and arrange design elements, I’m realizing that my technical comprehension is also growing. The creative juices were beginning to flow!

The learning and experimentation continued. I love the circular shapes in Art Nouveau and find they complement all my pieces. Mucha repeated many shapes and color palettes from piece to piece, often using oranges in his skin tones and background designs. This gave me the idea to use similar color selections in my second piece. It wasn’t a hardship since I love autumn colors! The central orb became a bold orange harvest moon. Embedded against this backdrop was my young “My Mucha” model who had transformed in this piece from child to elegant Lady. I introduced new design elements: tiles, feathers, borders and lettering. I like the Parisian flair Mucha interjected in his work, so I decided a title banner in French would best suit this piece. The hair took on a life of its own! My father worked in wood and I love its grain and color. The spark of an idea to recreate those loves on paper evidenced itself when the hair flow and application of color began to resemble marquetry. A huge divergence from Muchas’ rampant locks but one I found very pretty and effective! A sparkling diamond earring and a white feather boa later, “La Dame d’Autumne” ~ The Lady of Autumn ~ was complete.

La Dame d'Etriente ~ The Lady of Autumn ~ 14 x 17 My 2nd Art Nouveau piece. New colors, new hair design and lettering

I was developing my own approach to Art Nouveau design with each project. By the time “La Dame” was complete, I had a solid grasp of basic design (colors I loved to use and placement format) that would provide the foundation for future work. I was finding my own art “voice.” This was a promising beginning!

I am hugely fond of gold and Art Nouveau is a perfect outlet for my gold indulgences! I used gold heavily in “My Mucha” and I love the effect. When I came across a photo of my youngest granddaughter in a gold-accented Grecian robe and headdress costume, I knew she was the perfect selection for my next, and most recent, Art Nouveau project.

I wanted to direct attention to the child and her outfit in this piece so I did not include extra embellishments and left the background white. Mucha drew clothing with the same effortless fluidity as he did hair. With that in mind, I addressed the textural aspects of the robe and headband ~ folds, shading, color ~ with the hope of giving a feeling of life and movement to a serene composition. New elements were introduced ~ reflective gold sashing, geometric headband shapes ~ and familiar elements ~hair, orb and tiles ~ were revisited. This piece was drawn simply because of the joy I find in creating Art Nouveau and because this child is dear. She is appropriately titled “Le Petit Bijou” ~ The Little Jewel.

Le Petit Bijou ~ The Little Jewel ~ 14 x 17 My current Art Nouveau piece. I used gold and autumn tones with a simple orb/tile design and white background. More fabric and headdress details.

I love this style of art. I love that it allows me to be immersed in colors and forms that satisfy my need for beauty. I am uplifted and inspired by the freedom of creating art beyond the visual constraints of a photograph. I enjoy and appreciate the challenges of design and originality Art Nouveau demands and I eagerly look forward to creating more and better Art Nouveau work in the future.

About Cindy:

Cindy is a self-taught colored pencil portrait artist.  She specializes in portraiture with her favorite subjects being children.  Her work has been published in Ann Kullberg’s COLOR magazine.  In addition to drawing portraits for family and others, Cindy also creates Art Nouveau art work using traditional and original design elements.  She is involved in several colored pencil art groups where she shares her work and helps others who like to know more about colored pencil drawing techniques.

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