Key Steps in Illustration: Using Reference, pt. 1

This assignment asked to create a person sitting in a 1950s room to give teenagers an idea about the ear. I opted to create a 1950s kitchen (because I was inspired by the previous exercise where I sketched several kitchen items).

I went on to collect information about 1950s kitchen, and after researching the style from different sources, create an illustration of a 1950s kitchen. I did an extensive internet research (since my access to a library is limited while travelling at the moment), and I found a variety of sources for inspiration.

There are a great number of interior design websites that represent how a kitchen looked like in the 1950s: pastell colours, generally very colourful (at least that’s my impression when comparing them to 1940s kitchens (see also here) where white seems to be the most commonly used colour and even 1960s kitchens where wood in its natural colours is used more often for kitchen furnitures.

Some examples of 1950s kitchens can be found here:, or simply on Google’s picture search. I also looked at some German sources that stated that after starting to recover from two world wars, the families were introduced to new innovations in the household, like washing machines and kitchen appliances that make life easier for housewives (who back then stayed at home to take care of the cooking, kids, and so on, while the husband went to earn money for the family). Not only the kitchen therefore became more modern, also the mindset of people to try out new things seems. One article by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung puts it nicely that the kitchen is the heart of every housewive, and that things get more “exotic”.

On YouTube, there are also several videos that present the “handy” and “future” kitchen of the 1950s. It was a time when new kitchen appliances became available, when housewives were able to design their kitchen according to their needs. The videos give great insights into the practicality of a kitchen that seemed to be of great importance back then. See My Handy Kitchen and My Future Kitchen in the 1950s on YouTube.

In the previous exercise I already worked on a few kitchen sketches, and I will build on these to create a 1950s kitchen piece.

As a start I did a quick piece using mixed media (watercolours, pen, pencil and graphite). It’s a basic view into a kitchen, with many cupboards – something I felt was very special in this time. I tried to use light colours, and put items that seemed to be common, e.g. pots and pans above the stove or a big watch somewhere. I also found that a small kitchen counter with little stools also seemed to freuqently pop up in the pictures. Here’s the result:

1950s Kitchen illustration

While working on this exercise I found it rather difficult to exactly convey the idea of a 1950s kitchen. While I feel it has more cupboards than e.g. kitchens nowadays, and an oldfashioned stove, and the cupboard handles, I find it difficult to make it stand out from any other kitchen illustration. I feel that the colour scheme is somewhat unusual for today’s kitchen or kitchen the decades before and after.


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