October 22nd, 2016

Macbeth the Usurper

Art Deco 101 - Origins of Art Deco: A Display of Modern Power

Art Deco didnt' magically appear on walls. Men with money paid for building, found that the Art Deco style spoke of something that their business wanted to project, and approved those designs.

Art Deco was part of its time. Art Deco said something in its time.

What did Art Deco say?

MODERN. TODAY. NOW. That's what Art Deco said. And what modern, today, and now meant differed between who was uttering those words and those who were seeing it.

Industry and busisness had more power than ever, and industry/business wished a style that said INDUSTRY and BUSIENSS with the same respect and deference as BANK and GOVERNMENT. With one look, a customer should get the same feeling of solid and prosperous as the Greek columns on a bank.

Art Deco, then, was architectural propaganda. Advertising. Art Deco established a business relationship between those who had enough money to pay for Art Deco and those who didn't. Those with enough for the new style demonstrated themselves as equals, while those who didn't demonstrated themselves as less.

Power. Art Deco demonstrated power. Art Deco said that you had it. Art Deco said that you were solid enough to take on more of it.

Businesses naturally prefer doing business with other reliable companies, especially when those businesses were now taking stunning amount of money to build. This visual display helped the companies to sort each other out, much like people who could play the fashion game and those who couldn't.

Once Art Deco came to mean solid and responsible, top tier, and the best, other institutions bought in, so that libraries and churches also took on that vocabulary, because such institutions wanted to say the same thing.

Because anyone coming to power wanted to display power as well, Fascism and Communism also embraced Art Deco. This isn't to say that Art Deco was Fascist or Communist, it's merely to say that people spoke with a common vocabulary, and for some years, Art Deco was that vocabulary.

And so the fate of Art Deco rested with those powers, and when those powers failed, their decline pulled down Art Deco with it. A rejection of Fascism or Communism meant a rejection of Art Deco. Past World War 2, Art Deco fell into disfavor. It no longer said what business needed to say, so architecture moved on.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
Macbeth the Usurper

Art Deco 101 - Origins of Art Deco: Orientalism and China

With the opening up of China by Europe, the flow of goods from China exploded. The late 1800's were filled with delight over Chinese goods and design. Their sparser decor and more geometric design made quite the contrast with the busy Victorian aesthetic.

The designers of the 1920's were well aware of these Oriental designs, because they wrestled with the same issue that Art Deco wrestled with: making shapes appealing to the eyes. There's only so many solutions to that problem, and beginning with existing solutions made sense.

Even a casual perusal of Chinese furniture and art will reveal many patterns and solutions that later appear in Art Deco. Wooden cabinets features simple triangular designs broken apart by circles. Grill work created geometric patterns. Tapestries broke apart rectangles with cascading designs and spirals. The entire vocabulary of Art Deco exists within the style.

In particular, the Art Deco home owes more to Orientalism than any other influence, an outgrowth of that earlier aesthetic.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.
Macbeth the Usurper

The Compleat Enchanter (1940s, reissued 1975)

The Compleat Enchanter (1975) by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt is a collection of the first three Harold Shea books from the 1940s. The book is most notable for its inclusion in Appendix N of the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide as an inspiration to that game.

The stories center around Harold Shea, a modern man and psychologist who travels to different literary adventure universes. "The Roaring Trumpet" is Norse myth, "The Mathematics of Magic" is The Faerie Queen, and "The Castle of Iron" is Orlando Furioso (a tale that I've never heard of before). The stories themselves are tongue and cheek, as Harold is a modern man in a highly stylized and not-at-all politically correct tale. If you've ever wanted to see cultural appropriation in its native habitat, this is it.

The tales themselves read dully. I had to take rests to actually read this book through.

These are sexist tales. There no denying it. Oddly enough, Harold is bored of all the "approved" women stereotypes and wants one that's spirited. Here's an indication that the requirements on women of the day were so restrictive that even men were wanting to loosen things up.

When it comes to D&D, this book is rife with source material. Verbal, somatic, and material components for spells originate from these tales. In there, we also see scaled trolls with pointed noses, the basic giant types, web spells that are burned with flaming swords, flying carpets, illusions, fool's gold, magic choking hands, random encounters, and a great deal of the tongue-in-cheek humor that pervades early D&D.

While it's not badly written, I can't recommend the book. It's not a total stinker, but aside from curiosity or raging determination, there's no reason to go here. I'll happily lend you the book if you do. You don't need to give the book back.
Macbeth the Usurper

Leaves

At the beginning of this week, I said to myself, "When are these leaves going to actually fall?"

By Wednesday, some had begun letting go. Now today, the color changes are obvious through all the trees. Amazing what a few days will do.