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Art Deco 101 - Art Deco vs Art Deco-esque

Art Deco has many implied rules. Why do those rules get dropped when Art Deco moves into other mediums?

Any medium outside architecture always takes some subset of the rules of Art Deco, then mixes those rules with that medium's design principals, to create a new expression of Art Deco, one derivative from architecture, yet also independent of architecture. This is done for both aesthetic and practical reasons. The work needs to look good for its medium. That always requires some reconsideration and interpretation.

I believe that architecture represents the clearest, most cohesive form of Art Deco. That is where the principals flower the best. Other mediums are derivative from architecture. (Note that I don't consider derivative to be a bad word.)

For example, drawing usually have geometric shapes, but almost always throw out symmetry. A building has room for multiple layers of patterns, while book covers may only have room for one pattern.

The other thing about art, and decor in general, is that no art exists in a vacuum. Art is produced by humans with skills, and these designing humans are influenced by other humans. Influences constantly change. Expressions constantly change. Any artifact of Art Deco is representative of the day and age when it was made. There was no secret Art Deco society giving its approval to anything. So these visual notions that made up Art Deco flowed about through organic means, with nobody really knowing all the rules, or even knowing that there were rules at all.

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.

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