Key Steps in Illustration: Using Reference, pt. 3

For the third piece I created I decided to use watercolours because I felt they could best convey the transparency and pastell colours that would probably work best.

I wanted to put the focus a bit more on the person sitting in the chair, so I changed the composition somewhat to have the table in the front. I also decided to cut the table, window and kitchen top, to make it more interesting and be right in the scene. I decided to re-use the tapestry, curtain, and kitchen items elements, and have the women with a similar 1960s haircut like in the previous picture.

I added a bit of structure to the picture with colour pencils, especially for some smaller patterns. I found that they work well when using them in some wet paint, and they create an interesting effect which you cannot control completely. I wanted to create a kind of “faded” look to simulate that this is a picture from back-in-the-old-days.

1950s Kitchen
1950s Kitchen

I feel that compared to the second version, this one fits better to the assignment, especially the use of watercolours instead of ink, but perhaps the composition could still be improved somewhat and be more interesting/eye-catching.

However, in my view I struggle with conveying the proper feeling or atmosphere of the 1950s in my piece. Also, the lady did turn out sad for some reason, not like the happy housewives I found in adverts and pictures during my research. I found it difficult to decide what to put into the picture and how. I feared to overload it with too many details, so I decided to not have that many kitchen appliances in there, but focus on typically used  patterns or shapes. This might have been somewhat too few details to actually capture the spirit of the time.

The exercise also asked how this particular period in time influences today’s design. I feel that especially the kitchen appliances in the 50s design are still popular in today’s design world – or at least inspired many designers to have a similar style of clean lines, waves, and round shapes. Kitchen aids, toasters or water kettles can be found in the so-called “retro” or vintage inspires style, so they still play an important role in today’s design world. Especially some “design classics” like chairs can still be found in homes and offices today. They have a very modern look, mostly with clean shapes and round lines, so you could even assume that they were created by a contemporary designer. Especially the Model 3017 by Arne Jacobsen created in 1955 is a great example of timeless design that at the time was revolutionary with its curvy shape, and is still prevalent in many offices today. The Decoist has a great overview of 12 iconic 1950s chairs, as well as the Guardian.

Key learnings:

  • What I took away from this exercise is that researching is key to create an illustration that should convey a certain feeling or time
  • I should probably spend more time doing the reserach. I sometimes struggle to do this because I want to go right to it, and start working on the illustration. I only later realize that I then might lack some ideas or inspirations
  • When you look at the first kitchen scene I created, it looks quite bland and uninspired, probably because at the time I created it I wanted to go on and make progress. It turned out that I needed to go back to do some more research to add to the picture and make it more interesting
  • After a more intensive research I went on to illustrate the other kitchen scenes which I think conveys the 1950s a lot better through a better use of colours and more details like the tapestry patters and the lady’s dress
  • I think what also helps is to look at other things that somehow relate to the topic. In this case I looked at the kitchen design in the 1940s and 60s, but also at other aspects of life in the 1950s like the clothing and other furniture designs


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