September 11, 2015

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination"

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
~ Pablo Picasso

It was American Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau, who declared that "this world is but a canvas to our imagination."  Each of us hold a paintbrush, poised and ready to fill a life with color; adding but a small, yet individually significant, contribution to the vast and timeless mural of history.

Today, paintbrush in hand, I have the last, planned, "past project" post to share: costume renderings from my Independent Art Study, completed during the first semester of senior year in high school.

Ever since I could hold a crayon, I've been filling my world (and sketchbooks) with color.  So elementary & middle school art classes were the highlight of many school days.  My mom still has a box full of my old artwork under her are a few that I pulled out just for pictures - what a trip down memory lane!

Ink & watercolor peacock from 6th grade art show.

A surrealist doodle page from a 6th grade sketchbook, #2 pencil.

A detail shot from a 7th grade, oil pastel, still life in the style of Paul Gauguin.
This piece along with two others, I believe, went to our local airport art show.
I still remember driving all the way to the airport with family to see the show,
and receiving a certificate from our county clerk.  Good memories!

However, by the end of seventh grade, I had tucked away the hours of creativity in exchange for textbooks and college prep tests.  In fact, it wasn't really until a required, one-semester "Art" credit in junior year that I kind of rediscovered my love for creating with color!  Mr. Lorenzo, the teacher for "Drawing I," was very encouraging, setting aside extra time for any student who wished for helpful critique.

Our first project was a graphite still life of an object of our choosing: Naturally, I chose my violin!  

Our next major project was a charcoal abstraction of our chosen object:

We were also encouraged to keep a sketchbook for daily practice & a few assignments:

Graphite exploration of texture - folds in satin fabric.

My figures left much to be desired...colored pencil.

Who knows why was I drawing on black construction paper...
Discovered the magic of Prismacolor pencils!

Anyways, after the short introduction to drawing, I definitely wanted more!  Mr. Lorenzo left such a positive and encouraging impression with me, giving me constructive criticism and constant instruction for improvements.  SO, when he offered to take me on as one of his independent art study students for the first semester of my senior year, I immediately jumped at the chance!

The first step was to draft a written proposal outlining the plans and expectations for the independent study in drawing.  My rational, was simple:  To costumers, design is the essential form of communication.  Therefore, as an aspiring historical costume designer, the opportunity to take an independent drawing study will allow me to delve deeper into a field that is a passion and to develop necessary drawing skills for my professional career.  Furthermore, a focused study will enhance my ability to communicate and visually clarify my ideas through drawing.  (I still have so many ideas floating around in my head that I wish I could just get out on paper!)

The focus of the study, explored through various sketches and finished drawings, was to better represent the movement of fabric and visually suggest various materials, improving the communication of costume intentions.  Also, representing proportional figures and increasing the intensity of value throughout compositions to give the illusion of realist movement were goals.  And, while I still have so much to learn, looking back, I definitely made great strides towards my goals!

All semester I kept an active sketchbook to, well, practice drawing.  I sketched costumes for my favorite musicals & books:

Costume designs for Éponine from Les Misérables, colored pencil.

Costume designs for the Lucie Manette, "Little Lucie" & Charles Darnay
from A Tale of Two Cities, graphite.

As well as costume renderings from history: 

Vivandière uniform, colored pencil & ink.

Discovering water colors!  (And that regular sketchbook paper 
is not sturdy enough to handle the magic that is water color...)

Mr. Lorenzo just could not have been a finer mentor!  I will be forever grateful for all of the time, energy and patients he willingly took to encourage me.  Week after week, he allowed me to work in his room, and carved time into his busy days to sit with me and evaluate my progress.  All of those hours spent critiquing and complimenting were the best assistance and motivation any student could have asked for - and, because of Mr. Lorenzo's guidance, my drawing improved by leaps and bounds by the end of those 20 weeks!

SO, when it came time for the final project, Mr. Lorenzo had just introduced me to water colors.  (And, I'm in love with that medium!!)  I ended up creating a series of seven, multimedia costume renderings, exploring all that I had listed as goals: movement, color & proportional figures.

Tudor costume, rough pencil outline.

I began each finished drawing with a pencil outline (like above).  Then, I
inked the outline if I was satisfied, and colored the figures in with water color, sometimes overlapping layers of color.  Finally, shading or extra details were added with colored pencil.

Finished Costume Renderings:

Fantasy dress, exploring movement & layering water color.

1770s riding habit, modeled after the iconic painting
of "Lady Worsley" by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1776.

1770s riding habit, a change of color & material (watered silk).

1810s sheer, cotton dress.

1840s day dress, wool.

1840s day dress, silk.

Mid-century bathing costume & bonnet.

Together, these seven finished drawings made up the costume renderings section in my college portfolio & came with us to every interview in Pittsburgh, PA!  Now, whenever I sit down to draw, I think of Mr. Lorenzo and his dedication to encouraging the next generation of art students.

This post is rightfully dedicated to Mr. Lorenzo, whom I credit with setting me on the right path for a future in costume's to forever painting with brighter, bolder colors! 

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart” 
~ Vincent van Gogh


  1. Oh, and I are eerily alike. I also was really passionate about art and drawing in my younger days, but I too lost a lot of that from the sheer business of life. I was just recently thinking, though, how much I'd like to try watercolor painting. Maybe you could give me some pointers?

    1. "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up" ~Pablo Picasso

      Wow, Allison, that really is uncanny...all these new things I'm learning about you! You should definitely give watercolors a try - with your eye for color & creativity, I know you'll love it!! Certainly, sewing, and now watercolors, this will be fun! :)